The Book of Unwritten Tales 2

" The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 combines a curious mix of regular fantasy fare and topical black humor."

Since surpassing its Kickstarter goal in March 2014, KING Art Games has been diligently crafting the chapters of The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 with a release set for February 2015. Though I have not played the first iteration of the game, I had the good fortune of previewing a couple of the early access chapters for BoUT2 a while back, and liked it enough to fight all other RPGFan editors for the full game. With endearing characters and sharp, witty humor, it's no wonder that BoUT2's Kickstarter was a resounding success, but does the game fully live up to expectations?

Picking up where the original game left off, BoUT2 opens up with Ivo, the restless elven princess with a helicopter mother who only wants to do what she thinks is best for her daughter. Surprisingly, Nate (the love interest in BoUT) is nowhere in sight, and Ivo has taken ill. Determined to discover the source of her malaise and keen to scratch her adventurous itch, Ivo sets off to Seastone for answers. Meanwhile, Wilbur Weathervane the gnome has been appointed as the first teacher of the reopened School for Wizardry and Witchcraft and has to contend with a haughty and strict schoolmaster. Nate and Critter end up finding themselves in trouble with Nate's arch-nemesis, the Red Pirate, and scheme to escape. The game provides enough back story of the original BoUT for newcomers to proceed smoothly, aside from missing a few lighthearted references to the original. Though it may seem confusing to have so many playable characters, the game does a great job acquainting and endearing the player with each one.

As each protagonist's personal story unfolds, they become increasingly intertwined, and they eventually need to combine their wits and resources to save the world once more. There are a large number of cast members and NPCs, but they all have strong, unique voices that resonate in a world where everyone strives to do what they believe is right. The all have their own aspirations, talents, and flaws, making for realistic personalities. Full of references and witty barbs, BoUT2 wastes no time bouncing between pop culture references, nods toward established games, and satirical black humor that touches upon corruption, racism, segregation, religion, labor exploitation, censorship, and politics. Truly, BoUT2's themes are like the mixed bag of Halloween candy that delights every kid. While the plot does not stray far from the good vs evil tropes often seen in "save the world" scenarios, the varied motivations of Aventásia's denizens provide sufficient depth to consider the majority of the malevolent as misguided. The engaging themes paired with a compelling cast create a refreshing dynamic that livens up the tired story.

As it is in many point-and-click games, control is fairly straightforward for moving and selecting objects. Holding spacebar will display all clickable items and locations on the map, which is handy for finding tiny objects hidden in the background. Players can switch between various available characters like a puzzle-solving tag team by choosing the corresponding portrait on the top left, and each protagonist can contribute differently. These opportunities for switching weave seamlessly into the story arcs and never feel superfluous. The puzzles themselves, however, occasionally falter into random combine-fests, and I frequently felt as if I were chasing after what the developers wanted me to do, which hampered my overall enjoyment of the game. Nonetheless, some clever puzzles exist, and in fact, one of the Kickstarter sidequests is by far my favorite, and how many gamers can say they have a specific favorite puzzle in a point-and-click game, especially one that has no impact on the plot at all?

In line with its numerous characters, the scenery in BoUT2 changes significantly with each location: the utopic Elven lands with lush gardens, the practical trading hub Seastone, the crumbly, web-covered School for Wizardry and Witchcraft, the Red Pirate's island with clay and mud buildings, and the eroded pyramids of Lorem Ipsum buried in sand. They all bear distinct looks with rich coloring and shading, and the forgettable but pleasant background music complements each scene well. Though pretty to look at, the character models suffer from the occasional awkward animation and sometimes interact poorly with the environment. However, the game boasts excellent voice acting for every single dialogue line, which greatly enhances the experience. I often impatiently click through games' spoken dialogue after reading the subtitles, but for BoUT2, the dialogue options imply what the character might say or is thinking, and those implications are open to interpretation. Thus, a character's speech frequently diverges far from the option chosen — a double-edged sword, as I like the anticipation enticing me to listen, yet at times I am confounded by the words coming out of a character's mouth. Even so, fret not, as dialogue choices have absolutely no bearing on the tale's outcome, but merely play an effective role in showcasing the compelling personalities.

Amusing while thought provoking, The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 combines a curious mix of regular fantasy fare and topical black humor that often had me reflecting on current affairs and humanity. With engaging and believable protagonists, whimsical landscapes, and delightful voice acting to complement the shrewd writing, there's little left to nitpick but the mediocre puzzles, predictable plot, and occasional graphical hiccups. Now, I just need to get my hands on the first game and start throwing money at my screen while waiting for the next sequel to arrive.


© 2015 Nordic Games, King Art. All rights reserved.

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