Three years ago, I decided to swear off a dangerous three-year addiction to League of Legends. It was a game I started playing in high school on my crummy home computer and subpar WiFi. I have lots of fond (and not-so-fond) memories of playing the game with my friends and brother but ultimately decided to put the game down because of how time-consuming it became. And I stayed clean – until Riot Games found a way to put League of Legends on iPhone.
This is my Wild Rift review.
In this post, I’m going to cover the basics of Wild Rift briefly (i.e., What is it?), and then I’m going to spend a long time going into my experience with playing it over the last month.
If you just wanna know what it is and catch a quick review, just read the next two sections. After that, I’ll go into specific things I think about the game, talk about how it differs from its desktop companion, and give you some pointers if you’re new.
Let’s get into it!
- What is League of Legends: Wild Rift?
- Wild Rift review: Is it any good?
- My opinions on League of Legends on iPhone after one month of playing
- Using the touch controls on League of Legends on iPhone
- Is the Wild Rift gameplay as fun as desktop League of Legends?
- Wild Rift review: How does it perform on iPhone?
- Is League of Legends on iPhone free-to-play or pay-to-win?
- How toxic is Wild Rift?
- Is Wild Rift better for new players or experienced players?
- Wild Rift review: How is it different from League of Legends on desktop?
- Some tips for playing League of Legends on iPhone
- League of Legends on iPhone: My closing thoughts
What is League of Legends: Wild Rift?
League of Legends: Wild Rift (also known as “Wild Rift” or “League of Legends on iPhone”) is the brand new mobile equivalent of League of Legends. It was released as a beta game in the USA at the end of March, which is around when I downloaded it.
For those that don’t know what League of Legends is, it’s a MOBA game. Or in laymen’s terms, it’s kind of like football or baseball but in a video game form. Two teams play together on a big field (or a “map”), fight to move towards the opposite side of the map through team fights, and ultimately destroy the other person’s nexus (i.e., their base).
Think of it like football if everyone had weapons, there was no football, and the goal wasn’t to score a touchdown in the end zone but to destroy the end zone before the other team destroys yours.
League of Legends has been one of the most popular and addicting desktop games of all time for several years now. It’s an intense mix of skill, creativity, timing, luck, and teamwork that lots of people (including myself) love. It also has a lot of negative stigmas attached to it, like a toxic community, which I will get into later.
In total honesty, my Wild Rift review is that it’s just a very close approximation of League of Legends on iPhone. I would say that it’s only a different game by technicality. In nearly every way, it is the same as playing League on desktop.
Wild Rift review: Is it any good?
In my opinion, Wild Rift is better than good. It’s by far the best mobile game I’ve ever played and pushes the limits of mobile gaming way farther than I thought possible. I didn’t think a game like this could exist on mobile and still perform and play well.
But Wild Rift does it all! The graphics are incredible, the gameplay is tweaked to fit mobile but still skillful, and the game has avoided being overrun by bots and clueless players. So it feels like a real game, not just like a crummy mobile game with a League of Legends skin.
I seriously don’t think I’ve gone one day without playing it since it came out. I’m sure I’ll start to get burnt out at some point. But for right now, this is the only game I’m playing. I think Riot killed it on this one. If you like League on desktop, you’d be missing out to skip Wild Rift.
My opinions on League of Legends on iPhone after one month of playing
Alright, so those are my basic thoughts. Now we’re going to transition to a more in-depth Wild Rift review. We’ll discuss things like how friendly it is to new players, if it’s pay-to-win, and how the touch controls hold up.
Let’s start there.
Using the touch controls on League of Legends on iPhone
I think there are three fundamental things that Wild Rift needed to get right to be embraced by mobile gamers:
- The controls needed to feel “right”.
- The game needed to be close to as fun as the desktop version of League of Legends.
- The game needed to perform well enough on iPhone.
Since most users can’t (or simply aren’t going to) use a keyboard and mouse to play Wild Rift on their iPhone, Riot of course had to translate the controls to touch.
The way this works is that you drag your thumb around a digital joystick on the left side of the screen to move. I think this works pretty well on iPad, though I think it could get a little old on iPhone given how small the screen is.
For attacks, you have a little thumbwheel on the right side of the screen. It has a button for each of your character’s special attacks and a bigger button for basic attacks. You can tap these buttons and have them auto-target the nearest enemy or you can press the button and drag your finger to aim your ability.
I can see how these controls would be bothersome to some players. However, I haven’t had any problem with them. The auto-targeting is good. I rarely feel cheated by it. And I prefer how immersive the joystick is to the desktop’s point-and-click approach.
In short, it’s solid, but not mind-blowing. You’ll probably forget about it after a match or two.
Is the Wild Rift gameplay as fun as desktop League of Legends?
Maybe it’s because I haven’t played the desktop version of League of Legends in three years, but I prefer Wild Rift. That’s my controversial statement. It’s really fun. The pace is faster, the skill level is slightly lower but not too easy, so it’s more accessible, and being able to bring it with me is a blast.
The only players I can see enjoying League of Legends on iPhone less than the desktop version are hardcore players. If League is your favorite game, you play it for hours every day and have loved it for years, the lightweight nature of Wild Rift will probably not appeal to you.
But if you’re just someone who likes to have fun and you don’t mind playing League with a less competitive edge, then I can’t imagine you not enjoying Wild Rift.
Wild Rift review: How does it perform on iPhone?
It performs excellently! It’s no secret that Apple makes incredible chips. The only thing that’s going to affect your performance on an iPhone 8 or later is your internet connection. I mostly play Wild Rift on iPad Air, actually, for the bigger screen. Wild Rift runs better on my iPad than League of Legends ever has on any of my computers.
In other words, Riot nailed the most important components of Wild Rift. It feels like League of Legends, the controls are palatable (if an adjustment), the game is super fun, and the performance is incredible. Just connect to a reasonably powerful WiFi network and you’re good to go.
Is League of Legends on iPhone free-to-play or pay-to-win?
First, it’s important to note that League of Legends has never been pay-to-win. All of the things Riot charges for in the desktop version of League are to help you unlock characters faster or to buy cosmetics. Having money may give you access to a character you like more, but it won’t necessarily help you win more.
So to the second point, no, my Wild Rift review is that this game is not pay-to-win. Like League of Legends, you can pay to buy profile pics, emotes, skins, unlock characters faster, etc. But having money won’t make you any better at the game. You can get good at Wild Rift and still lose terribly to players with the starter characters.
I will say that I initially thought it would be hard to unlock more characters. Wild Rift only gives you one of five characters at the start of the game (Ahri, Garen, Jinx, Blitzcrank, or Master Yi). However, you unlock all of these characters along with five more (ten total) with every level up, stopping at Level 10.
Buying characters for free with “Blue Motes” does take a while. But there are so many in-game events and rewards that you’ll unlock champions way faster. I’ve unlocked 31 characters in one month and I haven’t spent a penny on the game yet.
So in short, you can pay for characters if you don’t feel like waiting to get your favorites. But you don’t have to do that.
How toxic is Wild Rift?
We’ve made it to the part of the review where I have to acknowledge it: League of Legends has an extremely toxic user base. I remember in high school how rare it was to meet anyone in the game who had a relaxed demeanor while playing League. Even my friends became harsher when we played together.
To some people, this might not be a big deal. But when I play a video game, it’s because I just finished my work for the day. I’m settling up in bed with my cats and a drink and getting ready to unwind. The last thing I want while playing a game is to have insults hurled at me or even other players. It’s no fun for anyone.
For the most part, I think Wild Rift is significantly less toxic than League of Legends. It’s not perfect, though.
It’s harder to chat on mobile since the keyboard covers half the screen. So people use pings and emotes for the most part, which reduces 95% of the toxicity of League. And even when you do have to chat with players, interactions are usually positive. People are more willing to swap positions, give you props, etc.
I have had two matches with toxic players. One with a player who kept calling our team names as we lost (despite having the worst K/D on our team) and another with a player who threatened to get multiple of our teammates (including myself) banned.
I don’t know if Riot will ever be able to completely purge this component of League’s culture, although Wild Rift’s limited communication is an improvement. I remember feeling frustrated and irate when playing League of Legends on desktop at the end of any game that I didn’t win.
Now, I hardly care whether I win or lose. And I think the subtle differences in Wild Rift have helped cultivate this attitude for most players.
Is Wild Rift better for new players or experienced players?
League of Legends was one of the hardest games I ever broke into. It’s an overload of characters, abilities, items, stats, and strategies to remember. And once you learn the basics, it can still take a long time to learn how to last-hit, avoid being focused, time ganks, etc.
I think Wild Rift does a much better job at being accessible to a new player. It starts with tutorials that teach you how leveling up works, and more importantly, it teaches you about laning. I didn’t understand how laning worked or that each character was built for a specific lane or two when I first started playing League.
Wild Rift makes sure you get all of this training right at the start. (League might do this too now, but I haven’t been a new player on the desktop in many years).
However, I’d still say it’s a hard game to get into. Experienced players should have little trouble picking Wild Rift up. But just putting League of Legends on iPhone doesn’t automatically make it easy for new players. It will still take a lot of practice to get the hang of things.
Wild Rift review: How is it different from League of Legends on desktop?
So that’s my Wild Rift review! Now, we’re going to discuss what I think are the key differences between Wild Rift and traditional League of Legends.
Touch controls, auto-targeting, and a map that flips
The most obvious difference is the switch to touch controls. As mentioned earlier, I like the touch controls in Wild Rift more than the point-and-click controls in League of Legends. It feels more intuitive and immersive. But, as I also mentioned, if you’ve spent years practicing on a desktop you might not like playing on a touch screen. I also think playing with touch controls on an iPhone is more difficult than on an iPad.
The next major difference is auto-targeting. Auto-targeting exists on the desktop version of League but you won’t rely on it nearly as much as you will in Wild Rift. To a certain extent, this lowers the level of difficulty. But this makes the game more fun to me, as it’s less frustrating while still challenging.
And thirdly, the map flips. In League of Legends on desktop, you simply play on the left or right side of the map. However, in Wild Rift, you always play on the left side.
To accomplish this, however, Riot has to flip your orientation of the map so that the top lane becomes the bottom lane and vice versa. So half of your matches the Duo Lane is on the bottom and Solo Lane is on top, and for the other half of your matches Duo Lane is on top and Solo Lane is on the bottom.
It’s a bit confusing but you get used to it quickly.
A much, much, much smaller character roster
Traditional League has 155 champions for you to choose from. That’s so many that you’ll probably never unlock all of them without a credit card. Wild Rift, on the other hand, only has 65 characters. This means that there’s a good chance that experienced players are going to miss out on some of their favorites.
With less than 50% of the characters from League appearing on Wild Rift, it’s more likely than not that a champion you like won’t be available on Wild Rift. Most of the favorites are on there (Vayne, Jhin, Teemo, Tristana, Sona, Master Yi, Yasuo, Zed, Fizz, Lux, Ashe).
Notable champions that are missing on League of Legends on iPhone are:
- Tahm Kench
The smaller roster means it’s easier to buy all of the in-game characters, which is nice. And Riot has already added more champions to Wild Rift since it first launched, including Rengar, Kha’Zix, and Rammus. I’m sure Riot will release more fan favorites on Wild Rift, though I also think there’s a good chance for exclusives depending on your platform of choice.
Matches are much faster when you play League of Legends on iPhone
Finally, another big change is the speed of matches on Wild Rift. This is another change that I heavily welcome. When I used to play League of Legends, it wasn’t unlikely that a match could last upwards of 45 minutes. On Wild Rift, 20 minutes is a long match, and many end around the 15-minute mark.
This change was made possible by speeding up the level-up timeline and sending out minions after just a few seconds. It used to be that playing a match of League was a commitment. Now, you can do it on lunch break.
The only drawback I’ve experienced with this change is that it usually becomes clear who’s going to win after eight minutes or so. Occasionally a team will make a comeback, and it’s very satisfying when it happens. But the game goes by so quickly that neck-and-neck matches usually don’t happen. You either win big or lose hard, and you can see it coming about halfway through the match.
Some tips for playing League of Legends on iPhone
1. Play Wild Rift on an iPad if you have one
This is a must. I’ve been playing this game with my brother, who only has an iPhone. While the game works on iPhone it severely limits its potential. Your thumbs cover half the screen, the buttons are tiny, and more often than not you’ll be button-mashing in skirmishes.
An iPad has the space to prevent your thumbs from obscuring your screen. You can see attacks coming more easily, stay calm in skirmishes, and play more strategically. It’s my favorite way to play League of Legends on iPhone or desktop.
2. Take advantage of missions and events
It might just be because the game is so new, but Riot is being generous with the events and missions in Wild Rift. As I mentioned, I’ve unlocked 30 of the 65 champions in one month, and I haven’t spent a penny on this game. Make sure you tap through them each time you play to collect your rewards. You’ll quickly fill up your champion roster and unlock unique skins, emotes, trinkets, and more.
3. Mute the chat if you’re new to the game
I would also recommend muting the chat if you’re new to League of Legends. Players are often unkind even when you are experienced at the game. If you don’t know anything, you might experience some harsh words.
To mute other players, wait until your match starts. Then, tap the score (0 vs. 0). You’ll see a list of everyone on your team and the enemy team. Next to all of their icons and names will be a little triangle-like shape. Tapping it will mute that player. Just tap all of them and forget the rest.
Riot has made it easy to communicate via pings, which I think are more useful anyway. Don’t let yourself be discouraged from playing by grouchy players!
League of Legends on iPhone: My closing thoughts
I think I’ve said everything there is to say in this Wild Rift review. I like the game, more than I like the desktop version. I probably play five or six matches every day. It’s super fun, well-balanced, fast-paced, and on the right track. Give it a shot if you haven’t already – it’s free!
For more reviews and insights on all things Apple, check out the rest of the AppleToolBox blog. And if you want more app and game reviews, you can check out my monthly series on the best iOS and macOS apps available.