League of Legends started as a humble MOBA in the footsteps of a Warcraft mod, but the game has expanded to include a massive fantasy universe rich in lore. Riot has managed to create a very respectable canon supported by cinema, novels, comics and even an Emmy-winning animated show. And if the world of Runeterra isn’t to your liking, Riot hopes to lure you in with one of their many alternate realities and skins. It is a a lot to sift through, and League‘s biggest lore fans are digging through all those timelines to guess how it all fits together and what’s next.
Similarly to Marvel, there are several continuities within the “main” fiction League. Exciting is technically a separate alt-universe, using the same playground but adapting bits of established canon to tell a stronger story. Legends of Runeterra exists in a strange canon limbo where much of it is speculative, not nailed down to a specific timeline or experimental. But the skin lines are where things really get weird, turning into a big Gordian knot of mirror selves and first-class universes.
For most people LeagueDuring its lifetime, skins were a fun way to offer an alternate fantasy on a character. What if Noxian assassin Katarina was actually a pirate? What if Jinx had to survive the zombie apocalypse? What if Sona, the mute musician, was actually a Daft Punk-style DJ? Over time, these fantasies became much more elaborate. What if a bunch of masters were actually all part of a K-pop band and released a single?
Skins like Star Guardian Lux started out as one-offs, but their success with the community led to follow-up releases and more elaborate fiction. Riot’s philosophy changed, and now skinlines are usually associated with entire universes. PROJECT is a high-concept cyberpunk dystopia, while Battle Academia is an anime homage that puts champions in a high school for heroes.
Sometimes this is really fun. This was the case with High Noon, a gothic western universe where belles and cowboys mingle with fallen angels and ambitious demons on flaming horses and go on train robberies. Other times I feel like I’ve been assigned homework I don’t really want to do. IN Wild Rift, a new Supreme Cells skin line came out with an accompanying event, and as soon as I saw that each champion had lore loaded with proper names and deep motivations, I checked out. No thanks! Enough of my brain is full of League nonsense, no more thanks.
Things get really prickly when we approach a certain cluster of skins connected to space. Dark Star and Cosmic reinstate both champions as part of a great astral court at war. Odyssey is a space adventure that pays homage to Star Wars, Borderlands and Guardians of the Galaxy. The Star Guardians are magical girls who balance the demands of high school with fighting the rommonds.
All of these started out as simple concepts, but Riot has sprinkled hints that they are connected. For example, Odyssey Kayn is a power-mad Space Emperor who uses the power of the Dark Star Rhaast to fuel his crusade. Hi how did a dark star get into my odyssey? These hints became very explicit in the Star Guardian event, which ends with Star Guardian Captain Kai’Sa being confronted by Dark Star in her dreams. Now we know it’s a crossover, but that immediately raises the question of overlap. Why is it a Cosmic Lux and a Star Guardian Lux? A Star Guardian Jinx and an Odyssey Jinx? An Odyssey Kha’Zix and Dark Star Kha’Zix?
Riot’s newest major skin line both answers these questions and raises more of them. Enter the Empyrean, champions who are empowered by Foreglow and who are very aware that they live in a multiverse. In fact, the Empyrean Pyke’s mission is to kill all other Pykes, including those from other skinlines.
Empyrean Pyke kills not only tough, battle-hardened Pykes, but softer and simpler Pykes. For example, we get to see a Pyke play League of Legends in another dimension – which I also have questions about, for example, there is a Pyke master in it this version of League of Legends? If so, is this guy even confused as to why Riot Games made a champion with his name and face?
The Empyrean is perhaps the key that answers all the mysteries set up about the Dark Star and its role in the larger League multiverse. Or maybe there are no answers and this is a “Drink Your Ovaltine” situation where the only real conclusion is that Riot hopes we simply think these skins are cool and should buy them. Regardless, it’s fascinating to see the multiverse flourish and evolve. I just wish we could get some skin lines that don’t have a massive universe attached; sometimes I just want to dress my dolls, not ponder the larger mysteries of the universe.