The build-up to the US open beta for League of Legends: Wild Rift has been a long one, but now that this beta is almost here, I've taken it for a spin ahead of time to report on my findings. Below I've detailed all of the critical bits, things like performance, controls, and monetization, and I've even taken the time to record a 48-minute gameplay video so that everybody can see exactly what this open beta will have to offer when it's released on Monday. So if you're eager to learn all about the upcoming US beta for Wild Rift, this hands-on is for you.
Like most mobile games, Wild Rift offers a forced tutorial, and it's definitely necessary for those new to the MOBA genre. This is a complicated game, but the starting tutorial does an okay job explaining the basics. However, there's much that isn't explained off the bat, so a modicum of prior knowledge to understand how the genre mechanically functions will be helpful. Ultimately this is a game that will take some research if you want to be competitive, but casuals should be able to muddle through perfectly fine. Just don't expect to win as many online matches at first.
Extra always-accessible tutorials, a nice touch
What's nice is that you can revisit the two starting forced tutorials at any time. There are also seven optional tutorials on offer that cover things like target lock, minion/turret buttons, portrait lock, and turrets, so at least Riot is aware that a novel of knowledge is required for optimal play, and so it allows players to dip into these tutorials as needed. There's even a practice mode available for those that want to play around with their heroes to figure out the deeper mechanics.
I don't know if I'd call Wild Rift's graphics impressive, but they are colorful, and they definitely get the job done. Since the graphics aren't mind-blowingly detailed, this allows the game to run smoothly, and so I rarely noticed any skipped frames or lag, which is impressive for an online mobile game.
Left is Quality graphics, right it Performance
Once you dive into Wild Rift's settings, you'll see that you have three options at your disposal for your graphics. You can play with Quality graphics capped at 30fps, and you can play with lower details on Performance at 60fps. You can even choose a custom option (this is where the upcoming support for 90fps and 120fps is located), so you can dial in your preferred settings, which is great to see since Android offers a wide range of devices that all perform differently. Of course, if you're shooting for 60fps or higher, you'll need a beefy phone.
Standard on-screen control layout
The touchscreen controls offer just about what you would expect. You have a thumbstick on the left and an attack button on the right, with many more buttons available for your more powerful attacks. Sadly there is no physical controller support, so everyone will have to make do with the touchscreen controls.
Luckily Riot offers tons of options in the setting to adjust these on-screen controls. Not only can you fully adjust the button layout by size and position, but you can also adjust things like your targeting and the camera, so you can definitely tweak to your heart's content to find the perfect control settings that suit your playstyle.
All of the control options
48 minutes of gameplay; first half is 30fps, the middle is settings (20:05), and the second half is 60fps (28:28)
Above, you can watch a lengthy gameplay video I recorded so you can see precisely how the Wild Rift beta performs and functions. At its core, this is a 3-lane MOBA that offers 5v5 PvP gameplay. There are five modes to choose from in the open beta. The first half of the above video showcases the gameplay in the Co-op vs. AI mode (recorded at 30fps with quality graphics), and the second half shows a Normal match in action (recorded at 60fps with Performance graphics). Players can also choose to play in a Tutorial, Ranked, or Custom mode. You will have to reach level 10 to unlock Ranked matches.
As far as progression is concerned, you'll unlock new heroes and the in-game currency used to purchase more simply by playing. So far, Riot has done a good job balancing things. I never once felt like I didn't have enough characters to choose from as a free player, and they all leveled at an even clip, so I never felt like I was restrained in any manner.
Of course, matchmaking is a huge proponent of Wild Rift, and even during my testing (before the open beta was released in the US), I was able to find matches within a minute or two, so it stands to reason things will really pick up once the US beta is live on Monday. So far, player skill has felt evenly matched, which is more than likely how I managed to win the PvP match in the second half of the above gameplay video.
There are around 61 characters available in the game so far, each offering its own unique abilities. While I can't speak to how well each and every one of them is balanced, the characters I did have available to me all felt useful in their own ways, so ideally, no matter your skill level or playstyle, there should be a few heroes you will gravitate towards.
Really, my only issue with the gameplay is that the matches last 15-20 minutes, which does not lend itself well to a pic-up-and-play platform like mobile. You won't be cranking out a quick match waiting in the grocery line, that's for sure. But for all of you who are looking for a "real" gaming experience on mobile, Wild Rift offers something very close to the PC version that I'm sure will please longtime League fans.
If you find the monetization in the PC version of League of Legends totally fine, then you'll have no problems with Wild Rift's setup. You can buy new characters with two different types of in-game currency. One you earn in-game (slowly), the other you can buy outright. This is why Wild Rift contains in-app purchases that range up to $99.99 per item. IAPs are used to purchase the currency that can buy every item in the game. Luckily these items are cosmetic, so as it stands right now, Wild Rift does not appear to be pay-to-win.
The many different ways you can spend your money
Personally, I'm not a huge fan of MOBAs, but even I can admit that League of Legends: Wild Rift stands a cut above the rest, at least on mobile. I came away from my testing of Wild Rift impressed. The gameplay is fluid, the depth of the content is remarkable, and the onboarding materials' quality is top-notch. Riot has clearly put a lot of thought into Wild Rift, which tends to be rare for mobile games. So if you're like me and are always wondering where the good mobile games are at, it would appear that League of Legends: Wild Rift is primed to take on every other mobile MOBA with gusto. Of course, it's still early days, and Wild Rift is still in beta, meaning things may change in the future. But for now, I can confidently recommend that people check out the open beta for Wild Rift when it lands in the US tomorrow.