Independent games always surprise me - not because they are always amazing, but because they always come up with something new. And that’s heartening, even if it's just a new take on an old format.
The Book of Unwritten Tales, by German Developer King Art, is based on a style that’s as old as they come. Point and click adventure gaming was once the staple of the PC gaming genre, so it's great to see independent developers returning to old roots.
For those of you who have played adventure style games before, the action will be very familiar. These titles are ones that make you think. There are no adrenalin inducing camera angles, no multiplayer flick shots, and no one blows up the Eiffel tower. And as odd as it might be to comprehend, some gamers are into that.
Unwritten Tales does little to deviate from the point, click, think style of play - but that doesn’t mean it's rote. What makes it interesting, innovative, and engaging is not its mechanic, but its charm.
Set in a fantasy world, where a seemingly never-ending war is raging between evil monsters and valiant souls, you are tasked with directing three heroes to bring a resolution to the conflict; Ivo the elven princess, Wilbur the Gnome, and nathaniel the brash human adventurer. They are tasked with returning a magical ring, given to Wilbur by a gremlin archaeologist, and saving the day for everybody.
When written down on paper, the storyline and characters all sound a bit naff. And in a way they are, but the beauty of this title is that King Art knows that they are and, with tongue in cheek, they exploit it to great effect.
Mostly this is done through fantastic characterisation. The voice actors and script writers who have leant their craft to Unwritten Tales deserve a special round of applause - their characters hum with vim and verve. And thank goodness for that, voice acting can make or break a title at the best of times, but for point and click adventure games (where the narrative and immersion is created almost entirely through dialogue) it's absolutely vital. With one or two minor exceptions, King Art get it right.
But there are places where marks must be deducted. Visually, Unwritten Tales’ gameplay is stylish and quirky. Its mise en scene is well designed, and well rendered, and the set pieces that your characters fumble around in work well with the story. But the same can’t be said for the cutscenes, they are blurring, outdated, and were it not for the dialogue, they’d be very disappointing. This is frustrating, as so much of the game’s meta-story is set up by these events and their sharp shift in quality pulls you out of the game. Structurally, Unwritten Tales could do with an edit; it's a little slow to get going, but once it does it hooks you in.
Overall The Book of Unwritten Tales is a solid, engaging, and charming adventure title. Fans of the genre would do well to pick it up and ponder its secrets. Independent developers deserve our continued support, and sometimes that means rewarding them for dusting off old recipes, and cooking them well.