For the first time in what feels like a long time, I had a 100% fun evening of League of Legends. Instead of the usual setup of ‘solo queue: queue, lose, queue, lose’ or the slightly rarer ‘team with friends: queue, lose, queue, lose’, I spent the evening playing with a motley mix of friends, friends of friends, and complete strangers in what is apparently one of League’s most played custom game types: ARAM (All Random All Mid).
ARAM is not a deep experience, nor is it without its own peculiar set of flaws and issues. Unlike the three major modes of League, ARAM forsakes strategy and variety for a slugfest of straight team fighting. Instead of picking favorite champions and aiming toward particular roles, one random group of champions attempts to push another random group of champions down a single lane to a single inhibitor and then own two the enemy’s Nexus. It is a simple and addicting formula.
Sometimes the formula breathes new life into champions you don’t play as much as you would want. For instance, on two occasions, I had the luck of getting one of my favorite champions: Karma. While my Karma play is fairly solid, her limitations often hurt the bottom line of my regular League matches. However, in ARAM, she plays much more smoothly. Her poke is far better with the added Mana Regeneration. She’s open to go much more damage heavy. She also doesn’t suffer as much from a lack of Fountain regeneration since her Passive scales to missing HP.
Don’t expect a lack of flaws, though. It is rarely balanced, especially with the random factor often giving teams champions that don’t exactly excel without a lane or jungle phase. In one game, I was cursed with a Nasus who had about as much chance at building up his Q as if I had rip the q key off my keyboard and eaten it. While a well-played, farmed, and built Nasus might excel in other types, he is a completely snooze fest in ARAM.
That doesn’t mean it is not fun for what it is, because even at its worst, ARAM is the least serious you can possibly get in a MOBA. Other modes have tempers flare over the tiniest of reasons or players hunched over leaning into their monitor hoping to catch just a tiny extra second of reaction time to save the day (at least with me). With the addition of voice chat and people to jokingly taunt and target, ARAM represents what a MOBA could be if it weren’t so tied down in being an utterly serious affair.
On another note, ARAM has me thinking that the typical MOBA formula – or at least Riot’s variation of it – can withstand something atypical and fresher. Dominion could have been that something, but I think its end result was definitely lacking. Perhaps in the future we will see a DOTA-like with more traditional modes from multiplayer gaming. Modes like CTF, Team Deathmatch, and even King of the Hill could all be their own significant entries in what to me often feels stale and repetitive.
If you haven’t tried ARAM yet, I recommend giving it a go. Especially if you can round up a few friends, voice chat, and maybe even a little alcohol. Maybe.