The Problems of Stealth – Part 1

Posted: May 17, 2011 by xenocidebrm in Complaining, Metagame

Ever since man has played peek-a-boo, he has wondered about the power of invisibility, the ability for something to not transmit its location in the visible light spectrum. It is not surprising that invisibility would have a wide array of combat application, leading to the development of camouflage (although nature beat us to it with lions, tigers, and bears, to name a few). It is here that we find invisibility making its way into games, from Starcraft to Sword of the Stars, from Dungeons and Dragons to Warhammer 40,000. Not surprisingly, League of Legends also has its own invisibility mechanic. Although it is ripped from Starcraft, this form of stealth has been highly successful in all RTS games, and I feel that stealth in League of Legends has been fairly well done.

That being said, there are problems with stealth. The first problem is that it makes players feel like they’ve lost control. Nothing is more frustrating than having an MIA Twitch or Eve running around, only to run back towards your tower and get instantly stunned or ganked. There is simply very little that can be done about stealth characters if you don’t know whether or not they’re around. In some cases, this paranoia is a normal part of games: calling MIA is important for newer players who don’t watch the minimap. This often forces people back to their tower. But if a stealth character is MIA for any more than 20 seconds, they can be in any lane immediately, forcing all lanes to tower hug. This just doesn’t promote good, dynamic gameplay. Furthermore, once stealth characters get fed, they can towerdive with impunity and absolutely zero warning. Playing against stealth characters just isn’t fun.

The second problem is the speed of stealth characters. Stealth characters tend to be the fastest characters on the field, unable to be caught and impossible to run away from. This is mostly due to the Boots of Mobility, which turn into speed 5 boots after 5 seconds out of combat (in reality, 5 seconds of not being attacked). Since stealth characters can avoid combat whenever they want, they will be moving at speed 5 virtually all the time. Now, not only are stealth characters the best paranoia characters, they also move the fastest.

I also find it a problem that every single stealth character is a high-dps carry. Normally, I’d be okay with this. Stealth is incredibly powerful early game and teeters off by mid to late game. However, with the ability to carry, these characters no longer even need stealth after a few kills or ganks. This means that if you are unable to stop these characters early game, you will almost certainly lose. Other carries are at least vulnerable when they pop out to use their abilities or while roaming around; stealth characters generally don’t need to be worried about being seen while roaming, and even if they do run into someone they will almost certainly kill the person in a few seconds and run off invisibly.

Stealth in League of Legends just doesn’t come across as very fun for people on the receiving end. While it does reward patience on the part of the stealth player, the stealth character in general has too much of a global presence, much like Twisted Fate or Pantheon. The stealth mechanic also does not promote good gameplay, relying on tower hugging more than strategic risk taking.

While I do only address the powerful points of stealth here, Part 2 of this article will have more on the underwhelming aspects of stealth and why stealth isn’t very fun for the stealthy player either.

  1. […] the last installment of The Problems of Stealth, I discussed the parts of stealth that turn a character from fun and interesting into annoying, not […]

  2. […] the last two installments of The Problems of Stealth, I discussed the problematic aspects of […]

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