I would like to take this opportunity to publicly announce my (undefeated) retirement from League of Legends: Wild Rift. Having won my first and only game with a healthy scoreline, there's simply no other worlds to conquer. Given the strength of Riot’s new console MOBA I definitely don’t relish such a decision, but the bragging rights are worth it.
After ten years playing LoL on PC, Wild Rift takes a little getting used to. The project isn’t a port of the original, but a game rebuilt to accommodate the twin-stick control setups of the new platforms. I found Wild Rift’s near-constant movement a bit tricky at the start of the game, but it didn’t take long before I was side-stepping skillshots and pulling off seamless blinks over obstacles.
Quality of life changes are nestled throughout the game. The asymmetric League of Legends map has been mirrored in Wild Rift to help mobile players, and the entire game has been sped up. Riot claims that the average game time is 15-18 minutes, down from anywhere up to 40 minutes on PC, in an attempt to encapsulate the entire gameplay loop - from logging in to finishing a match - within 30 minutes. To that end champions unlock their ultimates earlier, minions and monsters yield greater rewards, and the defences protecting your base have been scaled back in an attempt to focus matches on teamfighting rather than drawn-out sieges.
Champions are also changing. While League of Legends boasts a roster of more than 140 characters, Wild Rift is aiming to launch with only 40. While the developers enjoy the nod to the original’s launch roster, the reality is that some champions aren’t much fun to play on mobile, and as such aren’t likely to ever be brought over - although brand-new alternatives could arrive in their place. For now, some champions are getting their own tweaks - Ashe’s Enchanted Crystal Arrow can now be aimed by dragging manually across the screen, while Vayne’s Silver Bolts will offer an activatable attack speed boost on top of its current effect.
Luckily for me, one character largely untouched by her arrival in Wild Rift is Jinx. The Loose Cannon has been one of my biggest comfort picks for years, the fantasy of the hyperactive, maniacal gunslinger far outweighing her relative competitive weaknesses. What better way to test out Wild Rift than by seeing whether my favourite champion holds up when playing on the go?
On PC, Jinx’s kit is far from League of Legends’ most complex: a couple of skillshots, a placeable trap, and the ability to toggle between different weapons doesn’t really compare to the pixel-perfect combos required by some of the game’s mages and assassins. On a phone screen, however, there’s plenty that could go wrong.
Lining up a skill with a mouse is pretty easy, but I’m perfectly capable of missing them even when not using my useless, clumsy thumbs, and those traps are one of the MOBA’s least-intuitive spells at the best of times. I’ve already mentioned my initial concerns over movement, so popping Jinx’s passive and sending her sprinting off in a fit of murderous euphoria every time she scored a kill also presented a problem. To make matters worse, I had to balance all this with some potentially deadly lane opponents and a teammate who seemed to be struggling with the intricacies of the new platform. At the start of the game, I was worried that I was about to do Jinx a disservice.
Thankfully my pessimism proved entirely unfounded. Wild Rift brought Jinx’s affinity for murderous rampage to life just as effectively as the original game. Swapping between weapons was seamless, while using traps to keep overly-aggressive enemies at bay was arguably even easier than before. One skillshot posed an early challenge as I got to grips with the controls, but it only took a few minutes before any that went wide were my fault, rather than the control scheme’s.
Jinx's ultimate - a cross-map rocket that deals more damage the farther it travels - posed a problem, as looking around the map was difficult while in open play, but several years of pulling of flashy long-range snipes meant that I could rely mostly on instinct, before using my passive to run circles around the remaining opposition. Increasingly generous rewards for killing minions meant that within 12 minutes I was several items into a tried-and-tested favourite build, and as the dust settled over the enemy team’s shattered Nexus, it dawned on me that I’d be more than a little bit pleased with my undefeated kill/death ratio if I'd been playing on PC.
Wild Rift has a few teething problems: the store was difficult to navigate, while strategic elements like panning around the map, offering informative pings, and voice chat were either too complicated for a handheld setup, or entirely absent without common third-party software. To be honest I found the mobile controls a little uncomfortable towards the end of my time with the game, and I’m much more interested in seeing what Wild Rift will look like on Switch rather than phone.
Next to the moment-to-moment gameplay those issues fade into the periphery, because they're easy to ignore when the overall experience is so faithful to not only the game I’ve enjoyed for so long, but also the character that’s been such an important part of that enjoyment. A total remake means that, while portable League of Legends has been a strangely long time coming, it feels almost like it’s been here all along.