Book of Travels Preview: A Blank Slate

Set your sights on finding your way in the Braided Shore in Book of Travels. An ambitious new role-playing adventure built for those with a penchant for beautiful storybook worlds and building stories, the game promises an interesting exploration and social experience.

Swedish studio Might and Delight are best known for their work on the Shelter trilogy. Their most recent venture is an ambitious and whimsical spin on the MMO genre. Bringing a magical world for the most active digital social age to traverse is an interesting “living project” that will change and grow around the player community. Given their experience in bringing together emotional narratives and the beauty of nature as seen in their game portfolio, many players are keen to dip into the waters of The Braided Shore.

Book of Travels introduction: The Early Access Journey | New Multiplayer Online RPG on Steam 2021

Book of Travels is available for PC and Mac on Steam for your regional pricing.

Story – Forge Your Path, Traveler

Building your character in the world of Book of Travels is a fun experience. You are given a nice selection of character archetypes and origins to choose from. True to TTRPG fashion, you’re encouraged to delve in a little deeper about your character’s history before you even launch yourself in the game, emphasizing the role-playing strengths of the game. It even has a perks and flaws system which, even if not fully implemented into the game, makes for a really rich customization for background and story-telling.

Choose, build, and become your character!

Choose, build, and become your character!

Book of Travels has more akin to a tabletop RPG session rather than a first-person action-adventure game. For those who love the emotional investment of creating a character and a story for long-winded adventure sessions, this game might be a really good fit. The lore and worldbuilding surrounding the Braided Shore, and the unexplained nature of a lot of things about the setting, is ripe for theories and side-stories. I can imagine those who are inspired by the aesthetics of Book of Travels to be really engrossed at explaining every part of the game and connecting the dots with their fellow players.

I’m not the type of person who invests into creating a character and a story for a person, so I knew that this game wasn’t particularly for me. Still, the experience was unique enough for me to earnestly climb though and discover as much of the world as I can. There’s always something to see and think about as you progress through the world, with people living their own lives and schedules within it.

Random encounters will make you wonder about the stories behind them

Random encounters will make you wonder about the stories behind them

The earthy aesthetics and writing did grab my attention, however. I’m interested in how the developers will continually add onto the game. They have stated the importance of listening to player feedback, and their constant updates in their first month of operations is pretty impressive and encouraging for those who fell in love with the Braided Shore from the beginning.

Gameplay – Slow and Steady

The main point of this game is exploration, which could easily be felt by the sweeping green fields and fellow travelers living their own lives, making their way down the roads. The world is wide and beautiful, but it’s not as endless as you might believe in the first few hours of gaming, because you’ll start to become familiar with the map after a while.

Pay close attention and whip out your notes.

Pay close attention and whip out your notes.

A large part of the gameplay is also building your character. This includes your inventory (clothes and weapons you wear) and skills. The skills are quite helpful to the character’s survival and general quality-of-life within the world. There’s the skills built into your starting character, and you can purchase and learn more along the way. Different effects, like being hurt or soaking wet also have their little effects on the game, making players more aware of how their interact with the environment. 

Favors you run for NPCs scattered across the world also constitute as quests. There’s quite a few NPCs with something to say to you, and even hand out items and messages typical of fetch quests in RPGs. The game warns you to grab a pen and paper, and you will really need it to get anything done or discovered in the game! Characters will hand you instructions, directions, and other tidbits, and the game won’t log these quests in a journal or provide waypoints. I think that this is one strength of the game, and it successfully invites the “survival traveler” mode in players instead of expecting hand-hold-y and boring encounters in the overworld.

I’ve only experienced a couple of combat encounters in the whole game. One was notably on the very first section of my adventure, and cost me a “Leaf”. This is also a game that takes Permadeath seriously, turning your character into a literal ghost should you lose your life. It’s pretty easy to create a new character and a new persona, so it’s not a huge loss, unless you’ve made a lot of progress on your first account. It’s pretty easy to die as well, since weapons are costly and you might take a while finding a sword in the overworld, and then training on using said sword. (Note that the developers have since removed permadeath as a non-permanent change, and its inclusion will be determined through further development of the game).

Round up six other strangers or friends to help with this puzzle.

Round up six other strangers or friends to help with this puzzle.

During my whole run, I only encountered another player once, and I think they turned down my request to travel together, ouch. I tried to switch around servers to try my luck and connect with more people. I was really excited to use the cute emoticons that can flash in lieu of conversation, which I think is a really cool limited communication idea, like in Journey. I think the current chances for running into strangers in this large world are pretty slim. It would be best to gather a bunch of friends to play together, so that you can accomplish more of the puzzles within the game.

Audio and Graphics – Storybook Beauty

I’m not going to lie – the main pull of this game for me was the beautiful graphics and environment that you get to explore. The watercolor scenes and great emphasis on nature and tea offer the game a more calming vibe, at least in the daytime and when you’re close to civilization. At night, the atmosphere is still gentle, but there’s a sinister vibe that creeps into the darkness, too.

Lively towns capture the sights, sounds, and feel of a busy shopping day.

Lively towns capture the sights, sounds, and feel of a busy shopping day.

The art in itself makes you wonder about the edges of the world. The sights are always changing and developing into interesting landscapes. Almost every screen has their unique look, different enough to be recognizable, but seamlessly connects the whole Braided Shore, making it a much more believable experience. As I played on, the landscapes started to become more and more familiar. Using the different methods of getting around – on foot, on the train, and so on – could be tiresome at times, but really honed in on the travel aspect of the game.

The ambiance that the game delivers is incredible. The music crescendos and fades away at nice times. Environmental noise is not distracting and makes the experience more immersive. I especially liked the noise in towns. You can catch bits of conversation and the sound effects of everyday life, filling these spaces in an otherwise empty world with life.

Book of Travels was reviewed on PC with a key provided by Evolve PR.

Summary
Book of Travels, in its current state, is enough to pull you in for a few hours and aimlessly explore - an experience that appeals to many players. The beautiful graphics and incredible fleshed out world map is easy to get lost in. However, as the game is still subject to a lot of upgrades, the current build is recommended for those who want to take a dip in the waters. It's a bit too rough of a product to recommend to those with only a passing interest in slow, observation-oriented games. There are certain personalities who will really immerse themselves in this world, and while that audience may not be as wide, they will find lots to like in this experience, especially if they intend to play with friends. I look forward to where the developers will be able to take this game, as the ideas are well-fleshed out and the execution, promising.
Good
  • Gorgeous illustrated world
  • Great attention to detail in the character and environment interaction
Bad
  • Still rough around the edges
  • Bugs and missing content get in the way of the experience
  • Still not very interesting to passing players

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