The Glorious Evolution of Arcane’s Viktor
There are countless versions of Viktor. Psychopathic villain, downtrodden savior of the people, bereaved scientist; all these tellings, even the directly conflicting ones, are true. Canon be damned.
The evolution of Viktor’s story mirrors League’s larger narrative: he released with only a short, two-paragraph bio that justified his presence in the game, nothing more. Now he stands as the perfect example of how far League’s storytelling has come, as well as a relic of where it’s been.
Viktor wasn’t always the handsome, good-natured charmer that stole our hearts in Arcane. Much like his physical form, the Machine Herald’s story has gone through many changes.
Viktor began as a student of Zaun’s College of Techmaturgy. He led the team that constructed Blitzcrank, but his work was stolen by Professor Stanwick, one of his contemporaries. Disgraced, Viktor withdrew from the College and fell into a deep depression. He turned his experiments to a different form of artificial life: revolutionizing human anatomy through technological augmentation. Useless human emotions were the first to go when steel replaced flesh.
He emerged with an obsession with what he called the Glorious Evolution – the philosophy that humanity’s next step forward was shedding the physical body.
Lore rework – time to get serious
He’s always been shades of Doctor Doom – yes, Victor Von Doom – but it wasn’t until his 2016 lore rework that a darker side of Viktor came to light. He meets Jayce at Piltover Academy, where they become begrudging friends, partners, and rivals. They work together on multiple projects, but Viktor is expelled from the Academy after butting heads with Jayce in a conflict over the use of mind-altering chems in experimental diving equipment.
Here, League introduces two conflicting tellings of Viktor and Jayce’s story:
From Jayce’s perspective, Viktor is a brilliant scientist hindered by his lack of moral compass. At worst, he’s a psychopathic villain with no regard fo
r free will. He wields violence freely in his pursuit of transhumanism, taking the brains out of innocent people and putting them in steam golem bodies to serve as his henchmen.
From Viktor’s perspective, Jayce is a useful partner only as far as his arrogance doesn’t impede progress. The use of chems to sedate divers was a means of eliminating panic-induced accidents. Cutting the brains out of people was the only way to save them from death after a chem spill – their bodies may die, but they could live on in bodies of steel.
The Glorious Evolution
Ten years later, Arcane brings on a new wave of Glorious Evolution appreciators. There’s even a Twitter account dedicated to daily Viktor content.
The Arcane version of Viktor takes pieces of everything that came before. He’s less caricature, more human. He has a sense of humor. When fame, sex, and money come knocking at the door, he remains dedicated to the betterment of downtrodden folks.
In this, the Glorious Evolution finally makes sense. He’s experienced the shortcomings of the human body first hand, seeing that technology and magic are capable of upending the “natural” order of things. Where Jayce is seduced by the status quo, seeking to change it from within, Viktor sees Hextech as the tool that will uplift those he left behind in Zaun.
With what we know of his final form, it’s possible that his obsession with the Glorious Evolution is a result of Hexcore-induced madness after further self-experimentation.
It would track perfectly with his original lore, but the Arcane version of him is much more complex – obsession with transhumanism as a result of his dogmatic pursuit of betterment of the human condition, no matter how strange or dangerous to the “natural” order of things, is more compelling to me than replacing your face with robot parts because emotions are bad.
It can be difficult to digest all these different versions of Viktor. The question of “canon” is unclear; his biography, Jayce’s biography, the short stories surrounding them, and Arcane all conflict. His in-game character is still the original release version, with only twenty-four voice lines.
It’s hard for me to imagine Arcane Viktor ever becoming someone who demands people “adapt or be removed” or to “relinquish the flesh.”
In my mind, he’s all of them at once: the changing, living narrative itself given form. His story, like any story at all, is subjective. It’s evolved so significantly over the years that it seems arbitrary to designate one version of him or his narrative as the “true” one. Viktor can’t be shackled to the idea of canon any more than he can be shackled to his human shell.
He’s a relic of what League’s story used to be: second fiddle to the game itself, a means to the end of justifying all these disparate characters’ presence on the Rift. But Viktor, like League’s story, has become so much more. There’s no better encapsulation of the game’s narrative evolution than the man of change himself.