After years waiting on the sidelines, the still-unnamed Project L looks like it's gearing up to take the main stage. Riot revealed the League of Legends fighting game venture during its 10th anniversary festivities in 2019, confirming the years of rumor that followed Riot's 2016 purchase of Radiant Entertainment.
The gentle dripfeed of Project L info is starting to accelerate thanks to the reveal of its teamplay focus, with eager fans getting a long-awaited opportunity to take the League fighter for a spin thanks to a hands-on Evo demo. Here's everything we know about Project L.
When does Project L release?
The short answer is: not anytime soon, according to the designer of Project L (and co-founder of EVO), Tom Cannon.
During Project L's reveal on Riot's anniversary livestream, Cannon also said: "Making fighting games is really, really tough. These are intricate games to make. And while we're a good ways towards making something that we think is really cool, we still have a long way to go. We're going to go dark for a while after this, so please don't expect anything soon."
They further updated this with new info in November 2021, describing that Project L would not release in 2022. Since then, there have been no updates about Project L's release timeline, so it's likely still a ways off.
Project L will be playable at EVO 2023
Riot announced in a July 2023 dev diary that Project L will be playable for the first time at EVO 2023, with a public hands-on demo on the show floor. The demo will feature a roster of four champions. Riot hasn't confirmed which four champions will be playable, but we've got a good idea for three of them: the most recent gameplay footage featured Ekko, Ahri, and Darius.
Project L trailers and gameplay video
Here's a full Project L match between Riot devs
Riot released this footage of a full match between Project L devs alongside its July 2023 Project L dev diary. It's a showcase for Project L's duo play philosophy, with each hero in the 2v2 tag team match controlled by one player. It also includes plenty of fightstick clacking for anyone with a very specific ASMR preference.
Project L gameplay details
Project L will be a "duo play" tag team fighter
Project L was revealed as an "assist fighter," with an offscreen character tagging in to assist or swapping with the primary fighter on stage. We got a closer look at those tag mechanics in a December 2022 gameplay overview, which showcased how those gameplay elements work in motion. However, in the July 2023 Project L dev diary, Riot revealed that—unlike other tag fighters—Project L is built on the idea of "duo play."
Where other tag fighters have one player controlling their entire team of selected fighters, Project L is focused on matches between teams of two players, with each player on a team controlling a single character. "Duo Play works a bit like tag team wrestling," said Shaun Rivera, game director for Project L. "One player controls the champ on stage and the other waits offscreen for their teammate to find the right moment to tag them in."
As Riot tells it, duo play teamwork will involve more than just choosing when to swap in your teammate. Project L is being designed to encourage smart cooperative play through mechanics like Fuses: playstyle synergies chosen by each team before a match to influence their assist strategy. One fuse allows the champions on a team to combine their ults, while another allows two assist actions back-to-back when you can normally do just one.
Project L will be free-to-play
The Runeterra 2D fighter will be joining the legion of free-to-play service games, according to a dev diary video from Riot. We don't have any specifics for the game's monetization scheme, but dev Tom Cannon said the decision to follow a free-to-play model was motivated by wanting to "remove as many barriers as possible from you enjoying Project L. We want you to be able to play, no matter where you live, what your skill level is, or how much money you have to spend on a game."
Which characters will be in Project L?
Riot hasn't officially announced a roster, but between the different snippets of footage they showed, we've seen that the League of Legends cast is out in force. Ahri, Katarina, Jinx, and Darius all put in appearances in. In the latest update, we've seen that Ekko will also be showing up. There's some serious diversity there, since we're looking at a fox-mage, an assassin with throwing knives, a bruising fighter with a giant axe, a minigun-and-rocket-launcher wielder, and a time rewinding inventor.
The August 2022 dev diary video revealed the Illaoi will be part of the Project L roster. An accompanying blog post from Riot has a lot more details about the design process of translating Illaoi into a fighting game context, but it's clear she'll be a powerhouse brawler, utilizing her heavy golden idol as well as her phantom sea-tentacles.
With nearly 160 champions to pick from in League of Legends, the character pool options are deep. But with so many types of champions, it'll be interesting to see which ones make it into Project L. Most humanoid champions are probably a safe bet, but I wouldn't be surprised if champs like Cho'Gath, Rumble, or Aurelion Sol are left out. How could they possible work in a fighting game? Well, there's always the Goro route.
What other details do we have about Project L?
The look has been refined since the earliest previews, but matches most 2.5D fighters. From the short bits of gameplay we got to see with a UI, a lot of the usual fighting game elements are present. Health bars, EX/super gauges, a round timer, round win counters, and combo counters are all there. However, given the game is in such an early state, it's possible there are changes ahead.
One thing to keep in mind is that Riot bought Tom Cannon's company, Radiant Entertainment, presumably because Cannon was working on a game called Rising Thunder. Rising Thunder was unlike a lot of other fighting games in that it was specifically built to be more approachable for newer players who didn't want to memorize long, complicated combos.
One of Rising Thunder's coolest ideas was that an entire combo could be triggered by a simple button press. There was still a wealth of strategy in knowing invincibility frames, timings, and spacing, but you could easily play with just a keyboard instead of a fight stick.
Given that much of Riot's design philosophy has been making more approachable versions of complicated games, like MOBAs and autochess, it's reasonable to assume Project L will build off of Rising Thunder's foundation.
But will Teemo be in Project L?
Never underestimate the power of the scout's code.