App Reviewed on: iPad Pro
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Riot Games had a tough challenge in bringing League of Legends to mobile. The mega-popular MOBA on PC boasts long match lengths and relies heavily on dedicated focus and teamwork between competing teams of five. This is mostly still true of League of Legends: Wild Rift (Riot's mobile adaptation of the game), but the end result is still one the most accessible and polished MOBAs you can find anywhere.
MOBA stands for Multiplayer Online Battle Arena, and it's become the term for describing multiplayer games featuring teams of unique champions competing for control of zones and objectives in an effort to overwhelm their opponent's base. Wild Rift's take on this is essentially the same as the original League's. Matches play out on a square map with three lanes leading between team bases, located in opposing corners from each other.
Each team's base automatically spawns minions, and your team's goal is to help "push" your minions up lanes to the enemy base so they can attack and destroy it. Along the way, you'll have to destroy towers, fight enemy team members, or perhaps capture secondary objectives to help your efforts, wear down your enemies' defenses, and press advantages. On the PC version of League, this usually takes 40 minutes (or more). Wild Rift's matches are more like 15-20 minutes.
Depth despite duration
Making matches shorter sounds easy, but it involves a ton of tiny changes to the base game across the board. There's a distinct progression of phases across matches of League of Legends that teams can address in different ways to affect the flow of the game. Some of this dynamism is also dependent on the specific characters or shop items in use. Wild Rift carefully preserves these aspects of the original game, despite the fact that they move along a compressed timeline, which is no easy feat.
This kind of attention-to-detail extends beyond Wild Rift's basic structure. The game itself is a visual showpiece, and makes all of the smart decisions you can think of in bringing a team-oriented game to mobile. Most team communication is easy to manage via preset pings, to the point that I've seen maybe one typed-out text chat across dozens and dozens of matches, and it wasn't of the mean or abusive variety that the game's PC community has become infamous for.
Work in progress
Wild Rift certainly stands on its own and doesn't just feel like a companion to PC League, but this comes with a few caveats. The first is that this game is still a pretty big ask for mobile play. Dedicated 20 minute matches that depend on all ten players seeing them through to the end is a big ask on a device that can receive phone calls or drop a data connection. It can also be frustrating to invest that time yourself, only to be let down by another player that deserts.
In its current form, Wild Rift only has Ranked and Unranked full matches available as modes, but it also briefly tested out a shorter, single-lane mode that hopefully gets added to the game permanently. This mobile version of the game also has only a subset of characters available on PC League, and anyone migrating from the PC version won't have access to any of the unlocks they may have earned on the original version. As someone who's first real experience with League of Legends is Wild Rift, I appreciate that the game feels like a fresh start for everyone, though I could see why seasoned League players might not feel the same way about grinding or spending money across two similar experiences.
The bottom line
MOBAs aren't easy to get into, but League of Legends: Wild Rift makes it easier than it's ever been. Riot Games somehow managed to make its flagship game streamlined and accessible all while maintaining the depth and nuance that keeps League of Legends matches interesting even after hundreds of hours of playing. Even without the full cast or a breadth of modes, Wild Rift is clearly the new king of mobile MOBAs.