Over the last few years I’ve really gone off of adventure games. Yeah, I grew up on the likes of Monkey Island and Simon the Sorcerer, but it’s been the big AAA RPG’s and smaller, indie Roguelikes which have been really exciting me lately. However, there have been a few exceptions; mostly coming from Europe, especially Germany, the tradition of old-school, witty Adventure games has been carried on by a minority.
The most notable of these was the brilliant, if flawed “The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief.” A combination of fun puzzles, a gripping story, an Agatha Christie-esque style and a well-executed conclusion cemented it as one of my favourite games of 2013, despite its many technical flaws. The creators, also responsible for the well-loved “Book of Unwritten Tales” and its spin off “The Critter Chronicles”, have shown themselves over the last few years to be masters of the Genre with every game getting better and better. In turn, I’ve grown to respect them as a company trying to improve their craft and recreate the glory days of Adventure gaming.
So when they recently released the long-anticipated full sequel to “The Book of Unwritten Tales”, with a helping hand from some Kickstarter cash, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. And finally, here are my thoughts. Does it measure up to their previous successes, or does it fall flat?
First of all, I’ll be actively avoiding spoilers, so I’ll try to restrict myself to talking about the first 30 minutes of the story, but by god, it’s a cracking first thirty minutes.
The game begins with a well-paced and executed pastiche of the Game of Thrones intro, stopping at various points to introduce the fundamental game mechanics. Afterwards, you’re suddenly thrown into the boots of my favourite main character, Nate, a cocky adventurer, as he falls through the air to his certain doom. What follows is an excellently designed sequence full of mental urgency, but without the need to resort to Quick-Time-Events.
Yep, KING Art hasen’t fallen into the same trap as Telltale. The action works well enough on its own to build a sense of urgency that it doesn’t need to use tropes which we associate with modern Adventure games. Granted, it uses a mainly-mouse based system and looks the part, but there is much more traditional gaming in the package than there is faux-adventure.
However, it doesn’t shy away from modern culture and outside references completely, and in fact, the embracing of said stereotypes works well in its favour. The world could be argued to be constructed from a variety of tropes and stereotypes, sown together well enough as to create a cohesive world. Whilst a Library/Trophy room near the start, full of various gaming references did worry me, the reasons for their inclusion all made sense and were more than just token references. They were witty and fitted well into the fiction; the right type of reference humour.
Now, the arguably most important thing about any adventure game, aside from the puzzles, has to be the story. And well, it’s original enough to stick in your mind whilst not completely jumping the Shark. Within the first half hour, you discover a plot involving betrayal, pregnancy, magic and a gardener’s toilet habits. I can’t think of any other storyline even vaguely relatable to that.
The puzzles themselves are an interesting mix of simple problem solving and off-the-wall, “it makes sense if you know the answer” thinking, sometimes with more than one solution. An example I can think of involves going fishing for a certain crimson fish, and having to improve your skill bit by bit. This can either be done by repeatedly fishing or by searching for other ways to learn the art of angling. I love the fact that there are options, despite one usually seeming to be the more obvious path. The puzzles remain challenging, yet somewhat approachable throughout the adventure, with frustration only creeping in a few times during my time with it.
The overall presentation of the game is something which has obviously benefitted from the added influx of Kickstarter cash and the time since KING Art’s last game. To put it simply, whilst it isn’t a game which will really stretch your PC hardware, it’s still pretty damn beautiful. An added feature is the implementation of dynamic projection mapping, which help to make the whole world feel so much more alive, fluidly shifting viewpoints; a feature we can thank Kickstarter for.
Another element which would not have made the cut if not for Kickstarter is the inclusion of side quests and extra outfits, which are thankfully part of the package. Whilst they aren’t the “be all and end-all”, they’re a nice addition to the list of features.
Finally, the voice acting is once more very good. Some of the vocal work falls a little flat, but overall it’s better than you find in most non-AAA adventure games nowadays, especially in terms of the main cast of playable characters. The background music and general soundscape is also excellent, as can be expected from KING Art following their previous successes.
All in all, I highly recommend giving “The Book of Unwritten Tales 2” a look if you have any interest whatsoever in adventure games, Pratchett-esque humour or just very good stories. It’s well executed, excellently written and just generally a great 20 or so hours of adventure. From the argument with the insecure Genie to Wilbur’s time-travelling antics and beyond, “The Book of Unwritten Tales 2” is a top-notch adventure game which you should pick up without a doubt, despite the odd line of questionable voice-acting.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.