Bandle Tale is more Stardew Valley than League of Legends

EMBARGO 9/14 8 AM PT: Key art for Bandle Tale: A League of Legends Story.
Riot Forge

Bandle Tale: A League of Legends Story is the latest game from League of Legends indie game label Riot Forge, and it’s decidedly different from everything that came before it. While Riot Forge games like The Mageseeker, Convergence, and Song of Nunu have been more intense action League of Legends affairs, Bandle Tale is a comedic, cozy adventure with gameplay that shares more in common with Stardew Valley than League of Legends.

The adventure is set in Bandle City, which is home to the adorably weird species of Yordles that League of Legends players are probably familiar with at this point. Rather than being some grand coming-of-age story for an iconic League of Legends champion, this one is about a Yordle trying to unite Bandle City by throwing a whole lot of parties. I recently got a hands-off look at the game, which affirmed that Bandle Tale is the most distinct game to come from Riot Forge yet because of how it unabashedly embraces cozy game mechanics.

A different take

At the start of my demo, I was introduced to the Yordle players take control off, a knitting apprentice who has just ended a 101-year internship. After the portals that connect Bandle City are destroyed, players sets off to reconnect all of the different regions of Bandle City. Bandle Tale is going to be a 40-hour adventure, so I didn’t see enough to get a full sense of the game’s story. Rowan Parker, Riot Forge’s head of creative, previously told Digital Trends that the game will retain developer Lazy Bear Games’ trademark sense of humor. What I got a better sense of is how an emphasis on customization, cozy gameplay, and resource gathering and spending makes Bandle Tale stand out from all the Riot Forge games before it.

To start, the playable character in Bandle Tale is already a big departure for this publishing label. Previously, Riot Forge games focused on telling the story of particular, well-known League of Legends champions like Sylas or Nunu. Playing one felt like taking out a League of Legends action figure and telling a unique story with it. In the case of Bandle Tale, players will be able to fully customize their Yordle, an original character made for this adventure. That’s a better fit for a cozy crafting RPG that players are meant to immerse themselves in and make a somewhat significant time investment in.

A Yordle gathers resources in Bandle Tale: A League of Legends Story.
Riot Forge

Not a farming sim

That time will be spent in a core gameplay loop of exploring the different regions of Bandle City, collecting resources, and crafting what’s needed to progress the story. Exploring Bandle City looks like it will be a simple, but visually vibrant task. Just watching the developers walk through these environments in a hands-off demo was entertaining because while Bandle Tale looks like a 2D pixel-art game, its world is actually designed with depth in 3D. This allowed Lazy Bear Games to make some M.C. Escher-like locales that seem to defy physics and perspective.

It gives Bandle Tale a charmingly unique look and feel, both within the League of Legends franchise and the pixel-filled cozy games space as a whole. It’s also emblematic of Yordles: cute to look at, but a bit weird upon closer inspection. The process of resource gathering will feel familiar to purveyors of cozy gaming, as players will do everything from gardening to mining and fishing to obtain resources. These all have a fantastical twist; players use fireflies instead of firewood, for example. Bandle Tale lacks any sort of combat element, a first for a League of Legends game.

Bandle Tale is not a full-on farming sim; it seems more focused on the laid-back process of gathering resources, speaking with NPCs, and then using what you’ve obtained to craft resources for them. Lazy Bear Games emphasized during our demo that a big part of Bandle Tale is about helping and spending resources on other Yordles, whether that’s through cooking a simple dish for an NPC or throwing massive parties for them to all attend.

These will provide the game’s biggest challenges, as players will have to micromanage tending to the partygoers and gathering “emotion” points. A certain amount must be collected from a party for it to be deemed a success, and these gathered points will also be used to unlock new abilities in three vast skill trees. Parties will also be where League of Legends champions will most frequently show up, so players won’t completely forget its connection to the popular multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game.

A Yordle throws a party in Bandle Tale: A League of Legends Story.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Bandle Tale’s calming approach to game design might just make it the boldest League of Legends game yet. It’s quite unlike anything Riot Forge, or Riot Games as a whole, has done before, potentially appealing to cozy gamers who would likely never go anywhere near a competitive League of Legends match. Riot Forge games have flown under the radar for the past couple of years, but I could see Bandle Tale garnering some more mainstream appeal.

Bandle Tale: A League of Legends Story will launch on PC and Nintendo Switch on February 21 and is available for preorder now.

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