Skins are one of the largest selling points of Riot Games’ free-to-play MOBA, League of Legends. They add flavor to League’s most beloved champions, and sometimes it is a driving attraction for some to play the game despite the toxicity and other underlying issues.
While skins are intended to be cosmetic items that spice up League’s visuals, some skins give more value than just looks. Would you believe that some skins can actually buff the champions you play?
These buffs do not come in the form of additional damage or bonus stats; rather, these buffs are the type that affects you and your enemy’s perception of certain skills and abilities. Some skins slightly hide the usually clear indicators of some abilities, while others are much more difficult to see than their original effects.
iBlitzcrank’s Rocket Hook ability provides more clarity on the hitbox (or hook) compared to the Classic skin’s visuals. Rather than a crooked robot arm stretching to grab, the straightforward blue pulse-like effect makes the trajectory clearer. This makes it easier for Blitzcrank mains to actually land that one winning hook to turn the tides during the laning phase.
Arctic Ops Gragas’ Explosive Cask ultimate is actually a staple for most jungle pro players that use Gragas. The visuals on his ultimate have shades that closely resemble the density of Summoner’s Rift, and as a result it blends easily during a chaotic teamfight. Having an AoE knockback skill that is essentially hard to notice is quite the power, which is why there are more reasons to pick this skin up besides its beauty.
Infernal Diana has some visual and slight auditory clarity issues compared to her Classic counterpart. Her passive, which lights up her weapon when primed for a passive proc, glows in a fiery red manner. Because the skin itself is fiery red, it’s harder to distinguish if she has her passive up. Her audio is slightly less distinct than the Classic especially in her Lunar Rush ability, but its effects are less significant.
How exactly do skins buff champions?
Visual clarity is one of League’s driving principles when it comes to gameplay. Especially with cosmetics that modify the appearance of a champion, clarity must still be intact to avoid player confusion with skills and such.
Since skins are made to alter the appearances of some abilities and passives depending on the theme, some decreases in clarity go unnoticed in the Public Beta Environment, where all skins get tested for necessary tweaks. In our examples, these are the subtle things that got shipped to live servers, and none of them are particularly game-breaking.
When things like Diana’s passive are unclear to the enemy, it is a buff for the Diana player by comparison, because only the player can see the passive indicator in his interface.
One potential cause for these buffs is in the unfamiliarity with the skins. On top of the fact that League is a knowledge-heavy game, it becomes an additional burden to know what to watch out for when facing certain character skins.
While it is easier to blame the skin designers for letting such discrepancies happen, there is always a balance between visual clarity and pleasing aesthetics. Ideally, all skins would hit the perfect 50/50 mark, but depending on the theme, there would definitely be times that the beauty of the skin slightly outweighs the visual clarity.
Are there ways to counter the buffs?
There is no straightforward way to fight this besides simply being familiar with the skins themselves. Understanding the little things can go a long way, especially with these kinds of workarounds within the game. It’s not a perfect solution because such visual problems during teamfights will likely thrive most of the time, but it’s a better way than to fall for the same tricks over and over.
Riot occasionally does visual upgrades that also affect the skins of a champion. One example is with Teemo and Omega Squad Teemo’s mushroom ultimate. Before, Omega Squad Teemo was the only Teemo skin to actually display the explosion radius when an enemy walks onto his mushrooms. Compared to the original skin, Omega Teemo R’s explosion shows that it is larger than what the former shows. After Patch 8.24, the rest of the skins obtained the same visual fix.
As one of the fundamentals in game design, clarity is an important element in games that can communicate to the player what is happening in the game. Visual clarity, by extension, should mean that players are able to clearly see and understand allies, threats, and everything else that is directly related to the gameplay.
Skins are Riot’s way of providing an alternate experience through different themes, and these “buffs” are probably not part of Riot’s plans to sell them.
While it is an unintended side effect, gaining the slightest edge on your enemy can sometimes be the key to landing the victories you otherwise would not have.
Which skins are your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!