The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 avoids the all-in-one anathema infecting today’s games. Crowdfunding and the Steam revolution empower indie studios to create, unburdened by typical limitations. Publisher Nordic Games already backed German developer, KING Art. KickStarter assistance enabled them to expand their boundaries, boosting production value without sacrificing storytelling or length. This latest Early Access release is a follow-up to the award-winning 2009 point-and-click adventure. KING Art honors the niche title by averting trendy features for nothing but the good stuff.
Unwritten Tales sources everything from Batman to My Little Pony while remaining self-aware. Returning leads, Princess Ivodora, Wilbur Weathervane, Nate and his Critter wreck Aventásia’s fourth wall beyond recognition. Shared on a chapter-by-chapter schedule until its slated January 2015 release, it is shaping up to be everything fans of the former could want, without falling prey to the pitfalls of most sequels. Familiar faces appeal to fans through an established but enhanced formula with just enough fresh perspective.
"Unwritten Tales sources everything from Batman to My Little Pony while remaining self-aware."
Without knowing The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 was an Early Access title, I would think it was adopting the episodic format, because it feels complete. Aside from a fleeting issue with the manual save function, I encountered no bugs during my playthrough of the first two chapters. That’s unlikely for the majority of published games. The team has been responding to player feedback with detailed progress journals and patch fixes. Consequently, the build I accessed benefits from these refinements. A recent update included the newly recorded orchestral score, product of a KickStarter reach goal, straight from Prague to the sound-waves saturating my headphones. The musical upgrade increased the cinematic factor tenfold.
"This new entry better incorporates multiple objectives, by taking its time introducing characters, interactive objects and side quests."
Rugged sky pirate Nate, who is more TaleSpin than steampunk, accompanies the player through a brief tutorial, although the controls are simple, standard and intuitive enough to pick up regardless. The minimal interface now incorporates a much needed menu icon next to the satchel summoning the inventory. Windowed mode has been added. Improved text rendering, helped in part by the increased resolution, makes subtitles easier to follow. The “peek” feature returns, saving players from pixel hunt woes by revealing clickable areas when hitting the spacebar.
Less than halfway into the narrative, Unwritten Tales instills a sense of progression. This new entry better incorporates multiple objectives, by taking its time introducing characters, interactive objects and side quests. Player choice scales from a handful of options to staggering freedom. The sequences in the Silver Forest Realm meander, encouraging one to drink in the scenery as they acclimate. Ivo, now sporting less hair and more clothing, concerns herself with tamer troubles. Her Princess problems escalate from lamenting unwelcome weight gain to catching the mysterious force unhinging the kingdom.
"Dynamic lighting produces theatrical presence with ease. Backdrops experiment with distorted perspective to utilize the fixed camera. Animated elements move through environments exposing depth."
This second entry captures the spirit of the original, enclosed in a few layers of cartoonish abstraction. The surreal preference reflects confidence in the game’s visual style. Brighter colors and amplified expressions better suit the comical tone. The artists have rendered every polygon with pictorial flare. Dynamic lighting produces theatrical presence with ease. Backdrops experiment with distorted perspective to utilize the fixed camera. Animated elements move through environments exposing depth. And these enhancements are crystal clear thanks to well crafted high-resolution textures.
"Pop culture references spanning decades of source material assimilate into the game’s identity."
Unwritten Tales parodies everything under the umbrella of fantasy. Critics and fans praised the original title’s sense of humor, and the sequel entertains without disappointment. Though seasoned nerds will relish recognizing the obscure, blunt allusions manage to be self-contained. Pop culture references spanning decades of source material assimilate into the game’s identity. An entire character’s conflict is steeped in Harry Potter lore, with the same emphasis the first game had on Lord of the Rings. (The game still includes plenty of nods to Middle Earth.) Familiarity with the fandom sent me to the moon, but I imagine I would have enjoyed it otherwise. The characters made me laugh, whether or not I recognized a reference.
Talented voice actors backed by strong writing bring this world to life. KING Art, already known for the extensive amount of dialogue in their earlier efforts, has recorded a staggering number of lines for this upcoming release. I listened to Ivo seek her father’s eccentric wisdom ad nauseam without hearing a repeated phrase. Whenever possible, I exhausted dialogue options because I enjoyed listening to the characters.
"If their completed sequel is on par with what I have sampled, The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 is sure to become a modern classic."
Playing The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 awakened a fervor to thumb through already dog-eared copies of Harry Potter while streaming Joss Whedon’s collective series. On a relevant note, I want to play adventure games again. Previous disinterest cultivated after consuming too many boring and identical experiences. Early Access titles have earned an unsavory reputation. Developers release broken games barely out of Alpha into the wild. KING Art has renewed my trust in both the point and click genre and the efficacy of Early Access. Here, the system rewards invested fans with a first look. It elicits their help by requesting feedback when it can be actively applied. KING Art already proved their merit with The Book of Unwritten Tales. If their completed sequel is on par with what I have sampled, The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 is sure to become a modern classic.
Preview by: Ameenah Salamunic