Bandle Tale: A League of Legends Story Review

Bandle Tale: A League of Legends Story is something most would now term a “cozy game”, being a light simulation game that’s largely relaxing and not too stressful. Of course, that can also mean it’s at risk of not being terribly engaging, especially with the recent influx of such games that sometimes tend to miss the mark. Being a League of Legends spin-off, I was concerned Bandle Tale was such an attempt to merely cash in on the trend, but learning that the developers were also behind Graveyard Keeper did increase my hopes for the game.

Bandle Tale features you, a shut-in knitter, who has barely left their home since losing their leg. After being gifted a new one by your teacher, and some encouragement from your friend, you head out to a party. Unfortunately, things go awry, and the portal system that kept the other islands of Bandle City together destabilizes, and your friend goes missing. You also acquire a talking sock, not that he does much other than sass.

Gameplay generally consists of gathering materials and then crafting them, which eventually balloons into some complicated recipes that require several external elements and fully upgraded workbenches. As a knitter, you get a portable backpack house which can be placed on a couple of locations per region. The house also comes with outdoor carpets that let you host different facilities, such as a takeout restaurant, but depending on the location, only certain carpets can be rolled out. The handy thing about this feature is that any crafting gizmos you have going at your facilities will continue even if you pick up the backpack.

The exception to this is the auras found in certain locations. These auras inhabit a few squares of the map that generate elements such as heat, or perception, which is needed for certain recipes. You’ll eventually unlock the ability to add some aura to a spot yourself, but if it isn’t generated by a machine, the type of aura is also locked to the region you’re in. When it came to crafting using outdoor auras, I had to keep my backpack locked down while I continued elsewhere. This became a problem since you can’t use the fast travel portals without equipping my backpack, so I sometimes had to trudge over the long way around as my backpack house was anchored down for one reason or another.

While there are no levels in Bandle Tale, there is an experience system based on what you do, whether it’s gathering, crafting, or exploring. This experience system has a daily cap, and you have to go to bed to turn that inspiration into points that can then be used on four different skill trees. It’s important to note that these skill trees have ‘badges’ that block off continuation until certain quests have been cleared.

Absolutely everything is tied to unlocking skills; you can’t pick berries from a bush until getting a particular skill, grow a particular crop, or make one of the four tools you’ll have to rotate in your inventory without unlocking it first. There’s a point at which the game appears to open up a bit more, but I couldn’t figure out which quest I was meant to do first, as so much was locked behind several spots on the skill trees. I spent a bit too much time grinding until I learned there were much easier ways. I could earn skill points by delivering lectures, which required me to spend all my money and storage space on particular one-off items. I eventually realized that throwing parties gave a lot of these points, but I didn’t need to host any extra ones to get by, as I eventually accumulated enough that I didn’t need to grind much if I just avoided unlocking anything until a quest specifically needed it. The game gets a lot more manageable once you’ve upgraded/been given a better leg, greatly increasing the speed at which you can gather and go, and when I learned that hosting a food stall wasn’t just for making money.

There are a lot of helpful elements to the user interface, like when you don’t have the skill required to complete a quest, it’ll tell you what one you need, and clicking on it will take you to that point on the skill tree. On the other hand, some elements are only partially explained or don’t show up at all. Completing cooking orders successfully often unlocks a side quest, and a certain amount of these are needed to unlock badges blocking paths in the skill tree. You only really learn you need to do that by clicking on the badges to see so, which temporarily halted my progress while I was trying to figure out what tasks I needed to do first so I could continue the main story. If you go to do more of these side quests, and the badge is already unlocked, you won’t have the pop-up information telling you what to deliver to whom. Another minor confusion I had was not upgrading my leg for a while because the best one was marked as having three points more in ‘stamina drain’, so I assumed it meant the drain was worse not that it gave me better stamina.

Hosting food stalls is very simple and much like old flash games such as Cake Mania, getting you to cook orders from a few different recipes before the customer gets impatient and leaves. These recipes can get much more complex later on, but to beat the game you don’t have to do the ones with more than a couple of steps, especially because of that I really thought there were far too many recipes, though you can avoid some by not getting the extra DLC. Since I’d have to make a dining table to put anything down if I didn’t want to swap it, and the crafted food would rot out very quickly. Of course, most of the ingredients can be farmed, but I sometimes had to remember to craft plates here and there.

Parties are pretty basic, the main trick is gathering the resources to craft the decorations and entertainment to fit the precise number requirements for the party. Different pieces such as a dance floor might have three “fire” attached to it but there are only so many placement spots. They might want one style to be anywhere from 6-12 but another to be no more than 3. After that you simply wait for the attendees to generate some excitement which you collect and dash to the portal before it times out, trying to collect a certain amount within a couple of minutes. I only ever nearly failed once, and that was the second last party I had to do with a not-so-upgraded leg. There are some other elements such as placing an item to increase the speed at which the partiers generate energy, but that runs on a charge with the same source, so I never bothered with it. To get anyone to show up to your party you have to generate some good vibes and apparently all that helping you were doing didn’t count, as the only way I got any friendship points up was to host my food stall, sleep for a couple of days until more orders showed up and do it again.

I have no knowledge of the League of Legends main game or lore in general, but from what I can tell all the Yordles from League that appear in this game are the ones native to Bandle City, the setting of this game. The only one I vaguely knew of prior was Teemo and at least he was a bit more interesting than the others. Outside of that, there are a few light references to other characters or items such as a KDA microphone I fished up, but it has little impact on the game. Many of your customization options for your interior are themed around these characters.
Within ten minutes I was hit with a Rick and Morty reference and towards the end of the game another pop-culture reference involving sand. The story overall is about unity and the main character overcoming their self-doubt to be basically loved by everybody. It’s mildly amusing at best and might have endeared me if I was a kid, but then it’s not as funny as similar games I played back then.

Aside from my own personal Yordle and their collection of ugly hats, I liked the look of most characters, especially some of the more out-there characters unique to this game. The pixel art creates some stunning and unique environments that give a very 00s-era online social game vibe. The music also adds to this whimsical atmosphere though because of that it’s the kind I probably won’t listen to outside of the game. There is some voice acting in the cutscenes which take place basically between story progression in a silhouette cut-out story book fashion. I played between my desktop and the Steam Deck and the game ran fine on both, easily highlighting and going through the various menus with a controller.

At first, my time with Bandle Tale felt like a slow drudge, especially as I got blockaded by skill requirements and hit many “I can’t do anything with this yet” spots. Once I could zoom through the Bandle City center and knew how to best unlock skills, I enjoyed my time a bit more but I’m not entirely sure if that’s just because I knew I was reaching the end, or if progression was actually enjoyable. Bandle Tale: A League of Legends gameplay and story can feel pretty mediocre, reminding me of childhood favorites but never as entertaining.