Understatement of the year: Arcane is amazing. Netflix’s animated series — based on the source material of several Riot games — is a marvel to behold, sports excellent music and dialogue, offers a rich backstory and interesting characters, it’s gritty and mature and, well, just delightful to watch. Fans of Riot’s games may enjoy it a bit more, as there are dozens of Easter eggs to spot and theories to explore, but consumers who know nothing about the rich background of Arcane can enjoy it to the fullest with no trouble at all.
Many of the latter, though, might be interested to know more about the source material of Netflix’s series — after its enthusiastic critical reception we’re bound to get more seasons in the future — and what better way than to play Riot’s games themselves? For everyone thinking about doing exactly that but doesn’t have a clue where to look, here’s a brief overview of these games, where to play them and what’s worth knowing before delving into each one.
For absolutely everyone: Legends of Runeterra
While League of Legends was the title that put Riot and its work on the map, a collectible card game (CCG) is a much easier way of knowing more about the universe of these games and that’s exactly what Legends of Runeterra is. For people who have played Magic: The Gathering or, more recently, Hearthstone, this game will be instantly accessible. For anyone else: it’s a game where players face other players in a tactics battle, each armed with a collection of cards. The two players take turns using these cards to call on fighters, summon monsters, cast spells etc. until one prevails over the other.
In most games of this kind those cards are now common and somewhat generic, but Legends of Runeterra use a special kind of Champion cards that can level up to amazing power and wreak havoc on the opponent’s forces under the right conditions. Needless to say that each Champion card is a League of Legends champion, so people who like e.g. Jinx or Vi in Arcane will be able to use them in these card battles extensively. Legends of Runeterra is free, quite generous with its handouts to frequent players and thankfully devoid of those infuriating loot boxes that other such games depend on. Players can buy the specific cards they want and build their decks based on those. It’s available on Windows computers, iOS/Android smartphones and tablets.
For gamers meaning to commit: League of Legends
This game is so popular on a global scale that even people who have no interest in gaming whatsoever have heard of it (because of the prizes given to winners in professional championships most probably), so yeah. It’s big. It’s also a very, very complex game that requires a lot of time and effort in order to be actually enjoyed with four teammates opposing five other players on a map (as it is meant to be played). It’s not as exciting in single-player but there’s still a lot of fun to be had in selecting characters (there are more than 150 different ones currently available), leveling them up and building strategies around them.
Because League of Legends was Riot’s first Runeterra game, it sometimes feels somewhat skimpy on the details of Arcane’s lore and backstory nowadays (those were built over time). It’s also a game that’s not really inviting for casual play: gamers meaning to get good at this will have to commit time and effort few other games demand. There’s true entertainment to be had along the way, though, as the depth and breadth of content League of Legends offers is staggering. It’s free for Windows and macOS computers — quite capable of running on even quite low-powered configurations if needed — and, well, on a league of its own. For better or worse!
For gaming on the go: League of Legends Wild Rift
For consumers who simply do not have the time or the inclination for investing it in a game as deep and demanding as League of Legends, LoL Wild Rift will be a better fit. It’s a carefully simplified version of the original LoL, adjusted to a touchscreen control scheme for smartphones and tablets (instead of the traditional keyboard and mouse one). Its gameplay is also more streamlined, friendly to beginners, quicker and more intuitive, while matches usually last half or a third of the time they do in the computer version.
Making a more accessible League of Legends game meant that something had to give and, in this case, it’s content (far fewer available characters for instance) as well as gameplay mechanisms (they remain comparable but with far simpler items there just aren’t as many options to go for tactically). But as a more accessible, mainstream version of League of Legends, capable of offering the same excitement to more people, Wild Rift is very, very good and equally popular. It’s available for free on iOS/Android smartphones and tablets.
An acquired taste not really connected to Arcane: Teamfight Tactics
There’s one more game set in the world of League of Legends named TeamFight Tactics. It belongs to the “AutoChess” category, a kind of weird but quite popular kind of game which plays like chess… if chess was played with players not actually making any moves. Instead of controlling every chess piece individually and directly, what matters is how they are positioned on the board and how each one is equipped before the game plays itself out.
Since there’s no way to know how the opponent will be positioning his/her pieces nor how those are equipped, luck plays a big role, but the kind of strategic thought that goes into how each side sets the pieces up is extremely rewarding for some — especially given the fact that piece selection is random and balanced in such a way that no side is overpowered. Teamfight Tactics is expanded with new content regularly and these sets are usually thematic, so experimenting with new pieces or equipment is always fun.
The truth is that this particular Riot title won’t really help gamers know all that much about Runeterra and the Arcane universe in general. It deserves mentioning, though, because it’s related to the same world — and offers the kind of nuanced, brainy entertainment that’s different to what every other Riot game brings to the table. It’s available for Windows, macOS, iOS/Android smartphones or tablets and it’s free to play. Give it a shot between, you know, this week’s and the next week’s Arcane episodes on Netflix!