Bandle Tale: A League of Legends Story is a bittersweet eulogy for Riot Forge

Tomas Franzese / Forge of Riot

Bandle Tale: The Story of League of Legends is a new game about getting out of your comfort zone and connecting with other people. In many ways, that is also the story of Riot Forge. The publishing label pushed its parent company, Riot Games, away from its AAA design instincts to expand the world of Runterra. There’s only so much narrative you can weave into something like League of Legends, and all of Riot Forge’s games offer unique perspectives that enrich this world. I found satisfaction in that strategy too, as someone who enjoys the world of Runeterra, but doesn’t want to play League of Legends self. It’s a treatment that only a few well-known franchises get outside the world of comic books, Warhammer, and Star Wars.

Sadly, The Bandle Story is the last for now as Riot Forge has closed as part of Riot Games’ recent layoffs. It’s a shame, not just for League of Legends, but the video game industry in general. If nothing else, The Bandle Story it’s worth checking out as a bold move from a major studio, which is something that’s becoming increasingly rare.

Solid delivery

Lazy Bear Game Developers’ The Bandle Story takes place in Bandle City, home to many cute and furry Yordle creatures League of Legends players may already be familiar with it. This gives us our first look at their society, which is torn apart when the portal network is destroyed during a party near the start of the game. Afterwards, players, who have isolated themselves for over 100 years, must reunite the network of portals and find their lost friends. Like most Riot Forge titles, The Bandle Story focuses on narrative and has more a cute advantage over other label games.

In terms of gameplay, this is a crafting RPG. Building on the foundation laid by comfortable games like Stardew Valleyalmost every mission comes in The Bandle Story will require players to search for and collect various resources so they can build something important. Often, these resources will also be used so players can serve food and host parties to earn the currency needed to progress or unlock skills in one of the three skill trees.

Yordle Park in Bandle Tale: A League of Legends Story.
Forging Unrest

There is always something to do The Bandle Story, so playing it never feels aimless. You are always working towards a goal and are often rewarded with funny dialogue. This setup means the retrieval missions are tough. Especially in the beginning, you’ll spend all your time moving from character to character, completing missions for them so you can get what you need to advance the story.

Luckily, the layers of progression and charming dialogue remain The Bandle Story interesting, despite the simple mission design. It’s unlike any other League of Legends title you’ll play, and of all the Riot Forge games, it’s the one most likely to keep you interested. Riot Games estimates it will take 40 to 60 hours of playtime to complete. The fact that you can spend so much time together The Bandle Story is a good thing, as it’s unlikely we’ll see another game like this and other Riot Forge games from Riot Games any time soon.

A frustrating ending

In January, layoffs occurred League of Legends creator of Riot Games, with the word company, “the large investments we made did not produce the results we had hoped for.” Riot fired 530 developers and closed Riot Forge in the process.

“We are discontinuing Riot Forge after the upcoming release The Bandle Story,” he said at the time. “Forge has been our collaboration with external studios to develop smaller scale games on our IP. While we’re proud of what we’ve created in this space, and we’re grateful to the Forge team and our external partners who make these games possible, we don’t see this as central to our strategy going forward. We’re not closing the door completely on single-player experiences or working with other developers if the right project comes along, but we want this project to look very different in the future.”

Variant key art for Bandle Tale: A League of Legends Story.
Forging Unrest

Riot Forge is an initiative unlike any other in the gaming industry. In an interview last year, Riot Forge creative director Rowan Parker told Digital Trends that the publishing label does not provide concepts or games to studios; instead, he finds a studio he likes and lets them create almost any story he wants in the League of Legends universe. This results in a variety of different experiences, including rhythm games Hextech chaosisometric action title The Witch Finderand now it’s a comfortable game focused on crafting The Bandle Story.

It’s a bold experiment and world-building that we don’t typically get from a company as big as Riot. Apparently, this is because initiatives like these are too risky to survive in a gaming industry where companies are now more focused on cutting costs and generating huge success. While all of Riot Forge’s games are good, none seem to be a huge hit. Riot Games prefers to focus on core games that it knows will get a lot of attention and make a lot of money.

In some ways, the founding and closing of Riot Forge represents the end of a period of growth and increasing experimentation and investment in the industry. According to a report from Polygon, getting funding for new games will be increasingly difficult in 2024. From a high level, I understand looking at Riot Forge games and seeing titles that will likely attract less attention than new League of Legends content drops. Viewing what Riot Forge is doing solely through a business lens is a disservice to creatives, whether it’s the people behind all the potential future Riot Forge games we’ll never see or the folks at Lazy Bear who are now have to face this reality. That The Bandle Story is Riot Forge’s final title.

Party gameplay from Bandle Tale: A League of Legends Story.
Unrest

Like previous Riot Forge games, The Bandle Story very different from other League of Legends titles. It embraces silliness, comfort elements, and various progression hooks to become the most charming and content-rich Runeterra game outside of the MOBA itself. While I’m glad to see the official statement that Riot Games doesn’t want to completely abandon single-player gaming, I wouldn’t be surprised if the game is more in line with AAA industry trends and production values ​​than any other game. Riot Forge Games does it.

It was a situation where everyone lost. Developers can’t build on popular worlds, Riot’s portfolio lacks diversity, and players are missing out on more stories to explore every corner of Runeterra. During my interview last year, Parker told me that Riot Forge would not greenlight a new game unless it was “confident that it is a good game without the League of Legends IP.” It’s a shame that Riot Games, and the gaming industry in general, needs a better reason than that to support creative new ideas.

Bandle Tale: The Story of League of Legends launches on February 21 for PC and Nintendo Switch.

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