Write another unwritten tale in King Arts' fantastic point and click adventure
While Telltale ‘evolves’ the adventure games genre in the 3rd engine world, complete with all the advancements and bugs that brings, King Art out of Bremen, Germany, keeps to the traditional point and click format that served its previous games so well. With The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 there’s a mastery of the genre at work here and it’s easy to see why these games were so beloved, and still are.
That The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 sticks to this tradition doesn’t mean it’s a relic of a bygone age. The first game was widely lauded as a great example of the traditional genre in the modern age and this sequel improves and extends upon that accolade with gorgeous locations, likeable characters and a genuinely funny sense of humour. There’s nothing bad about being steeped in classic adventure gaming DNA when it’s really bloody good.
Not all scenes are static - we're falling to our death here with a sulky genie
All four characters from that first game return - if in different clothing - and there’s some nice references back to that original adventure for those in the know. Fortunately this new tale doesn’t require that knowledge as the story and characters begin from new places and are written with enough skill to make new players feel comfortable.
Like its predecessor this game takes place in Aventasia and centres around the elf princess Ivo, Nate the adventurer, Gnome mage Wilbur and the Critter, Nate’s furry companion. Control alternates between these characters until they meet up when you can switch over to whatever character you desire. I won’t say too much about the story only that it actually surprised me in its direction in a few places, though most of the drama comes from the characters themselves and their personal challenges along the way.
That’s not to say The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 is a serious game. Far from it. Laced with modern gaming and popular culture references it spoofs, parodies and generally has fun with many franchises greater than itself and yet can get away with this because it’s actually a damn fine game itself.
That quality comes forth in the fidelity and preciseness in each scene of the game. This is by far the most beautiful point and click game I’ve played and the attention to detail makes each location live and breathe even though we’re talking about ostensibly static frames. That’s the joy of a point and click adventure game and it can mean approaching it in a very different way to other games. Ain’t diversity grand?
Tomb raiding with Nate, wait... that sounds familiar
That detail, whether it’s the flapping of clothes in a breeze or watching the smoke billow out of Princess Ivo’s pipe-smoking mini-Ent gardener is enough to make each moment pop out of the screen. Add in some excellent voice acting, with returning actors for the lead roles, and a sumptuous orchestral score and you have a world I was eager to spend time in.
So far I’ve been a wet blanket and talked about my feelings. I’ll stop that for a moment to mention the puzzles - the core gameplay mechanic behind BoUT2. These range from the simple to the more obscure and I will admit to failing my reviewers remit by following a guide on occasion in order to progress. The puzzles are logical for the most part but some require a diligent Sherlockian level of deduction before the light bulb goes off and you grasp the answer.
As with most other point and click games, solutions usually arise from clicking on everything once or twice to unlock actions that lead to a conclusion. This aspect I personally find awkward, as I do with most other adventure games, but what kept me plugging away was the atmosphere and writing which made these characters come alive.
After playing so many generic games in recent years with characters that I can’t or don’t’ want to remember, BoUT2 has people who are incredibly likable and funny. Humour like this which has modern references in is so easy to overdo but here the writers have struck the right balance. There’s even a sprinkling of genuinely moving and touching moments in the course of the 20+ hour adventure. Nothing in the same range as The Walking Dead perhaps but just the kind of brief moment or character development that has an impact on the relationships in the game.
The tavern with the 2-headed Orc. Good pies I hear...
Controls are easy to handle and for those new to the genre a pretty cute tutorial guides you through the basic process of right clicking to look and left clicking to interact. Simple clicks to combine items and using the space bar to highlight all the points of interest on the screen mean even my tech-phonic Mother-in-law could get to grips with BoUT2’s system. The only issue is with the inventory, changed from the original game to a knapsack that opens out, grid-like, a-la WoW. It’s a little small to navigate quickly when you have more than ten items in it and I was having occasional issues of it covering up what I wanted to interact with. Hardly life-threatening, but a little, and I use this word with bile in my mouth, clunky.
I had very few problems running the game on my mid-range i7 rig at high settings. And you’ll want to experience The Book Of Unwritten Tales in all its glory to convey the world and those in it as highly as possible. Bugs are of course a major bane in this type of game and in Early Access BoUT2 has been plagued with a few stinkers. Fortunately in the final build before release most have been squished and I feel confident most players won’t encounter many problems.
THE BOOK OF UNWRITTEN TALES 2 VERDICT
Though you might balk at the idea of playing a traditional point and click game in 2015, there’s something beautiful about this classic formula at work here. Like dusting down a Dickens tome rather than reading Game of Thrones on a Kindle, The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 feels like settling down with a mug of tea and crumpet, or a pint of brown ale and a pie while the rain pounds down on the window. It’s a comforting reminder that video games can still hark back to their traditional roots and produce an enjoyable experience without any overblown live-action trailer or day one DLC. This is a delight to play.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Helping a major character overcome a crisis of confidence.