League of Legends

In defense of Riot’s visual designs- how the recent champion designs match their lore

LeagueofLegends1 - In defense of Riot's visual designs- how the recent champion designs match their lore

Since the release of Seraphine (but honestly for the entirety of 2020) I've heard the complaint that Riot only does certain types of champion design's grow louder. It has been around for a couple of years, but really exploded with the recent releases. And while I can't deny that Riot's design philosophy has been rather same-y, what I can do is analyze a bunch of champs and rework designs, compare them to their lore and generally add nothing to a conversation that is so universally accepted, it was born stale and repetitive. So the idea for this is basically go trough all the champs that released since Zoe (since that's the first time I heard the complaint that a champ didn't fit into League) and analyze how their visual design fits their themes and whether there could be room for improvement. I'm not gonna analyze drastically alternate champ designs (i.e. early Sett models), because that would change both lore and design too much. Also I should probably add that this is all my opinion and therefore gospel and I shall strike down any heathens that dare propose otherwise.

Quick Disclaimer: Any insults and rants in the posts are there more for comedic purposes than anything else. As are any gameplay comments (I'm silver, I know jack shit about balancing). And also because that lets me add some variety and make it less boring. Just…don't take it to personally.

Zoe: Zoe was the first champion (at least that I can remember of) that had a small, but vocal group of detractors. And while her bubbly design was definitely a first for the time, I think she fits well into League. The idea of a chaotic neutral trickster is nothing new, but it was something that LoL's lore was missing. Also having Zoe as this almost omnipotent being, while also having the mentality of a child is a great way to justify her complete lack of morals without making her "Edgy character 256". The one thing about her visual design that bugs me is that the art team was apparently going for a more "old-fashioned design" when creating Zoe (because, you know, she's 1000 years old, officer I swear, I'm too young for her anyway, we can talk this out, please), but her design and clothing feel extremely modern, at least to me. Gameplay-wise, she gets too much hate imo. She's annoying, but with assassin's being the main stay of the new season, it's not too much fun to play an immobile mage. Plus with Lillia in the game, she isn't even the worst when it comes to forms of cc (unless the enemy team is TSM and before you ask, yes, I did write this whole gameplay part just to accomodate this joke). Overall, design's great, love it, just give her some new lore already Riot, stop with the "Zoe had a hand in x major event" and actually give us some Zoe stories

Swain: GET. OUT. OF. BOT. Please. Also a pretty good rework. Don't know if I like his new look, it's definitely better than Birdman, but then again, even Udyr looks better than Old Swain. I'd probably like him to look a bit more dictatorial (shorter hair, maybe a beard) and older, he looks like he could be anywhere between 35 and 60. It's fine, but there were definitely better options (also if you pick Swain supp, fuck you)

Kai'sa: Oh boy, this one's gonna be fun. Kai'sa is visually speaking, one of the most hated champs out there. Survived alone in the void and has a symbiotic relationship with an alien parasyte that acts as her clothes, while looking like a super model (the hentais almost write themselves). I really don't like Kai'sa. Nothing about her sticks out to me. She has the "lone defender against a dark force that gets shunned by association" (only professional character archetypes and terminology here, ladies and gents), but Yorick, Lissandra and Ryze all pull that off way better. Like seriously, what do you mean people are scared of you? Is it the suit? Put on a fucking cloak for God's sake and go undercover, the man with literal blue balls manages to sneak around, I'm sure the hot super model will be able to get to talk to a few townspeople and warn them about the dangers of the Void without revealing her alien suit. Only thing that seems really interesting now is her possible relationship with Ezreal from the Warriors cinematic. Also fuck Kai'sa as a gameplay concept, Vayne, but easier to execute and she can buy a fucking Zhonya's without being accused of trolling. Moving on

Irelia: I'm not making a better nerf Irelia joke. I'm above such base instincts of the human mind. I honestly don't have much of an opinion on her, she looks better than before and definitely shines more as a "blade dancer" with her new design, but I always found her actual lore to be boring, I don't know why, her and Karma, they both never stuck out to me, despite Ionia being one of the more interesting regions to follow when it comes to inner political conflict

Pyke: God I love Pyke. I mean, designwise he's really cool, the harpoon-zombie set for revenge is a really cool idea, although not incredibly original (hell, he stole Nautilus' old lore and made it edgier). He perfectly encapsulates what Kai'sa could've been. Human, but way more monstrous in design than some of the actual monsters we have, but at the same time actually normal looking if you remove his clothing. Perfect example of a monstrous design applied on what would otherwise be considered a "good looking man" by regular standards. We also got the Bilgewater update trough Pyke, similar to what Swain did to Noxus and man, if you haven't, do yourself a favor and listen to the

, it's great. Gameplay-wise Pyke is absolute cancer and I love it. Also his design is somehow better in Ruined King, those spiked shoes man. Actually, Pyke, Ahri, Yasuo and Illaoi all look great in their Ruined King style (at least from the art sketches we have on their website), good job Airship Syndicate

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAatrox: Let's move onto Boris. I like his design. I like his lore. I…let's not talk about his gameplay, before they remove another one of his features. It's overall pretty good, but he suffers a bit from "Zoe syndrome", where we get a lot of stuff about him told to us from characters that are related or involved with him, but we rarely see him in action or see things from his perspective. Kinda sad, but then again, he is one of the main big threats to Runeterra, so it makes sense that they'd keep his exposure to a minimum (we already have power creep in the game, we don't need it in the lore too)

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAkali (no, this joke is really funny, what do you mean it's repetitive and unoriginal?): CertainlyT. I've said enough. Well, ok, no. Akali slaps in the design department (visually speaking, I'm not defending that gameplay abomination). Having her leave the Kinkou is a step in the right direction (Faey as her replacement anyone?), I kinda wished she had become more indipendent, but Tales of Runeterra and the Zed comic still showed her as Shen's companion, so what gives? As long as we don't get Akali actually doing some major stuff on her own, her lore won't be fully realized, I think

Nunu & Willump: Another one of those that I don't really have an opinion about, he's good. Good rework, both design and story wise. Kinda bummed that Willump looks so cute after seeing what LoR did with Yetis, but it wouldn't fit well with the theme (actually they could've done an "Iron Giant" sort of thing with a more monstrous Willump)

Neeko: Gay Zoe Cameleon. That's all I got to say about her. Well, ok not really, Neeko is one of those great examples for the "Riot does only cute girls nowadays" argument. She's supposed to be the descendant of the Vastayasha'rei (something in between to be fair. Actually, now that I think about it, if the Vastayasha'rei were 50/50 on the human/spirit proportion, Neeko's tribe is gonna be somewhere between 40-25% spirit, how much are Vastaya like Xayah and Ahri actual spirits? 10%? 20%? Hey Xayah, you're a hypocrite), but despite being closer to the spirit world (and therefore her "animal" side) she doesn't looks wild. Like sure, she looks kinda alien, but look at her big shiny eyes and lips in her splashart, why does she look so cute? Xayah and Ahri look more wild and animalistic than her (and those two were made to be top tier waifu material). Why couldn't they make something like Gnar, animalistic and wild, while still cute to show that she's still young, at least mentally (a cub, if you will….really puts those 2 terabytes of Neeko hentai on your hard disk into perspective, doesn't it?). Granted this problem is mostly apparent with Neeko's splash art, her actual in-game model looks great for a monster champ, but that could be due to limitations of League's engine more than any intention to make her look reptilian so she's not getting any pity points

Sylas: This is another controversial one. The guy that was locked up for years on end is coming out of prison with a perfect physique. Not much to say there, his story and looks are kinda contrasting. But I feel like there are some arguments in favor of Sylas' design when you consider his theme. He's supposed to be the leader of a revolution, the number one enemy of Demacia. He has to be phisically strong, because, you know, two giant chains around his arms. His design has to be both appealing and menacing (to best exemplify that he's fighting for a just cause, but in a cruel way). To achieve that, going for the "scruffy good looking guy" is probably the safest option, because it's a design that let's you easily switch between making him look likeable and dangerously/unstable in a natural way. This design encapsulates both aspects without either of them feeling forced. Also Sylas kickstarted the new lore for Demacia and I love him for that, so may I not be fully objective (Riot where's the novel about Demacia?). Could Riot have made a more coherent design with his backstory? Yeah, probably, but that could've been pretty hard to pull off in a way that also justified him swinging those gigantic chains around like it's nothing. So they sacrificed his backstory's continuity to save the present continuity. Not optimal, but it gets a pass

Kayle and Morgana: Morgana is just a better version of the big tiddy goth gf we had before, at least design wise. Kayle… I get the idea that having an angel in a full suit of armor can look awkward, but Riot, you managed to make it work for most of Kayle's skins (Battleborn and Iron Inquisitor are two great examples), why couldn't you add a plate of metal to cover her fucking stomach in the base…? Besides that, both Kayle and Morg got some new lore with their update, which adds them in the context of Runeterra instead of making them literal aliens, but I feel like Morg kinda lost a bit of her nuance, being mostly portrayed as good in the new lore, while in the old lore, she had good intentions, but had used forbidden methods to pursue her goals. Kayle remained the good old dictatorial bitch she was before the update, so there's not much to say there. Overall, Morgana passes the design test, Kayle doesn't

Yuumi: This is so stupid, I don't even know what to say. Like… it's a cat with a book? Ok. What else? Nothing at all. This pussy (hah, get it? It's because Yuumi player's are too scared to play the game) is by far one of the worst offenders in the "Why are you a part of League? Please get out". Yuumi has connections to Bandle City (therefore the spirit realm) and we have already seen Pix, a fairy that does some very similar stuff to her, why couldn't Yuumi just be a spirit or a collective of spirits? You can keep the gameplay and the lore without changing much. You know why? BECAUSE YUUMI BEING A FUCKING CAT HAS NO REAL REASON TO BE


Mordekaiser: Local tuna-can literally too angry to die, more news at 8. Morde's rework is pretty good honestly. Sure, my pet dragon Jamie is gone forever, but at least we don't have to deal with more spaghetti than an Italian family dinner anymore. His lore is… I mean, it's fine, gives Noxus some interesting role in the grand scheme of things similar to other regions (Demacia has the demons, Noxus has Morde, Shurima has the Void, etc…). Suffers from the same issues as Zoe and Aatrox, we don't get enough direct lore about him, but he's technically caged as of right now, so it makes sense. Overall, good.

Qyana: The thicc-thighed Queen herself, Qyana is a jumble of weird design. She's small, giant legs, slender arms and has a hola-hoop ring weapon. With her the problem isn't even that she's more waifu bait than anything, it's just that her base splash looks boring beyond belief. I don't know why exactly, her skins exude a lot of personality, but the base splash and design are really weak. Besides her physique not really fitting her, she doesn't have any particular design flaws, she's just lackluster and kinda bland. Which is a shame, because Qyana and Ixtal are incredibly interesting (read The Axiomata to really get an idea about Ixtal, it's a great look into it's culture and customs)

Pantheon: Atreus, mah man, have a seat… or you can just squat there, I don't doubt that those thundering thighs are more comfortable than any chair. Anyway, I really like the new Pantheon. They kept the baseline of his design intact, but gave him the new coat of paint he needed to actually fit with the other ascended. The only thing they could've probably made better would be crack his helmet or make it more open in it's design to underline that Atreus (the human) has prevailed over Pantheon (the Ascended) and that he's reeling from a terrible defeat. Having his helmet cracked could take away from his shining celestial design, but that would fit him really well. Good look, but some room for improvement

Senna: And there she is, Senna's boyfriends wife is coming in with the all the exaggerated swagger of a black teen (I'm sorry, that meme is just too good). Her design is very much traditionally attractive, it's not bad, it fits her by all means (but god Senna before being lanterned was just so good), but I feel like they could've "ghouled" her up a bit, make her more monstrous, but in a more subtle way. Have maybe her arms or legs be more rotten or decayed, but in a way that she can hide with clothes or her robe (similarly to what her E does, but instead of just making her a black blob of mist, make her a more ghoulish version of herself). This could also help to visually accentuate the chasm between her and Lucian. Right now, Lucian is torn between being happy that she's back and hating what she's become, despite Senna being human in all but name and being able to turn to mist at will. That's not as convincing as it could be. If Senna had some permanent change that she couldn't just erase at will, it would give a lot more weight to Lucian's inner conflict and generally give credibility to this crack in their relationship, instead of it being a generic obstacle that can be pretty easily surmounted. Senna barely makes the cut like Sylas, she could be much better, but her design isn't bad and is generally consistent with what her general themes and lore

Aphelios: Hey it's Moon Boy (I'm not calling him Moon Man, I'm not risking it with that joke). Mr. 200 Years looks like someone who'd listen to MCR and that's okay. I don't have any particular problems with him being pale and angsty, it's a fine aesthetic for someone that has to swallow poison to fight and worships the moon (don't cut yourself on that edge), it makes sense considering his theme. Ignoring that, am I the only one that is kind of expecting Aphelios and his sister to have a breakup at some point? Just listen to Aphelios' theme, the lyrics legitsound like Alune is trying to mind control her brother into following her orders (there's a sissy incest hypnosis joke here…somewhere….). Tangent over. Aphelios gets a pass, could've been better, but would've needed to be a completely different character.

Sett: Oh boy, I can already hear the pitchforks. Sett's early designs are incredibly cool and a lot of people hate the design we got instead. But we're not here to analyze radical alternate designs, we're here to improve on existing designs based on their lore. And I love Sett's design. He fits his thematic perfectly. He looks like a bully and shows a certain age (he's in his late 20's I think), but his lack of beard or any sort of facial hair is a great way to underline that he's still a mama's boy and kind of childish in his behaviour and motivations. He also looks pretty feral, despite being only a half-vastaya (what's that, like 10% animal?). There's a lot of growth potential in his character and I really hope we get to see some sort of "one man stand" with Sett fighting against the noxian invaders (when it finally happens, come on Riot, stop teasing us). Or he could just fuck Qyana, depends on what doujin you're reading.

Fiddlesticks: High-pitched pig squealing… Well, I love Fiddle. His new design is great, his new skins are great (besides Bandito, for fucks sake, why does that skin always suck in comparison to the rest) and his new lore, oh it's so good. Just please, Riot, buff W against single targets, I already have to deal with level 3 Kha zix invades, but being unable to duel tanks is just sad (I swear I'm completely objective on this and not projecting the fact that I suck at my favorite champion onto the dev team as a way to divert from my own faults)

Volibear: The thousand pierced bear. Voli is the only case where a skin can be counted as part of his design since his latest canonical appearences mostly align with his eldritch design. And thank god for that, his base skin is good, but an eldritch bear version of Thor is just too good to pass up. Not much to say besides that, it's great. Kinda weird though, how a lot of the new Volibear appearances come from Udyr. He's gotten so many lore updates, it's honestly baffling we still haven't gotten a rework for Udyr already, I mean his lore aready got reworked and just story-wise he's probably one of the best League characters period

Lillia: This is your year's monster champ Riot? Seriously? I don't have anything in particular against her design (except for you. Yeah, I'm talking to you, guy that took off his clothes when Lillia asked in the SB event. Lillia is technically a plant. You're a dendrophile). The context in which she was released really doesn't help her. Lorewise I think she's fine. Maybe her design could have accentuated her nature as a plant, make her more wooden. She kinda falls in the same category as Neeko, the design is fine, but she has no reason to be this cute instead of wild/animalistic. Next

Yone: Man, I love Yone. I love how his E has a duration of five fucking seconds and is basically inescapable, if I don't have flash. Man that's a funny ability. Rants about bullshit game mechanics I'm too bad to play around aside, Yone, buddy, what happened to you? Where's your beard? I get what Riot was going for here, they wanted to emphasize how Yone is basically a walking corpse (more vampire than zombie), so they made him tall, pale, gave him long hair and cut away any bodyhair. They basically tried to pull another Sett. And while it kinda makes sense, we already had a Yone design, why change it this drastically. I wouldn't have as many problems with this, if League Yone didn't look younger than Runeterra Yone by a good 20 years. Honestly, keeping his beard would probably solve a lot of the issues I have with him. Also I need more Yone lore with Lillia, we still don't exactly know how they came to know each other. Yone fails in the design department, his lore is fine

Samira: (I could make a milf joke, but I am better than this… ok maybe not, but still…) Anyway, Samira is great. Attractive female that doesn't look like an anime high-school girl yadda yadda great lore yadda yadda absolute cancer champ, why does an adc have a knockup yadda yadda. I mean, you've all heard it before. Great design, great thematic, it all clicks. Next

Seraphine: Not much to say here, you've heard it all a million times. She doesn't fit into League, neither lorewise nor designwise. Mama Elodie died for this. She's basically like Yuumi, has no reason to exist the way she does now, why isn't Sera a chemtech rocker or a hextech steampunk singer instead of a popstar? I honestly don't even have as big of a problem as most with her Twitter campaign, we've seen stuff like that a milion times, why is the Seraphine account the spawn of the devil? Anyway, yeah, just like Yuumi, what the fuck are you doing in my house. Get out. NOW!

Rell: I really like this design, it kinda reminds of Toph from Avatar, if Toph had King Bumi's hair. She fits the theme of a metalmancer really well, like Talyah fits the theme of Rockweaver. Also new Black Rose lore, fuck yes. But god, that model is… yikes… Anyway, you pass with flying colours Rell

Ruined King: (I know some people said his League design could be different, if he has a second form in TRK, since it's an RPG after all, I'm just basing this on what we've seen so far) I hate his design from the trailer. I really, really dislike it. He looks like Alucard from Castlevania, he looks like a vampire prince, not a king of darkness gone mad with grief. I don't know if they'll change his old lore with the release (I mean fundamentally, they're going to change a few things of course, I just hope they leave the main points intact). He's Yone all over again, why does he look so young? Also why does he look so human, he's the guy that caused the Ruination in a fit of grief, why does he look like he's fine when the rest of his entourage either became monsters or walking starved corpses. Also keep in mind he's supposed to be Kalista's uncle, yet they could be the same age just looking at them. Riot, what's your hatred with beards recently? They're a great tool to age a character up visually, use it for fuck's sake. Neither his madness nor his ties to magic are shown in this design, he just looks angry (mad, if you will… ok I'll cut the dumb jokes). As long as we don't see more of him, I'm not convinced.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand that's a wrap, holy shit that took forever to write. Take whatever conclusions you want from this, I'm just here to analyze stuff. Anyways here's a TL;DR (but you're missing out on some hilaaaaaarious jokes, I'm warning you)


These champs' lore/visual design ratio is

excellent: Rell; Samira; Irelia; Aatrox; Morgana; Mordekaiser; Fiddlesticks; Volibear; Sett; Aphelios

great, could use small adjustments: Zoe; Swain, Akali, Nunu & Willump; Pantheon

works, but could've been better: Sylas; Senna

has major flaws designwise: Yone; Lillia; Neeko; Qyana; Kai'sa; The Ruined King; Kayle

why does this affront to God exist: Yuumi; Seraphine; Pokémon Sword and Shield

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