Riot Games has just dropped a huge developer blog that goes into plenty of detail surrounding the upcoming League of Legends Skarner VGU. Charting the course of his update – from unloved crystal scorpion to the stoic protector we are soon to meet – the studio has treated us to a deep dive on everything to do with The Crystal Vanguard.
Speaking on the state Skarner was in prior to the upcoming update, product manager Lexi ‘Lexical’ Gao notes that the scorpion scored the lowest of all of League of Legends’ champions in several player survey categories, while scoring in the bottom four for others. Fortunately, he wasn’t in the bottom four for “would romance this champion” – clearly the only LoL ranks scale that matters.
When trying to figure out why Skarner was so unpopular with players, Riot boiled it down to “several potential factors”, including the unpopularity of monster champions relative to humanoid champs, the uniconic-ness of scorpions, and the incohesiveness of the “beautiful, magical, and serene” crystal thematic when paired with a “badass, venomous, and menacing” scorpion.
So, with a lot of work to do, Riot set out to put the sting back in Skarner’s tail, and the Brackern back on the map – specifically Ixtal. That’s right, Skarner and the Brackern are no longer denizens of Shurima’s northwestern valleys, and have been relocated east.
As explained by narrative writer Elyse ‘apothecarie’ Lemoine, in the new lore the Brackern are Runeterra’s first earth elementalists, with the studio “exploring the possibility of them having taught the first Ixtali people how to harness the earth element, as well as the possibility of them building the first Arcologies.”
With this being the case, the Brackern would be revered by the Ixtali, giving Skarner a near-mythical status. As art director Larry ‘The BravoRay’ Ray goes on to explain, Skarner is a “lawful neutral character archetype with full sentience who is deeply intelligent”. While wanton destruction is not Skarner’s aim like some of the other monster champions, he will “protect his territory with extreme prejudice if needed” – a “King Kong vibe”, as the dev says.
Of course, this leaves current narrative connections between the Shuriman Skarner and some of League’s other champions in need of a touch up – something apothecarie says will be fixed in due course.
But what about Skarner’s actual gameplay? Well, while Skarner’s full ability list has yet to be revealed, game designer Jacob ‘Llama’ Crouch says that it will be built around his theme. “Expect to see him easily rip through the Rift to hunt down intruders”, he says. “One way he could do this is by picking up enemies and moving them where you want” – yes, that is an allusion to Skarner’s ultimate, Impale.
As part of the update, Impale has become an AoE ability, granting it the ability to grab multiple targets – though there are tradeoffs. According to the dev, it is no longer point-and-click and has a lower duration.
Additionally, Llama notes that the rest of Skarner’s kit “will help him get into a strategic position to use Impale and give him some additional things to do when Impale is active.” Needless to say, we can’t wait to see what the revamped Brackern can do.