Hands-On Preview of the New League of Legends Dominion Mode

A game of Dominion is different from the very start.  As a matter of fact, the only true similarity is the hero selection that you can play as!

So let’s take a look at the game from start to finish to give you an idea of what you can expect  once you get your hands on League of Legends Dominion, which is playable at PAX and Gamescom this year.  The name of the game is capture and hold, with 5 points in a star formation, with the team strongholds lying at 3 and 9 o’clock.  For you WoW veterans out there, it’s cutthroat Arathi Basin with powerups galore!

Before the match even starts, you’ll notice a set of major differences.

-          You have a lot more gold to start, 1375 in the build we played

-          You start at level 3.

-          You cannot leave the spawn area until the platforms connecting your spawn to the battlefield form, which is about the same time it takes for minions to spawn in Summoner’s Rift.

-          Fortify has been replaced with Garrison, a similar single target skill, and Promote is back to create super creeps for a push.

The first two are a great way to kick start the action, and the third is to ensure a fair fight for the slow loaders and people who are wishy washy or just new to the Dominion item set, which has a few distinct differences we’ll get into later.

Once people roll out, there are only two lanes, and they really don’t matter nearly as much as the other modes.  This might shock those of you that play the game religiously, but now the first 10 minutes of a game aren’t just about last hitting minions!  As your team leaves the spawn, you’ll scatter to the 5 points and make your initial claims.  Those with Ghost or other rapid movement skills can attempt to grab points closer to the enemy base,

Capturing a point takes a solid 15 seconds or so, and your hero will use their unique channeling animation to do so.  Creeps will not interrupt it, but any hero attack or damage will instantly stop what you’re doing.  The channel does not need to start from scratch though, so every little bit you can capture during a standoff will help!

When you’re in control of more points than your opposition, their life counter will decrease at a rate of the difference.  There are no ways to increase your life counter, so control of the points determines the victor of the game.  Killing another player reduces their total by one, but taking a point has the potential to reduce their total by one every few seconds!

Scattered throughout the map are a variety of powerups.  These range from speed boosts to health and mana packs, and they’re great for keeping yourself healthy and dangerous as you traverse the map.  In the very center are two crystals, one for each team.  For a shorter channel, you can claim a very strong single buff that does not transfer on death like the other modes.   Note that you cannot claim the other team’s powerup, nor can you destroy it.  You have visibility of it though, so you know when the other team is claiming theirs.    This buff gives a very large shield and a damage boosting lightning bolt on all offensive abilities, as well as making your champion huge and imposing.  A giant Nocturne is no laughing matter!

Note that when you’re clashing with the enemy at their points though, that the point itself is a threat.  It functions as a turret, but it can be disabled by capturing it –which you can do just barely outside of the turret’s range.  This is to make it so an undefended point can be taken with no resistance, but if you’re there, you can kite people around it or just use it as a stronghold to make a stand on a push.  If a creep wave is quite large or has a promoted unit or two, it is more than capable of taking down a point with no hero assistance.  This doesn’t happen often though, so don’t count on it to save you from the jaws of defeat!

The middle of the map is full of little debris that can be kited around, and often times have tall grass at least on one side of it.  Many shortcut paths are available here, but both teams have sight of the middle area due to the power ups.  You can cut through there to fake out opponents with various feints and capture other points or ambush heroes on the offensive.

Note that the heroes themselves are untouched, so when it comes to balance, the items and the map itself will be the ones tweaked.   Items that promote passive play such as Banshee’s Veil, which blocks a spell once every 45 seconds, and Bloodthirster, which becomes one of the strongest attack weapons over time but loses power after a death are both out the window.  New items such as the Prospector’s set of items which grant several cheap and basic bonuses, but a unique passive of +200 health to make you more survivable while not making them stackable for a quick way to massive durability.

If you’re worried about stealth, fear not.   There is a new physical and a new magical tool for killing those pesky rats.  Take for instance, the attack damage version:

-          +50% attack speed

-          +20% life steal

-          Passive : Reveal target for 8 seconds on hit.

This won’t just help you kill stealth fighters—it’ll help you keep track of people as they navigate tall grass, teleport, or otherwise cut your line of sight to evade.  It’ll also completely ruin Akali’s Twilight Shroud!  If they don’t stealth, you can still use other new items such as the Frozen Warhammer to slow them to a crawl to avoid being kited.   This beast gives:

-          +70 damage

-          +275 HP

-          25% chance for a 3.5 second slow, and an active that jacks it up to 100% for 5 seconds on a 90 second cooldown

Now we’ve got options for slowing that don’t involve a bunch of extra HP like the Frozen Mallet!

But, do you really need this extra attack power?  Every game on dominion has a passive aura that affects all players.  In the current build, it gives 10% bonus armor penetration, 5% spell penetration, -20% healing received, and increased mana regeneration.  That means there are going to be a lot of powerful spells flying, and less mitigation of them.  This’ll lead to skirmishes being decided much quicker than the other two gameplay modes, and prevent stalemates at points.

I say skirmishes, and not team battles for a reason.  You will rarely if ever see 3+ heroes for a team on the same screen because there simply are 5 focal points on the map that need to be attended to, and roving around as one big angry mob simply doesn’t work if the other team has the brains to avoid engaging you and go for the points you’re nowhere near.

The balance is still being figured out, but mobility, blinkers, and stealth have a slight advantage over the rest.  Ezreal and Karthus have great stopping power in their ultimates to maintain control of points for a brief stint longer, or to buy time for the cavalry to arrive.  Rammus is back in action with great mobility and the ability to drag people out from under the turrets via his taunt.  Even Brackhar would tell me that after thousands of games internally, they’re still discovering dangerous new strategies.

Even if all seems lost, there are two paths out of your base.  You can leave via either and reach points quickly, so even when being beaten badly, a team can push out quickly.  A painful defeat doesn’t mean a fed team either—reduced gold on kills and a massive xp/gold flow for all players keeps the battlefield evolving and fresh.  Games will rarely, if ever, go beyond the 25 minute mark.  This is intentional—this mode is about action!

It’s quite fun and quite near being finished.  Dominion mode is not meant to replace the traditional gameplay, but it adds a new flavor that’s much more endearing than just a new map!  If you have any specific questions, be sure to comment or drop by our forums – I’ll be more than happy to answer them!

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