League of Legends Hands-on Preview -- Dominion Mode and Crystal Scar MapBy Leah Jackson - Posted Aug 04, 2011
League of Legends is the wildly popular free to play massively online battle arena (moba) game. With over 80 champions to choose from, and a player base spanning over 15 million users, the development team thought that after such a successful year that it was finally time to continue to innovate in the moba space. With Valve's Dota 2 right around the corner, and LoL's direct competitor, Heroes of Newerth, switching to a free to play model, this is a perfect time for Riot Games to unveil their newest map: The Crystal Scar, and their newest mode: Dominion.
Dominion is a fast-paced, action packed game mode for League of Legends that is played on the brand new Crystal Scar map. When you load up Dominion, you'll immediately notice that the mode does away with standard moba laning. In standard moba games, there are three lanes all leading to two bases that players have to defend. Along the lanes there are towers that help defend the players, as well as creeps, or minions that spawn that help the players fend off their opponents. Dominion completely does away with the standard moba map, and instead creates a new type of game with no laning where players must capture and hold up to five different points. This type of game mode isn't radically new, and has been seen in plenty of other multiplayer games like Call of Duty's Domination Mode and World of Warcraft's Arathi Basin, but to see it in a moba is new, and it's amazing how well it works in League of Legends.
Dominion is always played in a five vs. five matchup, and all of the champions in League of Legends will be available to play within the new mode. The Crystal Scar map that Dominion is played on is very small and features five capture points: Windmill, Drill, Boneyard, Claw, and Refinery. The Crystal Scar itself is supposed to be a war-torn mining village, but true to LoL form, it features vibrant colors and tons of intricate details.
When the game starts, both teams begin with 500 points, and whichever team holds the least amount of areas loses their points. The team that loses all of their points first loses. In order to keep your points, you have to capture and hold the five areas around the map. For each area you capture, the other team will start losing points but only if your team has more points captured than them. For example, if Team A has three areas and Team B has two areas, Team B will start losing points. If Team A has four areas and Team B has one area, Team B will lose points at a faster rate. The bigger the gap, the faster you'll lose your precious points. This is different than the standard capture the area games, where you're usually trying to gain the most points by capturing and holding the areas for a long amount of time.
You start Dominion with 1,375 gold as opposed to the 475 you start with in a standard LoL game. Your character also starts the game at level three rather than level one. You gain levels and money at a much higher rate in Dominion too, which opens up all sorts of very awesome ways to beef up your character as fast as possible. Often in LoL games, you can spend the entire game farming for certain items, whereas in Dominion you'll get access to those items very quickly.
To capture an area, players must right click on it and channel the capture point. The more players channeling, the faster the point gets captured. If you're trying to solo capture a point, it takes about eight to 10 seconds. What makes capturing the points even more interesting is that since you have to channel to capture it, anything that hits you will cancel that channel. So if you're channeling and an enemy comes up and whacks you, you'll have to restart the channel over again; but it leaves off where you were hit. Also, points become disabled while they're being channeled. However, if you approach an opposing team's point before you channel it (to try to kill a defending hero for example), it will attack you.
There are also minions in Dominion, but they offer a much different purpose in this mode than in standard League of Legends. In Dominion, when you capture a point, minions start spawning at a location adjacent to that point to help you capture the next point in their path. If you begin to channel a point, your minions will help you capture it faster, or they’ll knock you off of the point if they are the other team's minions. You can also kill the opposing team's minions for gold in order to buy items.
In order to help you capture points, there are buffs all along the Crystal Scar as well. In the middle of the map, a passive shield buff spawns every so often that only one champion on a team can have at a time. There are also 30 percent speed buff boots and health spread around the map as well to offer even more incentive to run around the map and capture more points.
When it comes to the strategy in Dominion, there are all sorts of ways to win. First off, your team composition is just as important in Dominion as it is in standard League of Legends. You'll still want your tanks, supports, DPS, etc., to be able to either fend off or destroy your opponents defending the capture areas. But running in directly to face your opponents who are defending is only one strategy. While we were playing Dominion, my team would constantly head off to fight the entire opposing team, while I'd run around the map solo capturing the points. It worked really well, as they kept the other team busy while I could use my faster character Ashe to get to the areas. We also utilized tactics like kiting two of the opposing team members away from a point, then someone from my team would ninja their way back to a point to capture it. Either way, there was very little time where any one character was sitting around an area defending it. We were always on the move, constantly attacking and defending the five areas.
Even though you can use all of the same characters in Dominion as you can in regular League of Legends, you won't have access to all of the same items. This was for balance reasons, according to the developers. They've removed problematic items like the Banshee's Veil, as it would have made characters channeling a point immune to character control abilities. However, even though not all of the items will be available, you'll get access to a lot of items faster in Dominion than you do in standard LoL.
All of the Dominion games I saw played came down to the wire. In the first game, it came down to a mere 17 points and funnily enough, in the second game, we lost by 18 points. The back and forth, cat and mouse mechanics of Dominion make sure that there are only heroic moments among competitors. Also, what makes Dominion really shine is the length of the games. They're short and fast paced throughout their entirety, and the amount of strategy that teams can utilize within Dominion is very impressive. Standard League of Legends games on Twisted Treeline generally last 40-50 minutes while Dominion games on the Crystal Scar will average around 20 minutes.
After playing through the new mode twice, I found myself itching to get back in there and try again. The time flies by while you're running around capturing points, collecting items, leveling up, and trying to bait other champions away from their points so that your team can snatch it up. For League of Legends veterans who've been waiting a long time for a new mode, you definitely won't be disappointed with League of Legends Dominion.
You'll be able to play Dominion for the first time at Gamescom and PAX Prime this month, and the mode itself, along with the Crystal Scar map, will be available to the public "when it's ready."