Riot unveils League of Legends' summer event and, by jove, I think that's just Vampire Survivors

Swarm | Operation: Anima Squad - Event Trailer | League of Legends - YouTube Swarm | Operation: Anima Squad - Event Trailer | League of Legends - YouTube
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I admit it, when I turned up at Riot's LA HQ to learn about its League of Legends summer event, I was fully resigned to having the snot kicked out of me. My MOBA experience consists of a couple hours spent in an apartment where two Russian lads were getting incredibly heated about something happening in Dota 2, and that's about it. My task, as I saw it, was to Forrest Gump my way through proceedings before reporting back to one of PCG's actual MOBA-knowers.

So imagine my all-body bafflement when Riot unveiled Swarm | Operation: Anima Squad, the ungainly name for the "brand new PvE game mode" that makes up LoL's 2024 summer event, and I was pretty dang good at it. Not because I'm some kind of MOBA idiot savant, mind you, but because the entire thing is basically Vampire Survivors. Four-player, LoL-themed Vampire Survivors, sure, but Vampire Survivors nonetheless. I don't know what "jungling" is, but an auto-shooter? I know that very well indeed.

It works pretty much how you'd expect. Party up with up to three friends, choose from a roster of heroes—including the newly introduced Aurora the Witch—and get let loose into one of a series of maps. It's not really LoL—for the first time, you're controlling your movement with (imagine it) WASD—but it's not not LoL either. Your characters still have a range of abilities you'll recognise from your average MOBA match, it's just that their basic attacks will now fire automatically, though some more powerful stuff still wants you to trigger it with a button-tap.

That arsenal can be expanded, much like in the games that inspired this new mode, as you level up. Collecting enough XP orbs will push you higher and higher up the tree, letting you choose from one of three abilities/upgrades every time. My recommendation? Go for the giant hammer. It has a long cooldown, but it also annihilates the heck out of bosses.

In a bit of a divergence from Vampire Survivors (or at least from Vampire Survivors as I last played it), Anima Squad's levels are littered with challenges and missions for you and your team to complete. Wipe out this enemy in X amount of time, deal with this miniboss, that kind of thing. It's a neat way to mix things up although, frankly, I and my three companions struggled enough to keep ourselves alive in the game even without the added difficulty. You can also unlock permanent upgrades using gold you unlock in the mode and, yes, there's an Event Pass filled with cosmetics and gewgaws.

Riot wasn't willing to commit to keeping the mode in perpetuity when I asked about it during the event, but I'd be surprised if it didn't stick around in some form if it proves a hit with fans. For my money, it's the first time I've ever been drawn to play LoL at all, and felt like a good way to dip my toe into the vast ocean of the game's roster and abilities as someone who's very scared he'd just make his teammates angry in standard play. I suspect that might be just what Riot's going for, what with its current playerbase growing older and older.

Joshua Wolens
News Writer

One of Josh's first memories is of playing Quake 2 on the family computer when he was much too young to be doing that, and he's been irreparably game-brained ever since. His writing has been featured in Vice, Fanbyte, and the Financial Times. He'll play pretty much anything, and has written far too much on everything from visual novels to Assassin's Creed. His most profound loves are for CRPGs, immersive sims, and any game whose ambition outstrips its budget. He thinks you're all far too mean about Deus Ex: Invisible War.