Riot Games has been a dominant force in the gaming, esports, and music industries over the past decade thanks to the lasting power of the League of Legends IP. With Arcane, Riot is looking to push that dominance one step further and is now attempting to join the television and film space via its League of Legends characters. While it remains to be seen how expansive Riot ends up becoming in this market, Arcane seems like a strong first outing for the company at this point.
To coincide with the conclusion of the 2021 League of Legends esports season today, the first three episodes of Arcane have finally been released on Netflix. The series is poised to last nine episodes in total, with Riot releasing Arcane in three different acts, each of which will contain three episodes. As of this writing, I have watched the first four episodes of Arcane and I've largely come away surprised by how much I'm enjoying it.
For those unfamiliar with Arcane in a general sense, the show centers around a handful of characters from League of Legends and further fleshes out their backstories within the expansive world of Runterra. Champions like Jinx, Vi, Jayce, Caitlyn, Ekko, Viktor, and Heimerdinger are all present in Arcane. The show also takes place over multiple years within the cities of Piltover and Zaun during the time where "Hextech" technology is first being created. Essentially, if you're someone who has played League of Legends for quite some time, much of what's being focused on in Arcane should be somewhat recognizable, which makes it even cooler to see it come to life in this manner.
Perhaps the most unique part of Arcane comes with the visual style that Riot and animation company Fortiche Production have landed on. Riot and Fortiche have collaborated in the past with one another, primarily on some of the music videos associated with League of Legends. As such, the art style should be a bit recognizable. Still, it wasn't until I saw this animation style in longform content like Arcane that I really started to appreciate it. The visuals have an almost airbrushed look to them that makes it more distinct than many other forms of animation that I have seen.
Music remains a big element of Arcane, as well. The show's soundtrack is front and center in a prominent way at least once per episode and features artists such as Bea Miller, Denzel Curry, Imagine Dragons, and many others. Although I obviously haven't heard every song included in the series just yet, there are some verifiable bangers that really help enhance a number of emotional moments in Arcane.
What has surprised me the most about Arcane based on what I have seen so far is that many of the new characters that were created for this series are quite memorable and interesting in their own ways. While fans of League of Legends will surely be coming into Arcane purely to see many of the aforementioned champions get their own time in the spotlight, it's the side characters that I have found myself most attached to and intrigued by. Arcane co-creators Alex Yee and Christian Linke told me in an interview prior to the release of the series that it was very important for the new characters in this world to be fleshed out in their own ways. Otherwise, if Arcane only centered around champions from League of Legends, it would make this world feel much smaller. Up until this point, I think they've achieved that goal in a substantial way.
It remains to be seen how Arcane will progress in the five remaining episodes that I have to watch, but if you consider yourself a League of Legends fan, I think there's a lot to like here. Even outside of seeing a number of cool references and callbacks to longtime League lore within Arcane, what I'm really impressed with is the character work and storytelling that has been on display so far. Much like its accolades in other avenues, Arcane seems like it's going to be another achievement for Riot Games and shows that the studio is very much capable of continuing to expand in the realm of television and animation, assuming that it decides to do so.
If you're looking to check out Arcane for yourself, the first three episodes are available to watch on Netflix right now. Act Two will then hit the streaming platform on November 13th while Act Three will drop on November 20th.