So you’ve just watched the first three episodes of Arcane on Netflix and now you’re interested in League of Legends. Before you click that shiny “Play Now” button on the League website, a word of caution: don’t do it. For the love of God, do not start playing League of Legends in 2021 unless you have unlimited time and patience, because that’s the only way you’re going to find any success with it. Arcane does a wonderful job of welcoming newcomers to the world of Runeterra, and League of Legends couldn’t be more different. It’s possibly the sweatiest game of all time, filled with the sweatiest, angriest players who don’t care that you’re still learning. Take it from me, someone who got bullied by League players until I quit: just don’t.
If the story, characters, and world of Arcane grabbed your attention, League of Legends doesn’t actually have that much to offer. Playing as your favorite characters from the show can be cool, and there are in-game voice lines and cosmetics that help tell the story, but practically all of League’s storytelling happens outside of the game. If you’re craving more, head over to the League of Legends Universe page, where you’ll find dozens of comic books, hundreds of short stories, and a collection of short films. Instead of spending the next 100 hours grinding the ladder in League, you can instead dive into a decade of excellent lore entries for every character and region. You can even find stories from League’s alternate universes: Star Guardian, Odyssey, and K/DA, where the champions are reimagined as K-pop stars. There’s also an interactive map of Runeterra where you can explore each region and learn about its politics and central characters. The Universe page is an incredible resource for anyone interested in lore and a great place to start after Arcane.
If you really want to get into the game, I’m not going to stop you, but I would highly encourage you to start with Wild Rift. League of Legends: Wild Rift is a mobile adaptation of League (stay with me) that streamlines all of the nitty-gritty stuff about the MOBA. It came out earlier this year on Android and iOS and, until Pokemon Unite, was easily the most approachable game in the genre. The map is smaller, the matches are shorter, the item shop is simplified, and most importantly, chat is disabled. This is a great way to learn the core mechanics of a MOBA and familiarize yourself with the Champions - of which there are only 57 as opposed to League’s 157. Even if you are mobile game averse, Wild Rift is worth a shot. MOBAs work really well with touch-screen controls, and Wild Rift doesn’t have any of the predatory, anti-player nonsense that most mobile games have. You can buy a battle pass and you can pay for skins, but that's the extent of it. I’ve played very casually over the last few months and have earned more than 20 champions and a few skins just from completing missions like “Play two games” and “Eliminate five opponents”. This is the ideal way to get started in League.
Legends of Runeterra also deserves an honorable mention. Digital trading card games can often feel like a giant pit you dump all of your money into, but Runeterra is actually pretty generous. You can earn enough to be competitive by completing quests, and there are quite a few different game modes if you aren’t interested in PVP. The single-player mode has some nice story content too. If you were at all taken by Professor Heimerdinger in Arcane, he makes frequent appearances on the story side of Legends of Runeterra.
League of Legends has an incredible world filled with lots of great stories, but you won’t really get any of that by playing League of Legends. You will get called a slur though.
How to sum up hardcore perfectly.