Since the beginning of Season 13, it’s safe to say that I’ve fallen out of love with League of Legends. Despite being the game that got me into this industry in the first place, as well as the one I’ve sunk literal years of my life into, Season 13 left me with a bad taste in my mouth. The events, Dark Cosmic Jhin, Redeemed Star Guardian Xayah and Rakan – all things that left me feeling like Riot didn’t quite know what its playerbase actually wanted. Coming into Season 14 my expectations are pretty high – and this season’s cinematic has already managed to vault the bar.
‘Still Here’ opens with a fallen Tryndamere, struggling, scrabbling for life in the frozen tundra of the Frejlord. He looks to the camera, a desperation in his eyes akin only to the feeling of having him run you down the entirety of top lane. This is where our League of Legends Season 14 story begins.
A switch flicks and we’re outside Demacia, where the MOBA’s duelling siblings Kayle and Morgana take on the might of Aatrox. Another cut and we’re in Ionia, where a slightly older-looking version of the 0/10 king himself, Yasuo, tears through wave after wave of assailants. Then, we’re back in the Freljord, where Tryndamere fights for his life against Kindred, with the help of everyone’s favorite Iceborn warmother, Ashe. It’s quick, it’s snappy, it’s exciting – it embodies the essence of League of Legends.
But what stood out to me amid the epic combat and dazzling visuals was the choice of champions. Ashe, Kayle, and Morgana all debuted with League back in 2009, with Yasuo and Aatrox joining the roster in 2013, and Kindred in 2015. These are all old, iconic champions – a blast from League’s incredible past.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a Senna main – I love some of Riot’s newer champions as much as the Kayles and Morganas. However, as of late I’ve found myself growing rather tired of – to borrow former TSM pro Marcus ‘Dyrus’ Hill’s words – “Disneyland champions.” While Smolder is a monster champion at least, I feel like we’re still in LoL’s brighter ages, when I’d rather see us step back into the darkness.
And that’s the reason this cinematic just hits different; it’s a throwback to the days of old. It’s dark and it’s moody, not bright and vibrant. We’ve seen plenty of 3D renders of K’Sante, Senna, and Seraphine, so seeing these older, grittier champions brought to life in stunning detail is really exciting.
As I told Riot’s global PR lead Hanna Woo during our private screening, I’ve mained Morgana since I started playing, and seeing her come alive in stunning purple majesty triggered something in me. It reminded me why I fell so head-over-heels in love with this game. It reminded me that these champions are, indeed, Legends, not Disney characters.
But all of this action, all of this excitement, is framed by the powerhouse vocals of Forts’ Mary Clare Clemons. ‘Still Here’ not only has a Worlds feel to it, but it reads like a love-letter to the fanbase that is, indeed, still here after fifteen years of League of Legends. It’s soaring, anthemic, and exciting: it’s got the same feel as Legends Never Die and Awaken – it, just as with the rest of the cinematic, feels like something out of League’s past.
Yet I found it resonated with me on a slightly different level, too. I haven’t played Morgana in a while, favoring more meta picks like Senna or Leona over my fallen angel queen. Last night, after testing out my shiny new Soul Fighter Lux skin, I wanted to play Morgana (although the enemy team banned her, sad face). Tonight when I log in, I’ll probably play Morgana. I even want to try my old midlane Kayle shenanigans again, as well as Ashe support. They’re still here, as are those rosy memories.
That, my friends, is what a cinematic should do. It should be a reminder, it should make you want to play the game; make you smile when you remember your first deathless game on Morgana, or that absolute nightmare you had on Ashe. The Season 14 cinematic is a trip down memory lane in so many ways – it’s the reason I’m excited to play League of Legends again.
Recently, I wrote an article entitled “Riot doesn’t know what League of Legends players want.” While I can’t say that, based off of a singular cinematic, League of Legends Season 14 is going to be the best ever (I’m a World of Warcraft fan, I’ve learned that lesson), it certainly seems like the dev team is, potentially, going back to its roots – something we’ve been asking them to do for some time.
So sure, in Season 13 I fell out of love with League of Legends – I can’t deny it. But the excitement I felt last night, and the fun I had jumping back into the game, reminded me why I love it so much. If Season 14 continues to give me those little nostalgic dopamine hits, then I suspect we’re in for a good one – my fingers are very, very tightly crossed.