The Book of Unwritten Tales Review
The Book of Unwritten Tales is a game that I honestly had no expectations for going in. Personally, I hadn’t heard of the title (which came out several years ago in Europe,) and the information I could glean from the game off of its website mainly informed me that it was a fantasy-style point and click.
I’d even go so far to that, if I didn’t decide to review the game, I probably would have overlooked it entirely. However, I am happy that I gave it a shot because, in terms of sheer fun, The Book of Unwritten Tales has been one of my favorite titles so far this year.
Developed by German studio King’s Art, The Book of Unwritten Tales was originally released in European countries back in 2009. It saw a UK release in 2011, and will finally be available to US gamers via the likes of Steam and Gog.com on July 31 of this year.
While the game received pretty good scores upon its original release, there is a very important question that needs to be asked—will US gamers, used to high action games like Mass Effect, Black Ops and Uncharted respond well to an almost three-year-old point and click adventure? I certainly hope so, because, as I learned after only minutes of playing, The Book of Unwritten Tales is very unique, and a game that most gamers desperately need to play to get a reminder of how seemingly “old school” games can provide some of the freshest experiences around.
The strongest aspect of this game is the way the characters are constructed. The three main characters are Wilbur, a gnome that longs for a life of magic and adventure, Ivo, an elfish Princess and Nathaniel, a narcissistic human adventurer. While these characters seem like generic fantasy fair to begin with, it is through the voice acting that they become fully realized and, dare I say it, some of the most interesting characters in a game released this year.
The voice acting is truly some of the best I have heard in gaming, and really goes a long way in making a seemingly mundane cast of characters come to life. The best voices by far are Wilbur and Nathaniel. Nathaniel’s voices often oozes with narcissism and cockiness, and anyone who isn’t charmed by Wilbur by the end of the game has to have a heart of stone.
Even the NPC’s voice acting is impressive, something even most mainstream games get wrong
As skilled as the voice actors are, the writing they’re given to work with in the game really does take it to the next level. Once again, a seemingly simple and even overdone story regarding magic rings and a war against an army of shadows comes to life thanks to the cleverness of the writing.
The Book of Unwritten Tales is full of little jokes—some of which break the fourth wall—that almost make the game more of a parody of a fantasy story than a fully realized fantasy tale. And you know what? I think the game is better for it.
Not taking itself too seriously makes the story fun instead of an overly seriously fantasy slog. References to Gremlins and Lord of the Rings are a joy to spot, and often went over my head if I wasn’t paying complete attention. Some of the jokes can get rather cheesy, but most made me at least crack a smile.
Unfortunately, as enjoyable as the characters and story of the game are, the gameplay itself is a bit of a mixed bag.
The Book of Unwritten Tales is a tried and true point and click adventure, a genre that hasn’t gotten a whole lot of mainstream attention in years. Multi-layered puzzles and brainteasers make up the bulk of the experience.
When I first started playing the game, I thought that the puzzles were a little on the easy side, but I figured that since it was so early in the game, it would pick up with more difficult challenges. To my disappointment, this never happened. The puzzles consist largely of the “combine these, put this here, move this” variety, and I can say that very few of them presented any real challenge to me. There were a few tricky ones, but even when I figured out the solution it was less of an “aha!” reaction as much as a “seriously?”
In addition, it can be difficult to play this game for exceedingly long play sessions.
Rather, I firmly believe that this game is best played in shorter, hour-long chunks, spread out over the course of a few days or a week. I found that usually one to two hours was long enough for me to feel satisfied playing, and, due to the puzzles, anything beyond that felt like a chore, despite the charming story and characters. Breaking up playtimes made the game infinitely more enjoyable, and is something I would advise other people to try when playing.
Graphically, the game almost reminded me of World of Warcraft—keep in mind this is a three year old game, so the graphics don’t do anything to innovative, but are completely appropriate to the atmosphere King’s Art was trying to create. Colorful, playful and comical, the graphics go a long way in making the game come to life. I should also add that I did not experience any type of clipping or tearing during my time playing the game.
Music wise, although all the selections are great songs, with not a weak one in the bunch, there were very few that really stood out in my mind after playing. There is great usage of “In the Hall of the Mountain King” early in the game, but other than that I can’t really say there are great musical moments.
Not that there is anything wrong with the soundtrack, but an improved selection could have helped this game’s chances of becoming a must play.
So, should you buy The Book of Unwritten Tales when it is released on July 31? I’d say yes.
Despite its shortcomings, I’d say it reminds me of a hybrid of Deadly Premonition and Rayman Origins. Take the compellingly unique story and characters of Deadly Premonition and mix it with the art and style of Rayman Origins, and you get The Book of Unwritten Tales.
In any case, The Book of Unwritten Tales felt like one of the freshest titles I’ve played this year due to how it goes against the grain of the current big budget games, and has a real chance at becoming a cult classic. It certainly does not warrant being overlooked.
A demo is available for download on the game’s official site, and I’d say anyone who enjoys that will enjoy the full game.
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