Bandle Tale: A League of Legends Story Review – My Cozy Complexity Of Choice

League of Legends is no stranger to negativity, to say the least, but every once in a while something truly special is born out of its massive, still barely explored world. For many it was Arcane, but for me, it was Riot’s publishing arm Riot Forge, which partnered with several indie developers to create smaller titles within the universe.

Bandle Tale: A League of Legends Story is the final game under this banner, as Riot announced the closure of Forge merely a month before its release. The information filled me with immense disappointment—we do not get these kinds of projects within such massive gaming franchises anymore, and as a fan of all things tie-in, I could not be sadder to lose it. If this truly is the end, however, then I can confidently say that thanks to Bandle Tale, Forge went out with a bang.

The protagonist in an open field saying: I'm finally out of my house..."
Most relatable protagonist of 2024?

The developer Lazy Bear Games is a veteran in the indie scene, going back as far as 2016 with Punch Club, and only growing grander thanks to their 2018 hit Graveyard Keeper. Their style is that of cozy complexity: games with low pressure and many systems. Their previous games, however, always involved some form of action, and by abandoning it here they reached a kind of unfamiliar balance that very positively defines the experience, though will surely alienate some audiences in the process.

There is seemingly not much excitement to the gameplay loop, which consists of creating and upgrading tools to produce different materials and experience for the player character, unlocking even more tools in the process. Their timers, lasting between a few seconds to around a minute, can be sped up by sleeping in the portable backpack home, and the enjoyment is derived from planning out a route through different parts of Bandle City to collect materials and put them through the many different machines in your ever-expanding workshop to eventually achieve the intended result, which becomes increasingly more complex.

A screenshot of around 15 workbenches on a carpet outside the backpack house
I’ll just use this here to craft this and then activate this for 30 seconds to craft this there and move them next to each other and then…

Watching it all in motion stimulates the brain in the same way the little pitter-patter of the player-created yordle does. Simply put, it feels nice to see things move along. The little fella with a prosthetic leg, which can be upgraded throughout the game in several different ways, is simply doing their best to untangle their own mistakes, the good knitter they are. The story is an enjoyable, friendship-filled romp with a good dose of humor, and though there is a lot of dialogue, I can say that I genuinely enjoyed most of it. Seeing the main character’s doubts, enthusiasm, and, eventually, confidence come through as I engaged with these systems—slowly, but surely working towards one goal after another—always improved my mood.

That is another way to put it: Bandle Tale is a fantastic mood-improver. It has it all, be that the vibrant colors which are constantly changing between the distinct palettes of each area, the story’s focus on self-improvement, the constant feel of making progress towards something, or even the pure joy of interacting with familiar characters in a low-stakes environment. Perhaps more than anything though, the standout is certainly the innovative, cheerful music.

The Philosopher's Stone saying: "Consider this, You and I can both kick at the world and say, "that's green." "
Sometimes we can do a little bit of funny, but sometimes we got to do a little bit of real

Feeling distant, as if it is coming from speakers in a theater or on an old TV screen, the soundtrack is comfy and adventurous. There is an effect to most of its tracks that adds a sort of playful, nostalgic fogginess, which it then breaks out of during the most momentous events with stronger synths. It works wonders. This is not the kind of game I would typically dedicate my full attention to, but the music is so enchanting that it becomes hard not to get invested.

Even when I could not stay in one place to fully enjoy it, there were still many things that drew me fully into Bandle City. The sound effects of tools, machines, or even surfaces as I ran past them, all add so much liveliness to locations. The bridge to Inspiration Isle is made out of this light which produces a fantastic sound, and right after there’s a piano that sings as you walk across it.

A yordle asking: "Wait, why is the bridge singing now?" next to the piano bridge
I guess my presence is just magical, what can I say

You will be walking across them many times, as revisiting locations is a given. With a total of five, traveling a few more steps rewards you with access to certain all-in-one tools or auras, which typically require resources to temporarily enable them in a workshop. There is a bit of a clash here, because moving around is enjoyable and not staying in the same place for too long should be the goal, but a lot of machines which can be unlocked in the skill tree do the same thing as said tools. I think the goal of the skill tree should more so be about ways to move around faster.

I also think the latter half of Bandle Tale, though enjoyable due to how complex certain recipes get, could use something special. Maybe a new character, a new area, or a new type of workbench at least. That or the game could pace itself a bit more, as though it is nice to consistently interact with all the well-known characters from League of Legends such as Corki, Veigar, or Rumble, spacing out and adding more flair to interactions would make them feel even more special. A cutscene or two of just them interacting with one another would be enough.

The player character brushing a poro inside their backpack house
All these League of Legends character to interact with in the game, but we all know that the moment you see a poro that’s the only character you’re gonna care about

Instead, Bandle Tale ends each set of quests with a party, which, admittedly, fits the theme of unity and friendship, as well as the main character gaining confidence. These are small minigames that require preparation similar to that of anything else in the game. Each party requires a different vibe, so providing more dance spots or more relaxing ways to spend time is necessary to satisfy the guests. After that, your yordle runs around to collect orbs left by satisfied partygoers, all within a time limit which sometimes did go down to the wire.

These kinds of events are rewards in and of themselves, seeing NPCs from all across the island gather around to have a good time is heartwarming, and the minigame is just hectic enough to add some pleasant chaos into the mix. There is also a food stand that can be managed to increase the number of party guests should there not be enough to fill certain criteria, and it fulfills a similar role of increasing happiness and connecting the locals.

A party with many different yordles wearing green, garden outfits
I hope the teams over at Lazy Bear Games and Riot Forge will be able to celebrate this success as well, after everything is said and done

Explaining every single mechanic would still not do justice to the levels of planning required to keep everything together. I blasted through this game in 25 hours, so thankfully everything was fresh in my mind the whole way through, but it might be worth it to bust out the pen and paper or open up a document from time to time just to keep track of the steps required for each quest. It would also be nice if the game provided the player with a better way of doing so in-game, as the journal lacks an easy all-in-one way of tracking the entire path to a desired item.

All I could offer, however, are slight improvements, as I think Lazy Bear Games created an incredibly strong foundation by stripping down their action elements and focusing instead on their resource management formula. It is definitely not in a perfect state quite yet, but I hope it is something they will revisit in the future. There is always a distraction in Bandle City—quick, positive thoughts that weave in and out of your mind in between workshopping a way to befriend some bugs or returning inspiration to your friends of all shapes and sizes. The sort of quick, nice, creative spurts that defined the Riot Forge project as a whole, and for which I am personally very thankful if we are to never see anything of its kind again.

Mateusz played Bandle Tale: A League of Legends Story on PC with a review copy.

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