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Bandle Tale: A League of Legends Story review - Pixelated portal-hopping

Bandle Tale: A League of Legends Story review - Pixelated portal-hopping
Images via Riot Games

Written by 

Dani Cross

Published 

19th Feb 2024 08:00

The “cosy” game is a somewhat recent trend in gaming. We’ve always had relaxing games with cute sprites or delightful art design, but they’ve experienced a bit of a rebirth in a modern gaming landscape where triple-A titans are waging wars for our hard-earned cash. You can always rely on a good cosy game to fall back on when blockbusters become too big or too broken.

But cosy games aren’t always sunshine and roses. Cult of the Lamb, for instance, sees you diving into devilish deeds totally at odds with its cute aesthetic. Dredge is a pretty relaxing fishing game when you’re not running away from horrifying apparitions and sea monsters.

Bandle Tale is reliably cosy, a game that matches its aesthetic, but it’s also one that will test your knowledge of its systems and force you to track a huge amount of items, recipes and quests. When I heard this game was potentially over 40 hours long I was shocked - I thought I was in for a quick, fun adventure, but this is a game with a lot of girth. That can be a detriment, but it’s also what makes it worth exploring if you’re looking for more than a brief distraction.

GGRecon Verdict

Bandle Tale feels like a game some people will thoroughly enjoy, but others might grow tired of when the systems start piling on top of each other. It’s surprisingly complex, and about as long as the average big-budget RPG, but whether players will have the same patience for it remains to be seen. 

A lot of heart has gone into this game, and I really wanted to love it. As it stands, it’s a solid crafting RPG with a cute aesthetic that doesn’t really match the menu-heavy gameplay. It would be a lot more fun without systems like the auras restricting you from doing what you need to do.

Hand-crafted

Bandle Tale is based on a world and characters from League of Legends, a game that could not be more opposed to “cosy” if it tried.

Unlike the rest of Riot Forge’s LoL spinoffs, you don’t play as any LoL characters. Instead, you create your own “yordle” and set foot on an adventure spanning whimsical islands, meeting fantastical friends and crafting your way through a large series of quests.

Looking through a magnifying glass in Bandle Tale
Click to enlarge

On the surface, it’s a delightful little journey. The pixelated world is full of colour and a lot of fun to see for the first time. The characters are goofy and their writing can be pretty entertaining, which is vital - you’ll be talking to a lot of them. The gameplay is pretty easy to get to grips with too.

This is a crafting RPG, so you’ll be progressing by learning new skills and crafting the items you need to complete your objectives. That might require building an oven and gathering vegetables to throw a feast, or finding materials to build new tools and gain even more advanced skills.

I had a lot of fun with Bandle Tale at times, and fans of the yordles from League of Legends might find the same enjoyment. Like the rest of the Riot Forge line-up, it’s cool to see these characters outside of the MOBA they’ve been trapped in for years. The art style really fits the world of Bandle City too, and the music is pleasant and uplifting.

Negative Aura

The game can get a bit convoluted though. Bandle Tale is all about crafting and levelling different skills to learn new crafts. The more I progressed through the game, the more stressful it became to remember what skills I should prioritise or how to craft the next items I needed.

Certain items require a certain workbench before you can craft them - pretty standard stuff. Later on, workbenches require certain areas to be able to craft certain items. Those auras might require certain tools or locations, but if you want to teleport between islands to save time you’ll need a specific item - which can only be crafted at another workbench with another aura. It all gets a bit too confusing and hard to keep track of.

Crafting stations from Bandle Tale
Click to enlarge

Often I would be on my way to crafting items I needed only to find out I was missing an aura. That would force me to unlock some new skill I didn't know I needed, slowing down my progression towards other things.

The issue is heightened by your inability to build multiple bases. You do all your crafting in a portable packpack that doubles as your home, and there’s no way to set up structures to do certain tasks, outside of things like bug traps. You’ve got to do all your gathering by hand and constantly zip from one island to another for materials you might have missed or ran out of.

You can’t set up a base in Gadgeton to mine copper or clay and another in Bandle Center to get yarn or parchment - you’ll need to constantly switch your set-up to be able to accommodate whatever you want to do. The game starts to feel like busywork after a while, and loses some of its charm as a result.

I appreciated the backpack for what it was though. Having a portable home you can customise is pretty cool. It’s kind of like the TARDIS from Doctor Who, but full of crafting stations. I just wish the crafting was more streamlined as the game goes on, and that customisation was a bit more expansive.

Portals and Progression

There’s a bit more to experience other than the crafting gameplay. You can throw parties, which involves setting up an area outside your backpack and fulfilling the needs of your party-goers. One event might require you to cook different meals on request, while another one sees you entertaining guests with dancing or other activities. These can give a big boost to your skill points and speed along your progression.

The Hungry Hilltop from Bandle Tale
Click to enlarge

The progression feels a little restrictive though. Many skills are locked behind quests, but it’s difficult to get a grasp on what you need to do to make your way down certain skill trees. By the time you’ve unlocked the three big areas outside of the central hub, you’ll have three long quests to complete and no real idea of what you should be prioritising.

In a way, this opens the game up and makes your gameplay a lot less linear, but it also means you’ll be going back and forth between areas constantly for a while. Lots of crafting preparation and Portal Yarn can help to alleviate this, but things still get a little stale as things go on. It would be nice if the portals just didn’t cost anything when you used them, or if the quests weren’t so sprawling - anything to make exploring the world less irritating.

Thankfully, the excellent sprites and environment design ensure you’ll at least enjoy living in Bandle City, however much time you end up dedicating to it. It’s still satisfying to solve problems and work through the quests, despite the issues I had with the progression.

The verdict

Talking to Lulu in Bandle Tale
Click to enlarge

Bandle Tale feels like a game some people will thoroughly enjoy, but others might grow tired of when the systems start piling on top of each other. It’s surprisingly complex, and about as long as the average big-budget RPG, but whether players will have the same patience for it remains to be seen. 

A lot of heart has gone into this game, and I really wanted to love it. As it stands, it’s a solid crafting RPG with a cute aesthetic that doesn’t really match the menu-heavy gameplay. It would be a lot more fun without systems like the auras restricting you from doing what you need to do.

I wish I could say Riot Forge went out with a bang with this release, but while it’s still worth a look for fans of the characters, it’s lacking a little bit of the gameplay polish that could’ve made it stand out for the genre.

Score: 3.5/5

Reviewed on PC. Review code provided by the publisher.

Dani is a Guides Writer for GGRecon. She graduated from university with a degree in Broadcast Journalism, then worked as a freelance writer before joining the GGRecon team as a full-time writer in 2023. In her opinion, the best game of all time is Elden Ring – but her favourite is Halo: Reach, a game that created lifelong friendships and somehow started her down the path to a career in media. She’s also way too invested in Pokemon cards, and a big fan of guinea pigs, cats and other cute creatures.

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