Arcane perfects video game adaptation by going back in time


Firmly being a character-driven prequel, Arcane accomplishes the almost impossible task of being a good video game adaptation.

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Arcane, streaming now on Netflix.

Esoteric is the new animated series from Netflix, a company with Riot Games and Fortiche Production to bring League of Legends to the streaming service. The series – skillfully animated, well-written, and imbued with life by a talented cast – is quietly a triumph for video game adaptations, a type of source sadly difficult to successfully translate into film or television.

And he does it by focusing on being a show itself instead of just a simple one. League of Legends adaptation. Esoteric isn’t the first video game adaptation out there, but it is possibly one of the best because, instead of just trying to recreate the game it’s based on, it tells an original and compelling story using these parts.


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Image of Powder's face over Vi's shoulder

One of the challenges inherent in adapting a video game is how to bring elements of the gaming experience to the new iteration. Sometimes this takes the form of prolonged yelling at the source material, while in others – as in Dwayne Johnson and Karl Urban starring Loss movie – the resolution is simply to recreate the visuals of the game in live-action. But there are very few that actually use the game setting as a springboard for something different and are designed to be more self-sufficient, which is what Esoteric accomplishes. He uses the world to tell a unique story that still fits into the previously established world, and he doesn’t waste time focusing only on what fans already know.

League of Legends itself is a largely plotless game. While there is a distinct world and endearing characters, there is no true narrative at the center of the game experience. These are player-versus-player matches, a MOBA designed to be replayable against a horde of other faceless players around the world. This explains why players have become so attached to the characters – they’ve spent enough time playing them – but the game never stops to explain its world. You could argue that style takes precedence over substance in terms of character development, as additions are usually made to expand the roster of characters and the ways the game is actually played. Function is the main concern when looking at them. characters in the game itself, not their place in the overall (and largely unconnected) meta-plot.

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But with Esoteric – moving into a period before the characters have fully developed and exploring the human beings they were before they became the series’ champions – he finds the perfect way to embrace the world without getting lost in it. Of course, there are Easter eggs and visual signifiers of character fate, but it’s played out as deliberate character development. Vi and Powder have attributes, skills, and passions that inform their core personality and gameplay methodology. Powder’s bombs are an obvious key to her eventual abilities when she became Jinx at the time of play, but Esoteric explores where the concept of building these came from and how they came to represent triumph and trauma. It takes elements of the game and uses them to reveal engaging layers in the narrative of the series itself.


Close-up of Jinx's face.

It’s the same with the rest of the cast, meaning the series effectively works as a perfect prequel. He takes young versions of established characters and finds the humanity that has led them down this path. Esoteric resists any temptation to simply be fan service for fan service, using those Easter eggs and foreshadowing elements effectively enough that non-fans will simply accept them as interesting elements of the character. Jace, Viktor, Vi, and Powder all quietly tease each other at playtime, but the show doesn’t focus on that. Instead, he chooses to focus on the people they were before League of Legends and genuinely committed to telling their story in a refreshing and authentic way.

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Unlike other video game adaptations, Esoteric uses the pieces to tell her own story in her world, instead of just recreating the experience. The fact that Riot was so involved in development definitely gave production an edge, but all credit goes to the show’s creators for understanding that keeping the spirit of the world alive while engaging in a story with its characters. would make a Well adaptation of video games.

To see a good video game adaptation, Arcane is now streaming on Netflix.

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