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League of Legends’ newest champion got a Sonic-style glow-up

Smolder needed less baby and more dragon

Smolder, the baby dragon champion coming to League of Legions, depicted in his splash art. He’s a small red creature with big ears, twin plumes of flame emerging from his forehead, big eyes, and a plucky demeanor. Image: Riot Games
Cass Marshall is a news writer focusing on gaming and culture coverage, taking a particular interest in the human stories of the wild world of online games.

League of Legends’ newest champion is Smolder, and he’s a tiny baby dragon. Despite only being a few days old, Smolder has already received a Sonic the Hedgehog-style glow up from Riot Games. The trouble started when Riot revealed the champion on social media with a short teaser trailer introducing the dragon (and his mom, who shows up in Smolder’s kit as his ultimate ability.)

Immediately, fans had some concerns about Smolder. He fits into the adorable archetype established by previous champions like Zoe and Yuumi. At first glance, he looks like he’d be more at home in a Dreamworks film than in League of Legends. It’s especially odd considering League of Legends and its spin-off games are full of dragons, most of which look bestial and intimidating. Smolder’s big eyes, round cheeks, short snout, and facial proportions felt off, which led to comparisons with the original live action Sonic. Fans took to social media to share their thoughts and even re-designs for the champion.

On Friday, champion producer Alexia Gao tweeted the team had seen the feedback about Smolder’s face, and they had already adjusted the champion. Now, he looks significantly more dragon-esque. These are texture updates, so the shape of Smolder’s skull and snout largely remains the same, but blending his human face in with the dragon features on the rest of his body did wonders in bringing him out of the uncanny valley.

Not every fan is pleased; some people still wish the dragon champion coming to the Rift was much more monstrous and deadly. But Smolder has his own charms; there’s a lot to like about a baby dragon who wails for his mom to come protect him in the middle of a teamfight. Smolder’s definitely precious, and his design veers into the saccharine ... but he feels unique in a roster full of grim soldiers, serial murderers, and rampaging warlords.

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