Bandle Tale: A League of Legends Story is a knitty-gritty RPG

Posted on February 20, 2024

Last month, Riot Games announced the hard decision of some layoffs at the company, effectively shutting down Riot Forge, the gaming publication side of the company. Consider my frustration and division then, when Bandle Tale: A League of Legends Story, the last game to come out of this initiative, is one of the best things to happen to the studio and the League of Legends name in recent years.

Bandle Tale: A League of Legends story cashes in on the growing indie trend of making the most warm, welcoming, and vibrant title as possible. It does so by having players control a cute, furry Yordle of their own creation, interacting with many others of their own spiritkind, including familiar faces to the League of Legends IP such as Lulu, Tristana, Corki and many more. Suddenly, I’m very vested in at least a portion of the popular MOBA’s world through this cast and the wonderfully whimsical setting of Bandle City. I say this as someone who has never played a single minute of a League of Legends match or any Riot Games title for that matter. That speaks to the quality that developer Lazy Bear (who’ve also worked on titles like Graveyard Keeper) have put in here.

The story goes that a great big party has erupted the grounds of Bandle City, breaking the land up into floating island districts, separating friends, family and loved ones from one another. It’s up to you to make your way across these islands, reconnecting everything as it once was and getting to the bottom of the chaotic, cataclysmic mystery. How one does do so? Well, it’s going to take a lot of crafting, knitting and foraging, of course. The game does all this, while boldly and effectively retaining its RPG status, despite being a game that features no combat.

Bandle Tale gives players their own travelling backpack home where they’ll hunker down and get working on crafting many different recipes and items to create the next big thing. How your Yordle ‘crafts’ is by knitting, a hobby your hero is especially expertised in as they blend it with magic to create items and productivity workspaces such as a potion stand, loom or casting press. If you’re on an island dry of the supplies you need, you can quite literally pick your home up on your back and move on to a new location, setting camp here and continuing this loop. Being a transient in-game is a simple, nice touch to encourage players to not be stuck to any one environment. As you’ll come to see, that is a recurring theme.

Where you’ll often get these materials for all this crafting is out in the world, using your multitools to destroy piles of rubble, ramble through bushes and the like. Thankfully, save the need for some better initial tutorialisation, Bandle Tale is incredibly streamlined and when you pull up your map you can always check where exactly these resources can be found on a given island. When you complete a given activity, be it crafting, cooking, portal fishing or even (as is tradition for the genre at this point) farming, you get ’emotions,’ which are then cashed in to be skill points once you choose to sleep. Get enough skill points and you will unlock the ability to craft new workspaces in turn unveiling new things to create, often required by the locals for completing quests. Things are always moving in Bandle Tale. One minute task will always feed into another, allowing for more productivity and pipelines to be created. Now I’m repairing that bridge I couldn’t prior, or expanding the amount of emotions I can earn at a given time. It. All. Gels.

It’s in this feeling of min-maxing that I can see the throughline of games I adore and am taken by like Stardew Valley. Progress is always tangible in Bandle Tale, something that is essential in keeping me going. However, that doesn’t come without some roadblocks. Progress can slow to a halt when the game recognises that you’ve been doing too many of the same tasks in a given window.

When this happens, the emotions you earn will be capped or you may even get none for what you previously received plenty. I understand the design philosophy for this, encouraging players to experiment and try something else, padding out the game and barring players from exploiting it. However other games of its ilk simply… don’t do this. They let you bend the game to your will, and not having that option present really is felt when you’re just one or two skill points away from that key upgrade and running out of things to do. Some grace to help nudge players across the line would’ve been appreciated.

At the very least, Bandle Tale: A League of Legends Story is always charming, whimsical and full of that feeling of adventure. When a big story beat happens, a narrator (the only voice in the game) shares this story with you, depicted during cutscenes with assets and images in motion that are akin to a pop up book. The pixel art is adorable, somehow greatly depicting the cute, fuzziness of Yordles despite obviously not breaking the bank with fur textures. The sprites feature a keen eye for attention to detail to distinguish one member of the cast from another, even having unique charming idle animations. Strictly speaking, the League of Legends cast translate to the pixel art style really, really well.

Hell, there are even fun-as-hell minigames to occupy your downtime in-game and add to this sense of wonder. A Diner Dash style cooking game where you must quickly cook and present the dishes your occupants at your backpack home request. You can throw festivals here too where you’re managing the music being played, the decor used and interacting with guests at set points to pump up their satisfaction come the end of the party. These aren’t the deepest minigames of course, and only really are used to fulfill the occasional quest and obtain money to buy at merchants, but they’re always thoroughly enjoyable.

I’m nearing on the twenty-hour mark with Bandle Tale: A League of Legends Story and I’ve barely scratched the surface with its depth. There’s a plethora of busy work to undergo in-game and if you find yourself loving that type of title and want something you can play while checking out podcasts, it’s number one with a bullet at the moment. Finally, I understand a piece of the League of Legends lore puzzle. It’s just a damn, crying shame this is likely the first and last game from the franchise I’ll play. It’s a shame this could be one of the final, biggest expansions of that world that longtime fans will get. Rest in peace, Riot Forge, we hardly knew ye but we loved you.