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How The Mageseeker solves a League of Legends lore problem

Good answers to long-standing questions

Sylas, the protagonist of The Mageseeker: A League of Legends Story, descends down a gleaming white set of stairs in the middle of a lovely garden. Image: Digital Sun/Riot Forge
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.

The newest Riot Forge title, The Mageseeker: A League of Legends Story, is a beat-’em-up tale of monarchy, magic, and revolution. It works well as a standalone experience; anyone who has ever dabbled in the fantasy genre will recognize its depictions of fearsome dragons and a band of noble rebels. But for League of Legends fans, The Mageseeker is an absolute treasure trove of lore that resolves tired plot hooks and sets up new, scintillating mysteries.

“After we released our first game Moonlighter, apparently some people at Riot had been playing it quite a lot,” says Javi Gimenez, co-founder and CEO of developer Digital Sun, in a call with Polygon. Riot encouraged Digital Sun to pitch a game to Riot Forge in the League universe. The team at Digital Sun started to iterate on a protagonist who could mix and match abilities from other champions — or perhaps a squad with different loadouts of abilities.

Shortly after brainstorming started, Riot released Sylas, a Demacian rebel mage who steals spells from casters around him. “When we saw that champion, we were like, ‘OK – this is a match made in heaven,’” says Gimenez. The Mageseeker was in development for four years, which means that Digital Sun was able to craft Sylas’ post-launch story in a relatively isolated sandbox.

Sylas braces himself in key art for The Mageseeker - A League of Legends Story Image: Digital Sun/Riot Forge

“Sylas is a challenge because he’s not a regular hero — he’s an anti-hero. He’s not a nice guy. That’s fine, because we’re allowed to [have Sylas] do things a regular hero wouldn’t do, but we also need to be very careful that he’s not doing too many terrible things,” says Sara Costa, design director at Digital Sun. The end result is a game that shows Sylas as having been right about the Mageseekers. Is he also right about the Demacian aristocracy, or is he just an accelerationist with no brakes? Time will tell. We do know that Sylas remains an antagonist even after the events of this game, though, because The Warriors cinematic takes place post-The Mageseeker.

Demacia is one of the oldest places in League of Legends lore; it was originally positioned as a shining medieval monarchy, the antithesis to the brutal skullduggery and assassinations of Noxus. Over the years, as the lore moved more towards depicting varying shades of gray, Demacia lost some of its shine. The kingdom evolved into a place founded as a sanctuary from magic, with a state organization of Mageseekers searching for dangerous mages and imprisoning them.

The Mageseekers make perfect villains to oppose an anti-hero. “The Mageseekers existed when we started making the game, but Riot didn’t have big plans for them,” says Gimenez. “So we started developing them.” The group of misguided patriots now includes some ruthless monsters (of the metaphorical sort) who use old-school alchemy and mad science to create monsters (of the literal sort) in an attempt to “cure” magic. Their motives are familiar and can be mapped onto real-life groups, while their methods are a little more fantastical, with vats full of alchemical experiments. The Mageseekers also work to manipulate mages into believing that only the state can control their powers.

The Mageseeker: A League of Legends Story - Garen, an exemplar of Demacia, is about to drop a massivesword down on his enemy, Sylas, in the middle of a circular court. Image: Digital Sun/Riot Forge

This oppression of mages was established back with the Lux comic back in 2019, and it led to some interesting (but underdeveloped) conflicts in League’s lore. Lux Crownguard is a light mage. Will her older brother Garen stand by her side, or will he give in to his nation’s prejudices? What do champions like Sona, a musical mage raised in a noble house, think about their society? Prince Jarvan is dating a half-dragon, Shyvana — isn’t that awkward in a nation that persecutes magic and outsiders in equal measure? These conflicts stretched out for years, with characters like Garen and Jarvan IV stuck in an awkward limbo between hero and oppressor.

The awkwardness was compounded as more lore started to come out, set in a time period after The Mageseeker’s story. Before this game, we just didn’t have the full picture. Its campaign satisfyingly answers tons of questions about Lux, Jarvan, Shyvana, Garen, and Sylas. We even learn more about Morgana and Kayle, who were worshiped as twin Gods in the early days of Demacia’s history. There’s also a tie-in comic, Katarina, published on Webtoon that goes into Garen and the Noxian assassin Katrina Du Couteau, which serves as a prequel to The Mageseeker.

The Mageseeker shows that League of Legends is capable of setting up interesting conflicts, and that Riot Forge games are able to resolve them in a variety of ways. The Ruined King, another League of Legends spinoff title from Riot Forge, is much more entwined in the lore and timeline of the League universe. The Mageseeker is a more contained game, with no plans for sequels or DLC. It’s a treat for long-time League fans that offers insight on a few specific mysteries in one region, and now it feels like the setting of Demacia will finally be able to move forward to some new and even more intriguing conflicts.

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