The end of the year is finally here and League of Legends has given us some really good stuff. 2017 was packed with new champions, skins, game modes and more. The Rift Herald staff sat down together and took a vote on what we thought was the best of the best out of this year’s new content.
Warwick was the first champion that I ever jungled with back in season 3. While I have switched to a couple of different roles over the years, I always come back to jungle and my scary, puppy boy. Like all nervous parents, I was afraid to watch my ugly wolf grow into a beautiful rework. But it happened, they did it. My handsome wolf son has grown into a beautiful wolf man.
This rework is everything a rework should be (which is why it wins this award). Warwick is, in a lot of ways, still Warwick. He still has his bite, his blood hunt thing and Infinite Duress. But all of them have been expanded. He was given an identity that makes him unique. They did the impossible, and turned one of League’s oldest champions into a modern day jungler.
If you’ve been reading The Rift Herald for literally any amount of time, you know that I’m a Soraka one-trick. Even with Soraka getting a Star Guardian skin, Syndra’s still takes the Rifty home. That’s how good it is.
Every magical girl squad needs their edgy and dark member — that’s where Syndra came in. Her cute orbs, her cool eye-patch, everything about this skin is awesome. The theme was perfect, we got an (almost) full reveal of Syndra’s face aside from the peeking glowing eyes we normally see.
The splash art is also fantastic. Her sneaky expression, her orbs happily floating along and the lighting really brings it all together.
I hate using this term, but Star Guardian Syndra really is “best girl.”
Riot is still learning just what works and what doesn’t for League’s special events, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that the last one of the year was also the best. What is surprising is just how good the Snowdown was.
First and foremost, the skins were fantastic this year. In the past, the game’s Christmas themed skins feel like a step back from their more general winter clothing counterparts. But this year’s skins went above and beyond any of the past versions with better detail and more over-the-top animations including Ambitious Elf Jinx’s homeguard train.
The other major step forward for the Snowdown event came in the form of its missions which finally started to strike the right kind of balance between forcing you to play the game a little differently without forcing you to put a win in jeopardy for the sake of the mission.
While the game mode this event came with, and the map skin, weren’t the best of the year, the missions alone would have been enough to push it near the top of this year’s list. Add on some of the best holiday skins Riot has ever released and you have the perfect model for Riot to improve on in 2018.
When I first laid my eyes on Xayah, I was in love instantly. That edgy design! Feathers! Fox ears! That voice! She reminded me of a too-cool original character I would have designed in my youth, but better.
Her design isn’t the only thing that won me over, but her background and lore is great too. She’s the leader of a group to protect her species and the area they live in, she’s badass and her boyfriend, Rakan, is an oaf who takes orders. My type of lady.
Her kit is also one of the best I’ve played in a long time. It all just flows so well. Shooting out feathers and pulling them back feels so natural! Her ultimate, Featherstorm, probably is really rewarding when you make a big play on it, but I wouldn’t know.
In design, voice, lore and kit, Xayah just takes the cake.
2017 was the most ambitious year yet for featured game modes in League of Legends. The best of these game modes take champions whose playstyle we all know and love and made us use them in interesting ways and let them shine in ways they can’t on Summoner’s Rift.
This year, there was no better example of that than the Overcharge game mode. Pitting two teams of three against each other, with nothing but AD Carry champions to choose from, in playground full of walls to be jumped over or to pin enemies to gave these marksmen the perfect recipe for fun with 15 minutes of nothing but skirmishes.
It’s extremely rare for a featured game mode to prove fun for the full duration of its release, but Overcharge managed it by putting some of League’s most fun, and least appreciated champions, in the perfect place for their abilities to shine.
Runes Reforged is the most ambitious systems overhaul in recent memory. In fact, it may just be the riskiest thing they’ve ever implemented. Everything about Runes should have been bad. They should have been impossible to balance, random garbage that ruins the precision that LoL is known for. But they aren’t bad at all. In fact, they’re very good.
As I write this, we’re just about done with the preseason. Weeks of no patches has allowed certain runes to cement themselves as the prominent front runners. Similarly, others have fallen to the wayside a bit. But we haven’t run into League of Thunderlords yet, even during the Summon Aery/Arcane Comet wave. It creates gameplay that is new and interesting each game. Even if Ezreal always takes Kleptomancy, it makes playing Ezreal feel far different than any other champion.
Rather than creating a diverse grouping of runes that every champion can use, it feels like Riot created runes to help highlight what makes each champion special, and that’s awesome.
Rewarding the Rift Herald with an award named after the Rift Herald with the authority of a site named after the Rift Herald is a little silly. But, there are few things in League’s history that have been so drastically improved.
The top side buff has struggled since it was implemented. It’s either sucked or been far too oppressive. Even worse, it would only ever effect one player and it was extremely hard to notice. When it became the objective it is today, a towering behemoth that plows through towers, it secured its spot as a worthwhile addition to the game.
Getting Rift Herald for your team is an objective unlike any other. It can be used to great effect or be completely useless. In the past week alone I had a game where I deployed Rift Herald and it took 2nd tier mid, mid inhibitor turret, mid inhibitor and both Nexus turrets. In the same week, I ran out of time and completely wasted it. It isn’t a guaranteed win, but it isn’t useless either. It’s situational, which really helps it differentiate itself from the other neutral buffs.
This year, it felt good to be named after such an awesome objective.