If you’ve ever dreamed of siccing a rampaging bear toward an enemy or blowing them away with your music (thank you, Jem and the Holograms), you might not realize that League of Legends: Wild Rift can help you do just that. More than being the insanely popular MOBA that it is, the mobile version can also let you step into the shoes of a Korean popstar all from the convenience of your smartphone.
Okay, so that’s not exactly the reason why this game has swept the esports scene by storm. But given that I know absolutely nothing about this franchise, those unique Champions that I get to play as are the main appeal of the game for me.
As a resident of one of the regions where League of Legends: Wild Rift is currently on soft launch, I was able to get my hands on it and try it out before the rest of the world can. I’m not an esports gal. While I’m a huge fan of Starcraft, I play the RTS game non-competitively, and I’m mainly a console gamer - which is why going into Wild Rift, I was the noob-est of all noobs. All I know about the game is that it’s insanely popular and incredibly intimidating, but I’ve always been curious to see what the fuss is all about, and boy, was there a lot of fuss.
First of all, Wild Rift, to me, is not exactly beginner-friendly. While it does hold your hand for a while to guide you through the controls for a little bit, it doesn’t show you the ropes enough for you to actually play well on your own. I had to spend two days watching YouTube videos to actually get a better picture of how to play this game, because no amount of beginner’s guides out there could teach me the one thing I really needed to know - how do I level up my character?
As it turns out, the gold you earn for each match is only temporary. You lose everything you buy in a match after the match is over, which is perfectly fine, but I really wished somebody had told me that beforehand. Thanks to my newbie-ness, I spent an ungodly amount of time scrambling through the many, many menus and wondering why on earth my character hadn’t gotten stronger even after I bought all those abilities and items in the previous match.
The second thing they don’t tell you is that reading is incredibly important in this game. If there’s one major tip any complete beginner needs to know is that you have to read all of the descriptions for the items, runes, skills, and abilities so that you don’t end up being a sitting duck out there. And after reading the descriptions, go online and Google the heck out of all the highlighted terms because there are a LOT of them. What is Physical Vamp? What is AD/AP? What are Epic Monsters? What are Grievous Wounds? The list goes on (as you can see, the game doesn’t explain those terms for you).
Of course, after figuring out the basics, the game finally becomes enjoyable. Essentially, you play with teammates (either of your own party or with online matched co-op) against opponents in a 5v5 PvP arena to try and destroy the enemy turrets and main base while protecting your own. Killing minions, enemy Champions, NPC monsters, and taking down Turrets earns you gold, which you can use to buy abilities and items in your base’s summoning platform. You can choose from different strategic lanes depending on your character’s build - you can go head-to-head with other Champions, tank your teammates, support them from behind, handle crowd control, or be a Jungler who takes care of killing monsters in the map for extra buffs.
You can also choose from a wide variety of Champions, all of whom look so darn badass and who each have their own sets of abilities depending on your playstyle. The game is very generous when it comes to these Champions, as you will unlock free ones as you level up (you stop receiving free Champions after you reach Level 10 and unlock the Ranked matches). Completing daily and weekly missions as well as events will also award you with free Champions and skins, which are also hella cool, by the way. The skins for the characters aren’t just lazy repaints - they actually make your hero stand out from the other default skins. I know nothing about K-Pop, but right now, there’s this fun K-Pop event you can participate in as well, which will reward you with cool freebies too after you complete everything. All the freebies will really motivate you to get into the game, if you’re not a huge LoL fan already.
Obviously, now that they’ve adapted this franchise into the mobile space, there are various adjustments that old LoL players will likely have more opinionated thoughts on. For instance, I think the controls are really good, as I was able to maneuver my way around the map fairly easily using the left side for directional buttons and the right side for skills. Tip: check out the settings so that you can customize the layout of your buttons, your graphics preferences, and your aiming sensitivity to suit your playstyle. Connecting to the game is surprisingly fast, and matchmaking is even faster (it just goes to show you how many people are playing this game).
For me, though, I felt like the screen was much too small for all of the things going on in each battle - and there are SO MANY THINGS. Also, each match lasts for about 15-20 minutes, so you really have to dedicate your time and attention to each battle. While that’s perfectly fine for PC and console games, on mobile, it’s not exactly the most ideal setting unless your gadget is dedicated to playing games alone. I personally had a few instances where an overhead notification popped down and blocked my screen, making me miss an ability that cost me my character’s death. Once, I had to take an important call in the middle of a match, and I was slapped with a hefty penalty for leaving the game.
Speaking of penalties, I do understand that leaving your teammates hanging is a huge no-no, so those punishments are valid. But even Starcraft gave you a limited number of times where you can pause the match and your teammates had the option of waiting for you or kicking you out, because life happens sometimes, you know? For Wild Rift, you have to be all-in, even if you have a wonky internet connection that forces you to leave the game. The next time you try to play again, you’ll have to wait it out to serve your time penalty before you can get into another match.
Now, with all of my complaints about this game, it might seem like I hated every minute of it. On the contrary, I enjoyed myself way too much - so much so that I convinced the husband to create a Riot Games account and start playing with me, because matches are always better when played with friends, right? While we both don’t play competitively (I don’t trust myself to compete with others on the Ranked matches just yet), we do play a match or two every day just because it’s too much fun.
Overall, I think League of Legends: Wild Rift is definitely worth a download even for beginners like me. There’s bound to be more updates when it finally gets launched officially, so it’s only going to get better from here, right? I had been hesitant about getting into a game with such a long history, but after playing this game for almost a week now, I can finally understand why it’s such a huge thing. I’m not going to get into the esports scene any time soon, of course, since that’s just not me, but I can honestly say that Wild Rift is the game that made me break free from my consoles - and absolutely love it.