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The Udyr visual and gameplay update has finally wrapped; barring complications, the champion will go live on the Public Beta Environment server later today. Udyr the Spirit Walker received a total overhaul when it comes to gameplay, visuals and lore.

Years ago, Udyr was picked by fan vote for the VGU. Since that time, the team at Riot Games has been working on redesigning Udyr. The pandemic and Udyr’s large collection of skins both prolonged the process, according to Lexi Gao, a product lead at Riot Games.

On Aug. 5, the gameplay trailer released and showed the Spirit Walker in action. Udyr goes live on Aug. 23.

Gameplay update

The main goal in Udyr’s gameplay update was to preserve his unique stance-changing identity and his position as an auto-attack/melee-focused champion. He is geared towards playing as a jungler with an identity as a tank/juggernaut. That said, he may end up getting some playtime in the top lane.

Udyr’s new abilities:

Passive – Awakened Spirit / Monk Training

  • Udyr has 4 basic ability stances, each related to a Freljodian demigod. Every ~30s he can Awaken his active stance by recasting it to refresh it and gain bonus effects.
  • After casting (or re-casting) an ability, Udyr’s next two attacks gain 40% attack speed

Q – Wilding Claw

  • Udyr goes into Claw Stance. Gives Attack Speed. Next two attacks deal burst damage.
  • Awakened: Increases attack speed, plus next 2 attacks arc lightning that bounces up to 6 times (can hit the same target multiple times if they are isolated).

W – Iron Mantle

  • Udyr goes into Mantle Stance. Gain a Shield. Next two attacks restore health.
  • Awakened: Refresh the shield, stacking. Recover a large amount of maxhealth over 2s.

E – Blazing Stampede

  • Udyr goes into Stampede Stance. Gain a burst of movement speed. While in this stance, first attack against each target stuns them.
  • Awakened: Increase movement speed, gain CC immunity for a brief time.

R – Wingborne Storm

  • Udyr goes into Storm Stance. Summon a glacial storm, damaging and slowing nearby enemies. Next two attacks increase the storm’s AoE.
  • Awakened: The storm detaches from Udyr and tracks to the enemy he most recently attacked (and does more damage).

As seen from the tooltips, the biggest change to Udyr’s kit is his Awaken mechanic. It gives him the chance to supercharge a given ability every 30 seconds. His Awakened E now provides crowd control immunity, which can be incredibly powerful when used carefully. Udyr’s R now slows enemies around him and the re-cast sends the ability at an enemy, giving him some ranged power as well.

Overall, the gameplay team on Udyr wanted to keep him fairly similar to the live version of the champion. He still doesn’t have skill shots and his core gameplay is the same.

“We liked that he was this relatively straightforward melee bruiser who’s about getting to you and dealing damage,” Stash Chelluck, the lead gameplay designer on Udyr, said.

To modernize his kit, more power was put into the first two attacks once he changes stance and he now has some extra crowd control that will give him more power.

“He’ll still be punching and running, but he can trade a little bit of his damage power to block a CC and actually function right,” Chelluck said. “Hopefully he’ll play a little bit better in the current game.”

The gameplay team wanted to give Udyr the ability to build either Attack Damage or Ability Power, so most of his abilities will scale with both. That said, Chelluck believes that building primarily tank items on Udyr will be most successful.

“But then you can branch out to either AD or AP from there,” he said. “You can definitely go heavy AP or heavy AD. I think the further you heavily invest into either one of those, you’re going to slowly pay a little bit of a power cost just because you are full melee and so you’re gonna want a little bit of beef in the build.”

Visual update

Udyr the Spirit Walker
Concept art for the new Udyr the Spirit Walker VGU. | Provided by Riot Games

The main goal in Udyr’s visual update was to modernize his visuals while keeping the theme of warrior shaman in tact.

“In terms of his body style, we wanted to give him something that reflected his lifestyle in the Freljord,” Justin Albers, art lead on Udyr, said. “It’s a pretty harsh climate.”

Udyr is in his early forties. His outfit has small allusions to each of the Freljord demigods represented in his abilities. The bear helmet he wore before is gone, and his now-visible hair is matted and tangled; there’s no time for a haircut when you’ve got spirits to commune with! The Muay Thai-style hand wraps on his hands drive his in-your-face melee combat style home. One of the wraps on Udyr’s hand is a piece of cloth Lee Sin gave him during their time training together in Ionia.

Lore update

Udyr is the most powerful Spirit Walker alive, with the ability to commune with any and all of the spirits of the Freljord, channeling and transforming their ethereal energy into his own wild physical fighting style. Through his growing mastery of this awesome and versatile power, Udyr seeks to maintain the balance of the Freljord’s mystical landscape, where conflict and struggle is its lifesblood… and where sacrifices must be made to keep peace at bay.

The main goal in Udyr’s lore update was to converge his in-game portrayal and recent lore, and especially strengthen his ties to Freljord. The team wanted to give him his own motivations and goals that are less directly connected to Sejuani.

Dana Shaw, the narrative lead on Udyr, spoke about the team’s efforts to push the Spirit Walker’s story further.

“We wanted an Udyr who’s a bit older, a bit wiser, a bit more connected to himself and the Freljord,” Shaw said.

The two previous short stories about Udyr — “A Walk with the Voices” by Michael Luo and “Silence for the Damned” by Odin Austin Chafer — are both still canonical.