In last year Riot did really turned this game upside down. There existed few plain design traits, which were respected until now. Lest take fast look at those former rules:
1. No trolls expect Trundle
That was simple, a player actions could not disturb teammate actions directly. There were exceptions like structure creation, but roughly all the champions couldn't troll friendly players. Now there are 3 champions that are able to friendly-fire: Kalista, Tahm Kench and Bard. That was important, because in DoTA friendly fire exists and trolls are considerably more influential. That can be a good thing, but maybe players want to have a choice?
2. Champions have names.
That was a big thing, because in DoTA heroes ale called after characteristics like Enchantress or Ancient Apparition. Now we have a champion called Bard and second is Kindred. Let's wait for Witch Doctor next.
3. All the actions should be focused on final result.
That was a clear treat. Even secondary targets like Baron or Dragon were leading right to the Nexus. Now we got those annoying things with Bard and some reworked champions got annoying little games.
4. Abilities aren't global
That was implemented during whole season 3rd and 4th. All global passives got changed. Earlier Pantheon's Grand Skyfall was changed. Riot had stopped releasing champions with globals, but now we got 2 new.
With those broken rules we should expect at least some innovations. And I would say, that breaking rule isn't innovation itself. Let's take a peek.
The first champion released after season 4th was Kalista. She was probably designed to be a jungler. That's the reason why neutral monsters had been resetting as they did and why she has spell that makes ordinary smite useless. Release of Kindred is just a proof, that idea of marksman-jungler was alive since long time.
Anyway, she was released as a Marksman. At beginning there was a lot of confusion, but later players found optimal build that really differs from others.
Honorable to mention, she is the first champion that have broken a rule about not disturbing teammates, her ultimate just pull bound player to her.
Over that, she has an interesing, unusual passive, yet easy if player can catch it.Her other spells are fine too, Sentinel is nice addition to game and Rend is somehow new, however nothing special in terms of design.
Unfortunately, her kit is little bit overloaded and she is very strong in competitive games. The biggest problem is her passive, that was nerfed few times already and the second is Rend, that gives her nearly undeniable control over objectives like Dragon and Baron.
In terms of design I think 7/10. She was fine and refreshing addiction to game, but that had been paid with breaking very important rule of design. In my opinion, she shouldn't be able to pull her partner without his constent and her kit is overloaded a bit.
Second champion- Rek'Sai is a melee jungler. At release she was very strong and nearly every item suited her. Later she was tuned down and found calm place being pressure ganker with good sustain from passive and manalessness (heh).
Her spells are simple - some damage and knockup. Her passive is great, because that grants her special vision on moving objects and that's unique. Only ultimate doesn't suit her position, because teleportation is much more useful for side-lane. But, fortunately, her ultimate is just a topping over cake.
She partially breaks one rule - her ultimate is global, yet limited to tunnels. That's risky, considering past experience with globals.
Many pro-players liked to chose her in official matches, but she never was very dominating since few nerfs after release.
Rek'Sai is well designed. She has some strengths and weaknesses and can be easily tuned by numbers. She is unique despite partial similarity to champions like Nocturne or Xin. My appraisal: 10/10.
Bard breaks 3 rules. For first he is called Bard. Whoever designed that champion and whoever agreed for champion to be called off his profession, not by actual name should be fired instantly. For second his ultimate is designed to troll everyone. For third he isn't playing the game but walking and collecting random chimes.
Bard has no genuine connection with Runeterra whatsover.
So, is he really that innovative in terms of mechanics?
No. His ultimate is just Zhonya. His stun is just reworked condem. His heal is heal. Only interesting and funny spell is Magical Journey. Have Riot really needed to break the game to make champion with one interesting ability? One may disagree, but chimes are joke. I don't really see big difference between collecting chimes and collecting experience normal way. In both ways you are getting stronger with collected things. So that isn't really innovation. It's just wicked.
In My Opinion Bard is the worst designed champion in League. He only breaks design patterns, yet brings literally nothing in term of innovation. 1/10.
Ekko is second champion with black skin. Lucian was designed with two big gun shooting beams, I found his design too "modern" and not fit Runeterra. I was scared that Ekko will be continuation of that trend and expected next state-of-the-art weapon. Luckily he feels like a melee version of Ezreal. Quite interesting.
He breaks one rule - his ultimate is global. Little bit, but he must follow his clone's position, so he also has mini-game on his own. But it's not that bad after all.
Ekko is problematic, due to overloaded kit. Amumu's ultimate on W? Mundo's ultimate instant version on R? And double dash, %dmg, good AP scalling. In my opinion Ekko will be very difficult to tune properly. He will make competitive pick or unplayable probably.
He is new and his position is disputable. At first he was played as an assassin or tank, later he was nerfed and swayed tanky-way, but now his AP version is back.
His ultimate is nice idea coming from Riot. That's something new, and it works well as damage, sustain source or teleport.
Ekko is well designed champion, but he has overloaded kit. 8/10.
Tahm Kench is a monster from Bilgewater. Riot has something with water monstrocities, there is Nami and Fizz already. I think his overall story and lore are OK.
There is one rule Tahm breaks - he can troll his team by swallowing them. Fortunately hostages can free themselves, so it's not worse than Anivia's wall. Overall that skill is interesting, because it can help friends in the worst possible situations or catch enemies. Interesting is his ultimate too - it's innovative skill enabling makro plays and suprises. Nice idea is sustain from e - Kench can chose whether he is going to store damage and heal later or gain immidiate shield. Only usual skill is his q - skillshot with slow.
In my opinion Tahm Kench is very interesting and allows many new strategies. However I find his kit overloaded. He is ultimate support correcting wrong positioning of ADC with decent amount of additional peel from q, yet very tanky and providies his team teleport.
I'm anticipating, Tahm will be very difficult to balance. Very strong when mastered with coordinated team yet very confusing for all when played solo.
Tahm Kench is champion with novelty yet overloaded mechanics. My appraisal: 9/10.
Next champion without actual name. What's more she is dual and her parts are called "Wolf" and "Lamb". Are wolves and lambs even part of Runeterra's fauna? Now we know they are...
Actually Kindred is nothing special. She is marksman designed for jungle, some traits are similar to Kalista, yet Kindred is well tuned and cannot play another position as effectively as jungle. Her kit is rather poor. Some dashes, damage, more damage. Maybe the most interesting part is her ultimate, it's changed ultimate of Bard. It makes all the creatures inside impossible to die and heals enemies. It can be used for trolling, but it's OK unless someone really decides to be toxic.
Especially now, when multiple ADCs found their way into jungle Kindred is just a champion. I cannot state she is nice addition to champion pool and in fact she has near to no special traits that would make her unique. Her dual personality was marked as something special, but there is little of that in her gameplay. It feels more like an excuse than actual thing. With last changes Quinn gained clear identity as "a Woman and an Eagle" and Kindred looks just average here.
Kindred is easy to tune. Just some numbers like damage or something. It's easy to change. I predict Riot will rework Kindred later on to give her clearer identity.
Kindred is boring champion. There is little to no novelty in his kit, but on other hand is her strength, because she will be easy to tune and devoted player will be able to play her effectively in every patch. 6/10
I think, that breaking the rules isn't a bad thing. But Rek'sai and Ekko are the greatest proof, that there is big room for creativity even in certain rules. On other hand I think Bard was simply a mistake.
In this season Riot decided to bring champions with new mechanics and strategies. Results are still to come, but World Championship shown how terryfing can be properly utilized Tahm Kench and how annoying he is.
Over all, I think Riot did good job last year. Not only new champions but many reworks refreshed the game, many champions have shone on professional scene. I hope for new fruitful season.