The Sentinels of Light event left nothing but darkness for the future of League’s lore

Viego's story was little more than a narrative mess, ruining the tale of the triumph of the Ruined King.

Screengrab via Riot Games

League of Legends’ Sentinels of Light narrative event was the highly anticipated follow-up of last year’s Spirit Blossom event, featuring Riot Games taking a big step in lore progression with the development of the Ruination. 

Riot established the Ruination in early 2021 as the staple event of League for a large portion of the year. From champion releases to game modes and map overhauls, the Ruination stood out as one of the first major leaps into lore progression since the dive into Bilgewater with the Burning Tides event in 2015. Players even had the chance to finally meet the Ruined King, Viego, who had long been a staple of multiple champions’ lore as a key antagonist to all of Runeterra. 

From the first cinematic of the year, we knew a battle between the Sentinels of Light—namely Senna and Lucian—and Viego was on its way. This conflict came into the hands of players with the aptly named Sentinels of Light event, documenting Senna and Lucian’s attempt at thwarting the plans of Viego and saving all of Runeterra from imminent Ruination. 

Players were introduced to new Sentinel versions of some of League’s most recognizable champions—Vayne, Irelia, Riven, Diana, Pyke, Olaf, Graves, and Rengar—as well as the inclusion of new champions in Gwen and Akshan joining the heroes in their fight. On the other side was Viego’s army, consisting of powerful champions that had succumbed to the Ruined King’s power: Karma, Pantheon, Draven, Shyvana, Miss Fortune, and the upcoming champion, Vex. Between the forces of good and evil, Riot set the stage for one of the most intriguing events to ever grace the world of Runeterra.

Yet the way that the event was handled did little to bring players the satisfaction of years of League lore coming together. What was planned to be a celebration of world-building over 11 years quickly became the target of arguments and complaints of a fan base that’s called this world home. Between slow story progression, numerous bugs, and the convolution of established League lore, Riot has done more harm than good with the Sentinels of Light event—marking a giant step back from what was successful just a short year ago.

Play to progress, repeat 100 times

The Sentinels of Light event’s “gimmick” involved players recruiting other champions throughout Runeterra to fight against the Ruination, which required playing numerous games to collect points to progress the story. And we mean numerous

With each Sentinel recruited, players gained access to a bonus associated with the champion that awarded them extra progression points if they achieved those bonuses in their games. To progress through Demacia, however, the first region that players could access, only Lucian and Senna were available to provide bonuses—and they weren’t very substantial. 

Even if players successfully achieved all of these bonuses in their games, it required tens of games to get close to progressing through Demacia. Since players only recruited one Sentinel (outside of Demacia, where players recruited both Gwen and Vayne), bonuses to progression points didn’t add up fast enough, forcing players to tread through a significant number of games—and oftentimes not meeting the bonus requirements at all.

Though the struggle to progress may have seemed difficult at 210 progression points to make it through Demacia, every region of Runeterra required exponentially more progression points to complete. The event’s focus on grinding game after game became monotonous, deterring players from learning more about the Ruination and working alongside the Sentinels.

Then, Riot stepped in. After a few weeks of complaints from fans regarding slow story progression and multiple affirmations by Riot that the slow progression rate would “get better” over time, the devs implemented a once-per-week mission that provided 600 story progression points for playing a game. Though this made up for the slow start of the event, the damage had been done in other capacities.

What happened to the champions of the Shadow Isles?

The Shadow Isles aren’t a new location in the lore of League by any means. Various champions have been released throughout the years that hail from the dark location formerly known as the Blessed Isles, with Viego being the most recent. Since the conception of the location, champions have made important contributions to the story of the Shadow Isles, even referencing the Ruination and their roles within it.

Yet in the Sentinels of Light event, these champions were nowhere to be seen. Outside of Viego and Thresh, who have been imperative to Senna and Lucian’s character development, there was only one special guest star to appear in the story of event: Yorick. From his early days to his rework, Yorick has long been known as one of the sole “survivors” of the Ruination’s curse, acting as a guide for the souls lost in the corruption of the Blessed Isles. The Yorick we briefly saw, however, was anything but that.

Instead of being the “Shepherd of Souls,” this Yorick was little more than a placeholder champion ready to have his story retconned. Gone were the days of the blessed water in the vial around his neck being limited to his use only. Yorick provided each Sentinel of Light with a drop of the extinct water to protect them from the Mist, despite his established lore saying that he only has enough drops to protect himself. To add to the seemingly defeated shell of a character, Yorick’s staple partner, the Maiden of the Mist, had her lore changed as well to make her have a fetter of the puzzle that was Isolde’s soul—just like Senna and Gwen, all for the plot’s sake. Then we never heard from Yorick again. A champion so intertwined with the mere existence of the Ruination had been removed from its story almost entirely, leaving us with the corpse of a shepherd forgotten by his creators.

But Yorick wasn’t the only champion left out of the Shadow Isles portion of the event. Champions like Kalista, Hecarim, Karthus, and Maokai, among many others who have significant portions of their lore tied directly to the events of the Ruination, were nowhere to be seen. Hecarim wasn’t leading Viego’s army into battle, Viego and a small edgy yordle were. Maokai and Kalista weren’t out seeking vengeance on the cause of the Ruination, in fact, they weren’t out and about at all. 

These familiar faces that existed long before we knew Viego’s true name were left in the shadows, their legacies only existing within the memories of the players. While there could have been any subtle mention of these champions that paved the way in the lore for the Ruination event to even exist, we instead got a shirtless dark ruler and a yordle with a love for despair.

An order of Ruination with extra sadness on the side

And that yordle’s name is Vex, League’s upcoming champion that has long been teased as a mid lane mage. There have been no yordles introduced into the game since Kled in 2016. So when Riot announced a new yordle would be joining the fray with direct ties to the Ruination, the excitement built up quickly. But what we ended up getting was one of the worst parts of the Sentinels of Light event.

Vex’s gimmick is her obsession with sadness, only seeing the world for the dreary place that it is and refusing to succumb to any happiness. She controls a giant shadow that does her bidding (and apparently opens portals to alternate dimensions). But other than that, her character is incredibly one-dimensional. For the entirety of the event, it felt like Riot had this character in its pocket that it had long teased to be a part of the Ruination, yet had absolutely no idea how to incorporate her into the story—so it stuck her with Viego, thinking that two antagonists seeking a gloomy world would work well together. Well, they didn’t.

The subplot of Viego and Vex’s partnership was not good. These characters had completely different end goals and one of them didn’t even have any concrete plans to reach that goal whatsoever. Seeing these characters clash in their ideals made Vex look even more childish on top of her dry, sad humor, further painting her as some edgy teenager archetype yet never establishing what exactly she was getting out of her involvement with Viego.

Vex’s character development feels similar to Seraphine, although distributed to players in a different way. Riot had an idea for a champion and centered it around an entire thematic. But in the process, Riot forgot to flesh out the base champion, thus leaving behind an empty shell that only has relevance in non-canon-specific events. Though we’ve yet to learn anything further regarding Vex’s lore, it’s clear from her involvement in the Sentinels of Light event that she’s a little out of place.

The friends we made along the way, then never saw again

The Sentinels of Light event began and ended with two cinematics, depicting a prelude of what players were to expect in the event, as well as an animated version of the final battle against Viego. While the first cinematic provided a climactic teaser to excite fans about the event and the release of the newest Sentinel of Light, Akshan, the ending cinematic was a major slap in the face to those who invested their time into the story of the Ruination.

Gone were the faces we recruited from all around Runeterra. Instead, Riot had retconned the entirety of the event it just had in favor of pushing Vayne and Graves as the only recruited Sentinels of Light—though there aren’t details on whether they were simply the only ones to accompany Senna, Lucian, and Gwen into the final battle with Viego. The finale played out the same, but now the group of over 10 Sentinels of Light had been reduced to just a handful—with some of the most powerful allies being left out in favor of the more human-like, mediocre ones that lacked those superhuman traits. And of course, we can’t forget about Akshan.

For being such an important part of the end of the Ruination and the bane of Viego, where was Akshan this whole time? Not only was he released with only two weeks left of the event, but his inclusion in the story painted him as little more than a clumsy amateur who seemed interested in one goal only: reviving his master, Shadya. Though most of the Shurima arc of the event is forgettable, Akshan’s character development does shine in his realization that the Absolver can’t bring back his master from the dead. But it leaves us wondering whether that means he didn’t kill her killer or if she simply can’t be resurrected.

Then he disappeared. League’s newest champion, the one that was set to bring about the conclusion of the event, simply vanished. Akshan and his Absolver became little more than name drops for the other characters, most of which didn’t even know he existed due to the strange choice of Lucian bringing the player to Shurima in the middle of the night. Fitting his motif, the Rogue Sentinel appeared once more at the end as the hero of the story, but in such an unsatisfying way that rendered the work that players had done recruiting Sentinels from around all of Runeterra utterly useless.

We were never rewarded for all of our efforts in a fruitful manner. Instead, in front of our very eyes, all that we did was retconned immediately with the focus on the heartwarming love between Senna and Lucian being ripped away. Viego’s story came to an end, but the rocky road needed to get there reaped few rewards for the players who took their time bringing the corners of Runeterra together to fight the Ruination. 

We walk away from this knowing little about the future of League’s lore and without much information on what exactly The Ruined King game will touch on now that we traversed the Ruination. But hey, at least now we all have a few icons and emotes that we’ll never use.

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