Is League of Legends Balanced?


Game balance in League of Legends is a hot topic in the community since, well, forever. Players want the game to feel fair and rewarding, mainly because its competitive and requires effort to achieve victory over the opponents. Thus it is important to keep an eye out for patch notes to keep yourself updated.

League of Legends is widely considered to be unbalanced by the player base. The definition of “overpowered” is different for each player, and what they find unbalanced depends on what champion and role they play. The game is balanced differently for professional play and low elo, but it is practically impossible to perfectly balance the game for everyone.

Game balance is a controversial topic because everyone has a different opinion on the matter. While it is hard to answer this question with a simple yes or no, we can look at the various factors that play a part in the game’s balance. Understanding how these factors work will improve our understanding of the game and allow us to form a relatively unbiased opinion.

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Item Balance

A significant part of League of Legends’ Balance revolves around the various items available to be built. League of Legends has always had a large variety of items to choose from. 

After the item overhaul in Season 11, the number of options available to each class of champions increased significantly. Obviously, as the number of items in the game increase, it gets harder to keep all of them balanced.

Items like Goredrinker and Immortal Shieldbow have proved to be problematic in the past because the stats offered by these items are preferred by a large variety of champions. A lot of these champions may not be the intended users of these items, leading to problematic balance. 

A good example is the current meta of Blade of The Ruined King and Sunfire Aegis combination on a lot of basic attack based champions (Yasuo, Renekton, etc)

Overloaded Kits

A recent trend we have observed in these years is that every new champion release is accompanied by an uproar in the community. Players complain that new champions are being released with more and more overloaded kits. This means that these champions have too many things they can do, which makes countering these champions much harder.

Champions with overloaded kits might have more options to get out of trouble than simpler champions. It is true that older champions were relatively simpler when it came to the tools available to them, but having a lot of different features in a champion’s kit does not directly correlate to a lack of balance.

Champions may have many different abilities or ways to utilize them, but they are usually balanced by making the abilities situationally useful, giving them longer cooldowns, or simply making the champion too reliant on such an ability. 

An example would be Olaf, who just got a shield added to his W, and his ultimate can now last indefinitely in certain conditions. He is balanced by keeping these abilities in check, by nerfing their numbers or conditions.

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Champion Stats

Perhaps the biggest of all issues relating to the game’s balance is the issue with champion stats. A lot of old and new champions are simply over-buffed to the point where their sheer stats make them better than the rest of the roster. Champions might have very high AD/AP ratios on their abilities, large stat growth (especially Health and AD),

Almost every champion in the game can fluctuate between overpowered and unplayable with slight changes in their stats. This is because the champions hover around a fine line of balance. 

A lot of champions enter and leave the meta depending on what stat buffs they receive every patch. Thus changes in stats are the easiest way to change how strong or weak the champion is.

While players will always complain about champions having excessive stats, it is a part of the game that’s here to stay. Patch changes will always strengthen champions that feel weak, and vice versa, by adjusting their stats. Additionally, the meta that is formed as a result further forms people’s perception of a champion’s relative strength.

Role Balance

League of Legends is a 5v5 game but with 5 different roles on each team. These roles are not intended to be the same, despite the few similarities they might have. Players have constantly complained about certain roles being too powerful. When a role is said to be “OP”, it generally means that the role has too much agency in the game.

How strong or weak a role is, depends on the impact it can have in the game. Every role in the game has strong champions in the meta, and weak champions that make the role feel weaker. 

Players in the past have commented how the Jungle role has access to the entire map and can impact how lanes play out with little investment of time and resources. Support role can serve a similar purpose without any resources required.

ADC(Bot) and Top Lane have always been considered the weakest roles. ADCs rely on their support to perform well in the lane. They have to share experience and therefore require assistance to perform their job well. 

Top Laners are disconnected from most of the action as Dragons are located in the bot lane and the bot lane is also a 2v2 lane, incentivizing ganks and roams towards the bot lane instead of the top lane.

Low Elo Ranked

Since League of Legends has a fairly high skill ceiling, most of the player population is concentrated in low elo, between Silver and Platinum. Whether the game is perceived as balanced or unbalanced depends on the state of the game in these ranks. Champions may have higher or lower winrates in these ranks depending on their difficulty.

As low elo players do not excel at getting the maximum performance out of their champions, the perception of champion balance in this elo is bound to be skewed. Developers, when trying to balance for this elo, try to tackle these issues keeping in mind the champion difficulty. 

Therefore, nerfs and buffs that specifically affect the champion in these ranks without affecting higher ranks are the most effective way of tackling the issue.

Professional Play

High elo and professional play present a better view of game balance. This is because the players in these categories are considered the best ones available. Professional players usually have better strategies and understanding of the game than high elo players. This is why the meta in professional play may differ from that of Solo Queue.

The game being balanced around professional play also has its pros and cons. The benefit is that professional players get maximum value out of the tools available to them. 

This allows the developers to get the most accurate possible data on which champions are overperforming/underperforming. This minimizes the risk of bias affecting the perception of the strength of certain champions or game elements.

The obvious con was already listed above. Professional play makes up for an extremely minuscule part of the entire player base. Balancing the game around a handful of people may not suit the rest of the player base because the champions do not interact the same way for professional players as they do for the massive majority of the players.

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Player Opinions

Getting back to the original question, there is no definitive answer to it. Whether League of Legends is balanced or not depends on the person asking the question and the one answering the question. 

The perception people have of the game depends on what role they play, what champion they play, and what items they build. This is going to be different for everyone, making the answer to this question a subjective one rather than an objective one.

For example, a top laner may say that their role is weak and useless because they are unable to snowball their lead as well as a fed bot lane, or that the game gets decided by interactions taking place on the bottom side of the map before the top laner even gets to participate. 

Someone playing Maokai, a champion currently in a weak position, might find that every other champion feels overpowered compared to their own.

Does League Aim To Be Balanced?

League of Legends is a competitive game. It aims to please everyone ranging from the most casual solo queue player to the most skilled professional player. The wide variety of players also results in variations in the strengths of different champions. 

Unskilled players may find simpler champions to be more effective than difficult champions. Professional players often find themselves piloting high-skill ceiling champions.

In each patch, changes are made to level the playing ground by nerfing strong champions and buffing weaker ones. This constant change in power also brings about meta changes. As long as the game wishes to remain fresh and competitive, it must shuffle through the meta and constantly evolve with time.

Champions are not meant to be perfectly balanced. Their strength varies from game to game and even from player to player. What feels unbalanced might depend on what champions you have trouble playing into.

League of Legends will never be perfectly balanced because of the large number of variables that must be taken into account. Even if the game could be balanced, it is better for it to not aim for a perfect balance to maintain enjoyable shifts in meta.

Conclusion

The common consensus around League of Legends balancing is that the game has been unbalanced since its very release. The important thing to remember is that the game is just as unbalanced as perceived by the players.

Riot Games tries to balance the game for both professional play and low elo, but it will never be in a perfect state as long as it continues to be a competitive game.



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