If you have been playing League of Legends or engaging within the League of Legends community as of late, you would have seen a very particular buzzword flying around… Aphelios, Aphelios, Aphelios.
The latest Marksman to enter the rift has an armory of weapons at his disposal and is proving to become one of the most troublesome, hotly-debated champions to exist within Runeterra. Aphelios was added in Patch 9.24 and has since received a few changes and alterations to his overall kit, including the most recent nerf to his Q’s range whilst wielding the Calibrum rifle in patch 10.3, reducing his absurd global range down to 1800.
On Aphelios’ initial release, a lot of players felt overwhelmed by the champions in-depth kit, it appeared at first that you would require a PHD to understand what Aphelios does inside and out. Although the complexity of champions in League of Legends has typically increased over the last year, (champions such as Sylas) attuning the League of Legends community to become more accustomed to complex champion designs, the likes of Aphelios is something that usually resides in League of Legends main competitor, Dota 2.
Across the top four leagues (League of Legends European Championship, League of Legends Pro League, League of Legends Champions Korea, and League of Legends Championship Series), Aphelios has a 92% presence rate with 35 picks and 34 bans, which speaks volumes to the value placed on Aphelios by the professionals competing at the highest level. Considering that Aphelios is such a contested pick right now, you would think developer Riot Games’ priority would lie in releasing a hotfix to address his clear and obvious design flaws in both his user interface and clarity issues.
Fnatic’s AD carry, Martin “Rekkles” Larsson, discussed the champion design and balancing issues on his live stream.
“Kai’sa and Xayah used to be like at least twice as good as every other AD carry in the game and now they are not even played… just because they released new champions that are even worse to play against,” Rekkles said. “Not really sure what their theory is here because if they keep making stronger and stronger champions at some point people will never play anything that is not newly released.”
Rekkles implies that almost every new champion that is released becomes a meta pick and professional players are forced to play those champions as they are miles above the older generation of champions in terms of raw power, which has become a consistent theme over the last few years.
One of the main issues with Riot’s approach to champion design and balancing is their inability to admit they are wrong and listen to valuable feedback from the community. Riot employee, Nathan Lutz, as known as Riot Lutzburg, gave birth to a new community meme on Twitter while discussing upcoming champion changes with League of Legends players. Lutzburg said in a tweet, “Being good at playing a certain character in a video game is valuable, but I think I’ll take the 200+ collective years of professional game design experience”.
Being good at playing a certain character in a video game is valuable, but I think I'll take the 200+ collective years of professional game design experience.
— Nathan Lutz (@RiotLutzburg) January 8, 2020
Rekkles sneaked in a little jab towards Riot Lutzburg and the balancing team at the end of his statement, stating, “but what do I know? I don’t have 200 years of experience,” and for a player that has been around since 2012, his opinion and other professionals players opinions alike should be taken more seriously when it comes to the balancing of new champions, as we often see the meta of League of Legends drastically change due to introduction of new, overpowered champions such as Zoe, Qiyana, Senna, Yuumi, the list goes on.
Not only have professional players been baffled by the introduction of Aphelios to Summoners Rift, but influential analysts such as Duncan “Thorin” Shields and Nick “LS” De Cesare have also had their say on the matter. Most notably, Thorin and LS discuss the critical issues with Aphelios’ champion design, which is the lack of clarity the champion provides to his team members, his enemies, and even the commentators that cast the professional League of Legends games. LS says, “I want to take this moment to say, I’m the LCK color caster and I will be casting LCK tomorrow and I have no f***ing idea what that champion does, I’ve probably played against him a hundred times… I have no f***ing clue what I’m looking at”.
Following up on LS’s outspoken thoughts on the confusing nature of Aphelios, Thorin also expresses his thoughts regarding the lack of clarity provided by the latest marksman, comparing Aphelios to a “New York street hustler.”
“Trying to figure out what gun Aphelios has is like when you see the real New York street hustlers doing that three-card monte, and you’re like, I reckon I can follow where this is going… but you never know,” Thorin said.
Additionally, Thorin highlights one of the major concerns with Aphelios’ ultimate ability, Moonlight Vigil (R), which is an issue felt by almost all of the League of Legends community.
“The one thing I can’t forgive them for is why does the ult look the same? Why does the ult look the same? That’s the worst part of it,” Thorin said.
Currently, Aphelios ultimate ability has the same animation for each of five guns he possesses, with the only difference being a minor color change depending on what gun he presently has equipped.
In addition to the confusion presented to the professional players, casters, and analysts alike, over 15,000 users on Reddit upvoted a post regarding the uncertainty as to what Aphelios’ ultimate is about to do as a spectator. Riot Games is a company that prides themselves of providing visual clarity above everything else, stating on their own website that “VFX artists constantly balance satisfaction and gameplay clarity, ensuring that a visual effect accurately represents a given action or state, while remaining awesome,” therefore dropping the ball in such a huge manor with Aphelios is something that does not sit well with the League of Legends community.
Over the past weeks, countless casual and professional players have been left speechless after they have died to Aphelios without knowing what even hit them, most recently, TSM’s AD carry, Kasper “Kobbe” Kobberup got one-shot by Evil Geniuses’ Bae “Bang” Jun-sik with both his summoners spells and ultimate ability available on Xayah (that provides brief immunity).
Riot has yet to release a statement regarding the evident issues with Aphelios’ champion design, especially from a clarity perspective, although in the past month they have released a statement regarding their troubles balancing a game that has over 148 champions at every level of play.
Patch 10.3 addressed one small issue with Aphelios, which is a step in the right direction, albeit a very small step, but Riot Games definitely need to get their act together in regards to addressing Aphelios as it compromises the competitive integrity of professional leagues across the world.
Adam is a master's degree student studying esports at Staffordshire University. He is originally from Manchester, UK, and possesses an unrivaled passion for everything esports.