League of Legends: Wild Rift open beta hands-on preview - Riot gets it right

Shacknews takes a look at League of Legends: Wild Rift in this hands-on early preview of its open beta.

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Riot Games is preparing to step up and show its competitors that the company hasn't been sitting idle. The lucrative mobile space in gaming and esports has seen fans of MOBAs new and old flock to competing titles in record numbers. League of Legends: Wild Rift has been in open beta since October 27, 2020 in Southeast Asia with expansions throughout the year into the rest of Asia and Europe. On March 29, Riot will finally bring its Summoner's Rift smash-hit to mobile devices in the Americas. Shacknews got to take a sneak peak at the game in an early-access preview for Android devices, let's recall back to base for our impressions.

Jinx tries to escape a gank down the middle lane from Corki and Ashe.

For those still unfamiliar with League of Legends: Wild Rift, it's an adaptation of the multiplayer online battle arena sensation from Riot Games for Android, iOS, and currently unspecified console platforms. It's also being created from the ground up with Unity to take full advantage of mobile and console chipsets. During an online presentation, Communications Lead Ben Forbes stated that they wanted to maintain a strong connection to the PC version of League of Legends but rebuild it at the same time for the best experience.

Although the typical matches have been streamlined into 15-20 minute affairs and the overall input complexity has been reduced compared to a mouse and keyboard, many of the same intricacies that make League of Legends feel so familiar are present. Item builds, last-hitting minions, target prioritization, and vision warding are all examples of core facets that still exist in this mobile variant.

Rammus in the new 3D Champion viewer. Players can rotate and view their favorite champions up close and in detail.

The overall structure is identical to its PC counterpart, with 5v5 battles taking place on the standard three-lane map, complete with towers, jungle, and Nexus. The map has been reduced in size with a simplified jungle and self-defending Nexus points, removing the need for a fourth set of towers. This feels more like an optimization than a concession to me and I didn't really notice the changes much while playing. The same skill-based Champion focused teamplay applies with a dual-stick interface being implemented for intuitive and reactive controls.

Also similar in scope is the range of devices the game will be able to run on, with reasonable system requirements. Android devices will need at least a quad-core CPU running at 1.5 GHz or higher paired with 1.5 GB of RAM and a 1280x720 display. iOS users going all the way back to at least an iPhone 6 Plus will be able to run the open beta. Anyone with a bit of horsepower in their smartphones or tablets will be able to enjoy higher refresh rates like 120Hz but this is still being developed, alongside plans for a 90Hz mode and even 40Hz for lower spec devices.

Rangar pounces into action with the Masters of the Hunt event.

Longtime fans of the game will be glad to know that their commitment won't go unrewarded with a planned Rift to Rift Rewards system that will grant free Champions and skins based on both the amount of time and money spent in League of Legends. There's also multiple events in the works to help fans catch up on content or acclimate new players into the world of Runeterra for the upcoming 2.2 patch that will follow in the months after the open beta launches. If you've played League of Legends: Wild Rift through a VPN service in the past, you will be able to move your account to the Americas but must start back at level 1.

Those still not sure about the whole mobile experience will be glad to hear that there are no gateways or time limits on play, no pop-ups or energy systems. There will be an optional season pass with free and paid tiers like most live service games but that's to be expected these days. Even with my limited day of playtime, I was able to accumulate a decent handful of Champions for free via leveling and tutorials, including one that let me choose among any of the 61 currently available.

The high-flying Corgi Corki skin is too adorable.

More Champions and skins will be coming over the next couple of months with the 2.2 patch roll-out. During the press presentation, it was revealed that Galio, Rammus, Kha'Zix, Rengar, and Renekton would be part of a future Masters of the Hunt event, expanding your options for Tanks and Assassins. If you like a little uncertainty and a lot of team fighting in your MOBA, then the popular All Random All Mid mode might be one of your favorite diversions and it'll be introduced in a limited test in April.

New skins were unveiled, including some exclusive to League of Legends: Wild Rift. They include God King Darius, Blood Moon Kennan, Draven Draven (how droll), Scorched Earth Renekton, and my personal must-have, Corgi Corki. An entire unique line of Stargazer skins is also planned with a celestial theme. As adorable as Corgi Corki is, the real concern is how the gameplay feels in your hands.

The popular and ever-hectic ARAM mode will be tested in April.

I have easily hundreds of hours spent on PC and mobile MOBAs spanning at least a dozen titles. From Demigod to Fates Forever, I've seen so many rise and fall in the span between the original Defense of the Ancients mod and today. I know what a decent and responsive MOBA should feel like and League of Legends: Wild Rift has it nailed.

Riot Games has been paying attention to the more popular titles like Mobile Legends and developed a twin-stick control scheme that feels almost perfect for the on-screen action. Aiming attacks and skill-based spells is a simple matter of tapping on or sliding your thumb in a natural circle around each button. The touch controls can be fully customized, resized, and repositioned. It took me no time at all to adjust to the touch control method and I'm one who usually despises touch screen input for such action-oriented games.

Easily accessible pings are just one example of the quality-of-life improvements found in League of Legends: Wild Rift.

There are so many small quality-of-life touches that permeate throughout the gameplay that I'm sure I failed to notice them all. One of the biggest is the fixed orientation of the camera. Players now always play from bottom left to top right in order to minimize how much of the screen is being obscured by your hands. This means players on the red side will have a mirrored map so that their base will be on the bottom left on their screen.

To alleviate confusion, the top and bottom lanes are now referred to as solo and duo lanes, with large Dragon and Baron Nashor icons on the mini-map to help you remember which is which (the duo lane is closer to the Dragon). It's a small change but it makes an enormous difference while playing. Now you don't have to worry about spending the majority of your time aiming skills into parts of the screen covered by your thumbs.

Originally an April Fool's Joke, the Draven Draven skin comes to Wild Rift.

You can focus fire on Champions, minions, or structures with the press of button, and those who like to really prioritize targets will appreciate the Champion Portrait option. This pops up a contextual button for each enemy that appears on screen and in range. Camera controls also feel fantastic with a semi-locked camera that allows you to adjust the default offset on the fly in order to line up skillshots or watch out for ganks. The camera also automatically pans for long-range skills and even shows a picture-in-picture view for global-range ultimates and abilities.

I noticed something small while using Jinx's ultimate, Super Mega Death Rocket. I could not only see the line it would travel across the entire minimap move in real time as I moved my thumb around, but each enemy it would intersect with also lit up with a big X over their mini portrait. It's these little touches of polish that really sell this as a AAA effort to bring League of Legends to mobile without sacrificing quality.

The 3D viewer for your team composition can also be rotated while your teammates pick their Champions.

League of Legends: Wild Rift instantly impresses with its AAA presentation and slick dual-stick controls. Bluetooth controller support is available but is limited so far, with the PS4 and newer Xbox One controllers reported to work if you can pair them to your device. The touch controls are more than serviceable however, and might even be my preferred way to play MOBAs on the go.

With a commitment to esports and supporting a wide range of devices, Wild Rift could have what it takes to be the first mobile MOBA to really hit it big in the Western Hemisphere. A console version is still far off at this point, according to Brian Feeney, Design Director. However, during the press presentation, he assured me that they are speaking with all of the major players about getting League of Legends: Wild Rift on as many consoles as possible.

An Infernal Drake roars viciously from within the dragon pit.

There isn't long to wait before you can try out League of Legends: Wild Rift on your Android or iOS mobile devices with the open beta launching in the Americas on March 29. If you're looking for a new way to kill those spare 15-20 minutes instead of doomscrolling on your phone, or if you're a fan of MOBA games at all, I would recommend giving the open beta a try for yourself. Riot has reinvigorated my love of the MOBA genre. It's absolutely League of Legends on the go and if that sounds like a good time, I can assure you that it is. For more on League of Legends: Wild Rift, keep an eye on our topic page for the game as any updates develop.


This preview is based on pre-release access to League of Legends: Wild Rift provided by the publisher.

Contributing Editor

From the test launch of the NES in New York to 4K gaming in his living room, Bryan Lefler has been immersed in video games his entire life. Battle tested in the arena shooters of the turn of the century yet kind to all animals that may cross him, Bryan enjoys a breadth of games but strives to be the best in any contest of digital skill. He is a former esports competitor and has been part of the Shacknews community for over 15 years. You can also catch him on skankcore64 streams on the Shacknews Twitch channel where he plays through the N64 library.

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