Nanotale – Typing Chronicles is a game that uses a fascinating blend of genres. Primarily a typing game, the idea is enhanced by strong exploration and RPG elements. Fishing Cactus both developed and publishes the game, which is a follow-up to its previous typing game Epistory. For full transparency, I haven’t played Episotry, so it’s unclear to me if this is a direct sequel. The two share many elements, but I thought Nanotale worked just fine as a standalone game.
Nanotale – Typing Chronicles is available via Steam for your regional pricing.
Story – A Game That Writes Its Self
An opening cutscene introduces us to Roseland, a budding archivist who is naturally talented at magic. She’s excited to go out in the real woods for the first time to take notes about her surroundings. But on her journey, she’s whisked away by the spirit of a fox. In order to save the communities she encounters, she’ll have to harness her gift for magic. This is the basic story we experience in Nanotale, but it’s also just the tip of the iceberg.
Roseland’s role as an archivist taking notes gives a strong justification to the typing controls of the game. It unifies the narrative and gameplay. Further unification takes place in the tutorial, where her teacher instructs her how to take notes while educating the player how typing will affect their surroundings. I felt that the introduction to the world we’re exploring was handled very well. By hearing the notes the protagonist takes during this segment, the exposition doesn’t feel forced.
Once the tutorial ends, though, our new goal is hard to discern. I felt lost for a while, wondering where I was supposed to go and why. The longer the game goes on, the more we learn about the full story and Roseland’s place in it. But it took a bit too long for my liking to understand what the real narrative is. However, I didn’t necessarily mind not knowing. The exploration was fun on its own and cataloging the various plants and animals gave me some direction. The more we catalogue, the more the world around us forms, and worldbuilding can be just as important as the events taking place.
Gameplay – Get Those Fingers Moving
The gameplay in Nanotale is interesting. It’s one of the rare games that integrate typing with combat and exploration. Whenever you want to interact with something, you will see a word appear above it. For example, in combat, each enemy has its own word. To damage the enemy, you have to type whatever their word might be. In tight combat situations, this can get pretty difficult as more and more foes swarm towards you. Outside of combat, you can interact with different parts of the environment in order to use your magic. This might help you solve puzzles or reach difficult areas.
Perhaps the best use of this kind of interaction is the magic system. Throughout the game, you can unlock different types of magic, like fire to damage enemies or ice to change up the terrain. But you can also unlock different modifiers to change the way the spell acts. My favorite was the ‘beam’ modifier which causes your spell to form a straight line, enhancing accuracy. There are also words to alter how long your spell lasts, how powerful it is, and its area of effect. Of course, to use spells and modifiers, you have to type them out, then type the target location. Experimenting with each new type of magic was by far my favorite part of the game.
Of course, nothing is perfect. The game seemed locked behind excruciating load times. Even once the areas had loaded, I still encountered a good amount of lag. When that happened during combat segments, it was particularly frustrating. Potentially more frustrating, the intended control scheme mentioned in the tutorial uses the ESDF keys to move. I’ve never seen those buttons used for movement. Being forced to play that way would have been very off-putting. Thankfully the arrow keys work as well.
The worst part are the bugs I had to put up with. On one occasion, my movement locked completely, forcing me back to the title screen. Other times I phased through the floor and fell to my death. Both times I respawned exactly where I was when the issue happened. So I didn’t lose much to the glitches.
Graphics and Audio – Looks Like a Book, and Sounds Like One Too
Nanotale’s art style is reminiscent of a storybook. The models are fairly simple, but the textures have a strong art direction. They’re very detailed, even though they often seem like simple gradients. That feel gave the game just the extra touch it needed. A word-heavy game can turn some players away. Because of the storybook style, Nanotale sets itself apart to avoid that risk.
The music, though, is tougher to praise. I’ll start by mentioning that the battle music played during fights is perfect. The intensity got my heart pumping and made me feel like part of the action. This is why it’s so disappointing that the rest of the tunes aren’t the same quality. It’s usually the standard atmospheric soundtrack, but there were a few times I couldn’t hear any backtracking at all. I’m hoping that was a bug and not intended. Either way, it felt eerie seeing the game playout to complete silence.
Audio direction does pay good attention to detail though. The atmospheric backgrounds always fit the scenery well, and Roseland’s footsteps have a matching sound effect. When walking on sand, grass, or rock, you can tell the difference. Though the footsteps are a little too noticeable given the lackluster backtracking.
Nanotale – Typing Chronicles was reviewed on PC with a key provided by Plan of Attack.