Posted on August 1, 2012 AT 02:52pm
The Book of Unwritten Tales is a classic adventure tale that manages to rise above the usual tropes involving elves, gnomes, dwarves and more to deliver a fantastic story. Despite the game being mired in clichéd moments and setups, the extraordinary art direction and clever writing and excellent translation (for the most part) make this game feel like a breath of fresh air in a very tired setting and genre. Can The Book of Unwritten Tales rise above the common pitfalls of the adventure game genre, or is this another entry in a genre that relies too much on nonsensical item combinations and oblique puzzles?
Mortimer McGuffin is a Gremlin, and is the caretaker of an artifact that could determine what fate is in store for the rest of the world. However, the Army of Shadows is on to Mortimer, and abduct him in the introduction of the game. You then take control of Ivodora, an elf princess who witnessed the abduction and manages to set Mortimer free by dropping his cage off of the Army of Shadows’ getaway vehicle, a dragon. The stage is set from there, giving you control of 3 separate characters in the beginning whose paths intersect from time to time, incorporating co-operation between the characters and their abilities.
It would be a crime to not mention one of the characters in greater detail; Wilbur Weathervane is a delightful Gnome who has an eccentric family and much like Bilbo Baggins in the Hobbit, has a heart that desires adventure more than tinkering with machines and other Gnomish pursuits. Wilbur’s interactions with other characters is some of the best content I’ve seen in this game, letting his personality shine through as one of the more well-written characters in Book of Unwritten Tales. Wilbur and the rest of the cast are all used in wonderful ways, but Wilbur easily steals the show by being one of the most enjoyable personalities no matter what situation he’s stumbled onto.
As you make your way from area to area, you’ll find that each location is memorable and packed with detail; this is not a criticism, but instead an enormous compliment as it takes an excellent artist to create a detailed adventure game that not only looks good, but packs in detail without looking too busy or noisy. The visuals in Book of Unwritten Tales are nearly as powerful as the characters, serving their purpose at setting the stage for each area and, as is often the case with adventure games, giving you plenty of room to explore, click, and listen to what each character has to say. The game uses a blend of 2d background with 3d objects, and the fidelity of the 3d objects keeps the game from having items or people that look like they stand out from the backgrounds. Instead, the characters and items and animated areas look like they fit, especially when standing still.
Whereas the characters and story of Book of Unwritten Tales are strong, it still has the typical point-and-click adventure game stigma to overcome. Unfortunately, the gameplay itself is very pedestrian and expected from the genre, though nothing is too far of a leap of logic to accomplish until you near the end of the game. Adventure games are usually criticized for having you combine or use items in unconventional or unusual ways, and Book of Unwritten Tales differs only by making plenty of sense for the first half of the game. As you approach the climax, however, either the logic is too convoluted to make sense of the puzzles or it may be a translation issue from its native German story and the gameplay ends up suspect. These problems aren’t enough to negatively impact the game in any meaningful way, however, and are easily overlooked thanks to the characters, story, and art.
The Book of Unwritten Tales is a pleasant, whimsical jaunt back to the glory days of adventure games, packed full of experiences and characters who remind us why we enjoyed adventure games in the first place. Despite the archaic gameplay design, Book of Unwritten Tales manages to weave an interesting story full of refreshingly presented casual fantasy tropes and mechanics around it, turning an old and plain system into one that doesn’t warrant a second thought as you play. Fans of adventure games and fantasy stories will find a lot to love about the Book of Unwritten Tales–and so will anyone who picks this game up.
The Book of Unwritten Tales is available at gog.com, from Steam, and other electronic delivery storefronts for $19.99.
- THE GOOD: Gorgeous visuals, fantastic characters, and a truly interesting story
- THE BAD: Leaps of logic rear their head occasionally, causing confusion
- THE UGLY: Mortimer’s dirty red underwear.
SCORE: 9 out of 10
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