League of Legends: Wild Rift — Gameplay, Controls, Graphics, Release Date, Download Options

League of Legends: Wild Rift, the mobile version of League, is finally getting more love from Riot Games. It actually comes with some improvements over the original game (time and good initial budget help) while not dumbing down the experience too much. Let’s see what we know about gameplay, champions, tentative release date and download options.

Wild Rift: Gameplay

The core gameplay of League of Legends: Wild Rift stays true to the desktop predecessor. This is a MOBA game where increasingly powerful champions try to destroy the enemy base alongside AI-controlled minions. Champions are controlled by players and become stronger after destroying structures, slaying enemy minions and players, killing neutral monsters. By the way, jungling stayed pretty much the same in the mobile version.

The few changes to make the game faster and more predictable for a commuter are quite tame. There are no inhibitors or Nexus turrets: stronger minions spawn as soon as you destroy the third turret in a lane. The champion level cap was reduced from 18 to 15, which both shifts power to earlier levels and allows you to peak faster. Basic abilities have only 4 levels and ultimate abilities are skilled at 5/9/13, not 6/11/16.

A good example of how Riot tries to balance competitive integrity and convenience is vision. For most of the game’s lifespan, Riot Games has been experimenting with the amount of vision to make games smart while keeping them engaging. In early builds, Wild Rift had no traditional wards: teams are merely capturing vision zones. They work similarly to Skarner’s Crystal Spires: you walk up and stick around to capture the area. Still, just before the summer, Riot went back to the traditional warding from desktop League of Legends.

Wild Rift: Champions

The public test version of Wild Rift has 40 champions. Apart from a few outliers like Aurelion Sol, Camille or Jhin, most of the characters were released before 2014. This is a solid approach: later champions have often been criticized for being too mobile. It’s better to delay potential frustration with jumpy characters and ship the game now while still figuring out remedies for the likes of Kayn. 

Some champions were adjusted to accommodate for mobile gameplay with more emphasis on lane skirmishes. For example, Ashe arrow can now be adjusted after it was released. 

Wild Rift: Controls

League of Legends: Wild Rift builds on the industry-standard controls scheme, where you do most of the things with thumbs. They are, however, not quite sticks. You do use the left thumb to run around, but the bottom right third of the screen features multiple action buttons. They allow you to alternate between various minions/enemy champions/turret, attack them, or use one of your abilities.

Camera management is naturally less tricky. The game keeps the camera pretty close to your champion and zooms out when you are aiming with a skill shot. It does get awkward, just like with any sticks-like mobile game, but still feels more intuitive than hip fire in mobile shooters. Other than that, finger gestures to control the camera are arguably more natural than the mouse. 

The key aspect that makes Wild Rift less hectic than mobile shooters is the camera perspective. In third-person shooters, your camera has a relatively loose connection with the gun (and the character holding it). In top-down mobile League, you always have a reference point to shoot from—the direction your champion is facing. As a result, the left stick is enough for both moving and adjusting the aim just before releasing the skill shot.

Speaking of skill shots, League has very much preferred them over targeted abilities, and Wild Rift doubles down on that. The likes of Annie Q are now skill shots because Riot thinks it’s easier to land them rather than be frantically switching targets. Sounds reasonable. 

Wild Rift: Graphics

Just like with mobile PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Tencent commissioned creating League of Legends: Wild Rift. It is hard to tell whether the game will run much smoother than the desktop version (it was the case with PUBG), but we can already assess the graphics. They got much better!

It’s not just the visuals: animations look and feel better, too. The next stage would definitely be introducing 120Hz support, since the OG mobile MOBA, Vainglory, is simply stunning on a 120Hz tablet. Unfortunately, you will have to take my word for that: Twitch/YouTube are capped at 60, and videos on other platforms are hard to come by. 

Wild Rift: Release Date

As of August 2020, League of Legends: Wild Rift is still intended to be released in 2020. This is quite a realistic goal, given that the game is absolutely playable. It even has the Ranked mode, which, in Riot Games’ vision of game development cycle, is a rather late-stage feature. There are still 4 months before the year ends. For all we know, Riot can pull off a Valorant and simply roll out the beta to everyone.

The biggest question, of course, is what would Riot Games consider a release. Officially, Valorant was released on June 2, 2020. Still, even two months later, the game is available only in Europe, the Americas, and Korea. Given the nature of the mobile games market, I would not be surprised if “Wave 1” of Wild Rift’s release will target only China, Southeast Asia, India, and developing countries outside Asia (Brazil comes to mind). Then again, infrastructure costs for a mobile MOBA should be lower than an upfront investment for 128-tick FPS servers, so maybe a release North American server is not out of the question for 2020.

Wild Rift: Download Options

For most of the regions, players can merely subscribe to a League of Legends: Wild Rift beta updates and keep waiting. Leave your email on Riot Games’ landing page to start receiving newsletters and/or sign up for the beta on Play Store (no App Store link at the moment). 

The Wild Rift beta is already live in Brazil and the Philippines. As is tradition with Android, download options include a region-locked download from Play Store or an external .apk file. Note that both Play Store & Riot accounts should be marked as created in one of the beta countries. The connection should be identified as coming from somewhere in either Brazil or the Philippines as well. There have been no reports of further verification, such as GPS. The system looks prone to foreigners signing up and playing with VPN, even if suboptimal game experience is a deterrent here.

What is the release date for League of Legends: Wild Rift?

The game should be released sometime in 2020, but no hard date just yet.

Which platforms will League of Legends: Wild Rift be available on?

The current plan is to have Wild Rift running on Android, iOS, and “consoles”. PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X were not formally introduced at the time of Riot Games announcing Wild Rift, so we can only assume next-gen consoles will support the game as well.

Is League of Legends: Wild Rift different from PC League?

The game is the same in a lot of aspects, although there have been some leveling and skill shot changes. The notable omissions are Nexus turrets and inhibitors. Other than that, League of Legends: Wild Rift is very similar to the original title.

How many champions does League of Legends: Wild Rift have?

There are 40 champions in regional betas. Most of them were released in the original League of Legends before 2014, although some later characters like Jhin made it to mobile as well.

What regions League of Legends: Wild Rift is available in?

Regional betas are currently running in Brazil and the Philippines. There is no list of countries and/or regions that Wild Rift will operate in after the release. One can only assume that Riot Games will prioritize mobile-heavy markets, such as China and India.

Can I play League of Legends: Wild Rift now?

Only Android users with their Google/Riot accounts and traffic coming from Brazil/Philippines can play Wild Rift. There has been no word of whether this system can keep foreign players with VPN out.

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by Denis Matusovskiy
August 05, 2020

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