Regardless of whether or not you engage with Riot’s monolithic MOBA, League of Legends has proven to be fruitful soil for other videogame adaptations. Between the fantastic Ruined King, some isometric fun in Mageseeker, and the time-based shenanigans of CONVERGENCE, there’s a wide array of new experiences that explore different parts of the world of Runeterra. Each one comfortably planting itself into tried-and-true genres and diving into different characters and areas of the lore.
Song of Nunu: A League of Legends Story is the next entry into this collection of games, helmed by Tequila Works. A narrative-heavy experience following the titular Nunu and his bestfriend Willump sounds like a home-run, especially for fans of the setting of the Freljord and the characters that inhabit it. While it doesn’t put its best foot forward at first, Song of Nunu blossoms into an impeccably-paced adventure game that brings new ideas into the fold and bows out before overstaying its welcome.
Song of Nunu: A League of Legends Story takes place in the frosty reaches of the Freljord, where Nunu and Willump rely on each other for company and survival. For the unfamiliar, Nunu and Willump have common ground in that they’ve both lost their families. The concept of a young Notai boy looking for his mother and the only yeti left in the Freljord with the ability to wield the power of True Ice lays the groundwork for an endearing relationship that serves as the beating heart of this experience. It’s clear that the two have been friends for a while right from the get-go, circumventing any need for origin stories.
The pair sets out on an adventure across the Freljord in search of Nunu’s mother, with their only clue pointing them in the direction of a magical artifact called The Heart of the Blue. It’s a fairly safe and relatively predictable narrative (especially if you know League lore), but its strengths absolutely lie in its characters. Nunu and Willump are a joy to play, and their happy-go-lucky attitudes are infectious in the best way. The story also isn’t afraid to explore the trauma these two characters share and how they overcome it together.
The inclusions of other champions like Braum and Lissandra also add nuance and complexity to it all in engaging ways. Braum’s unwavering dedication to protecting others and the Freljord itself fits right in with Nunu and Willump’s dynamic. Lissandra, on the other hand, is explored through the sacrifices she makes for the greater good of Runeterra, standing in stark contrast with the optimism of the core cast. Tequila Works really understands what makes Lissandra tick here, and she’s made all the more complex in her motivations and morals as a result.
While most of it wraps quite nicely by the time credits roll, there’s a few key plot threads left dangling, which felt a bit off amongst the well-handled conclusions of other story elements. The resolution to the MacGuffin hunt a big chunk of the game is dedicated to feels hasty, and while it was cool to see some other champions that I won’t name here, it feels like they were meant to have relevance in later story beats that don’t quite eventuate here. It’s clear that this is setting up for a sequel of some sort, but it’s hard not to notice the disparity between the handling of certain narrative threads.
If you’ve played Tequila Works’ other adventure games, you’ll feel right at home in Song of Nunu. It does get off to a bit of a slow start, with straightforward puzzle solving and platforming that doesn’t do much to hook in you in the opening chapter. The overall pace really picks up by the time hour two rolls around, as Song of Nunu slings new ideas at you and builds on them in creative ways. It does a great job of keeping the solution to a puzzle or platforming segment in clear sight, while forcing you to think a little deeper about how to get there.
You’ll regularly swap between playing as Nunu and Willump. Nunu’s gameplay is generally more exploratory and puzzle-based as he lacks an affinity for combat like his partner does. Nunu’s most interesting tool comes in the form of his flute – Svellsongur. You can play different notes through key combinations to interact with the world and its inhabitants. While it initially seems confusing and overbearing to learn so many symbols, their intuitive visual designs had me catch onto it much quicker than I expected.
Solving these puzzles and traversing these environments is just a relaxing and wholesome time in the way a Nunu and Willump story should be. Always engaging enough to keep you playing, but not too complex as to bring your progression to a grinding halt. Even climbing can be made faster through Climb Boosting, which lets you pick up speed by hitting the jump button as you move to the next handhold. Each string of events almost always results in worthwhile payoff, like awakening a monolithic deer made of True Ice called the Kellurel.
When you aren’t jumping about or climbing up cliff faces, you’ll engage in combat as Willump, with Nunu nestled comfortably on the gentle giant’s head. It’s a very simple combat system with light, heavy, and ranged attacks with pretty limited enemy variety, but is sparingly employed to keep it from getting repetitive. Not once did I sigh at the thought of a combat encounter, and it’s always a blast to see the creative finisher animations when dispatching a foe. It certainly won’t knock your socks off, but it does a lot to break up the regular loop of traversal and puzzle solving.
While each chapter is quite linear, each one brings new ideas into the fold, such as a Nunu stealth section in the late-game. Each one also offers room and reason for exploration. Murals are scattered throughout the Freljord, inscribed with the rich history of its conflicts and prominent figures like Anivia and the Three Sisters. Notai stanzas are tucked away waiting to be uncovered and connected to form a lost song, and ever-adorable Poros wait for help to get them through their numerous plights. Each adds to the experience and keeps the Freljord feeling authentic to its identity in the lore.
Despite the Freljord being an icy region of tundra and snowy mountains, Tequila Works does a great job of keeping things varied. From cave systems that support the growth of unique flora and a forgotten city locked away from invaders, to a roaring forge and the ominous Howling Abyss, each chapter feels visually distinct from the rest. Snowball fights with Willump are also found throughout the game, offering a short and sweet distraction from the regular gameplay loop that entertains and endears on the few occasions you can engage with them.
One thing all of the A League of Legends Story titles have nailed are their visual presentation and production values. From the grungy underbelly of Ruined King’s Bilgewater to Mageseeker’s 2D take on the gilded land of Demacia, these games have brought iconic locations to life in brilliant fashion. Song of Nunu is no different, fully realizing the grandeur of the Freljord and its place in Runeterra. It has an ethereal and whimsical quality to it that’s exacerbated through the eyes of Nunu and Willump, which feels remarkably fitting for this kind of experience.
Particle effects are another highlight worth mentioning. League of Legends’ visual effects have evolved a lot over the years, influencing the way Riot has developed their other titles. Song of Nunu captures the very same 2D pastel effects in a way that really brings these characters and this world to life. Performance is also excellent on PC, and the whole experience oozes polish outside of the occasional geometry issue.
Song of Nunu: A League of Legends Story is another successful Riot Forge project that expands the reach of Runeterra beyond the confines of the wildly successful MOBA. A rough opening chapter segues into an impeccably paced experience that's short, sweet, wholesome, and all too easy to play.
Excellent adaptations of fan-favourite League characters
Short, sweet, and impeccably paced
The Freljord is well-realised within the scope of the experience
Top-notch presentation values that retain League's identity