What the hell was I doing in 2009? Am I five years too late?
The Book of Unwritten Tales is an old-school fashioned point-and-click (P&C) adventure which essentially catches you off guard right from the beginning. As the story unfolds from a simple quest in finding and retrieving a secret powerful artefact before the forces of evil in the vein of The Lord of The Rings, its strong and well-written narrative creates this deep and intriguing light-hearted story that always makes you wonder what is going to happen just around the corner. Not only that, but as the story progresses in its artistically breathtaking environments, it genuinely gets better and better throughout its impressively 17+ hours long story. While admittedly it is not the most original story on the surface and some of the animations can break the immersion at times, its rock-solid narration easily makes up for them.
To my surprise, the game features some of the best memorable and likeable casts I have seen in a very long time, with plenty of exceptionally written witty humour which mocks (and pays tribute to) almost every single fantasy and video game trope out there, enough for a handful of genuine laugh-out-loud moments. Whether it is J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels or World of Warcraft, you name it -- the game most likely covers it somewhere. Imposingly, the cast also features excellent voice acting accompanied by a fitting soundtrack when, well, when it feels like playing a soundtrack.
What has kept this generation from embracing P&C nowadays could be partially blamed at the inconsistent difficulty-curve caused by illogical and lack of inspiring puzzles in similar games, but The Book of Unwritten Tales fixes almost all of that. The puzzles here are logical and generally easy to solve throughout the game since it encourages you to explore all the hotspots without the game holding your hand along the way. Apart from the second last chapter in particular, the puzzles here should be solved by literally anyone who is willing to explore every single detail out there, and this game has an abundance of small, yet rich, details in places. Plus, there are plenty of interesting (and humorous) dialogues and the hotspots are indeed descriptive. More importantly, there is a constant flow of momentum when solving the puzzles, something I have not seen in many games like this in years, and that is brilliant. There is never that fear of being punished and getting stuck for long periods of time for a poorly implemented puzzle. To my enjoyment, a few of the puzzles were rather genially designed thanks to a character-selection mechanic which allows the player to pick which character they want to perform certain tasks. While most of it comes down ultimately to a specific character being able to perform the certain task, it is a satisfying experience to see everyone working as a group to solve a puzzle, although I strongly feel like this is where the game missed an opportunity to expand on this mechanic.
Just when the game seems to hit the nail on the head in every single aspect of a classic P&C adventure game (and beyond?), it drops the ball really heavily just at the end in one of the most abrupt endings I have seen since Dreamfall, without any sense of climactic fulfilment. It is clear that the ending was left open for a sequel, yet it was poorly executed -- causing more questions than answers. The last five minutes, including the final cutscene, felt more like the developers ran out of time and had to release the game as soon as possible, with little time spent on writing a conclusive and plausible ending. It painfully feels like the story ends halfway through the chapter, subconsciously knowing there has to be more. It is rather sad because everything up to this point was meticulously and well executed. You would honestly be surprised by how such ending can instantly change you from an enthralling mood to a pokerface the moment you see the credits rolling. That was very, I repeat, vey underwhelming.
Conclusively, The Book of Unwritten Tales is the closest thing to a Monkey Island experience in my book. While it does not blatantly rely on nostalgia and references from past classics to suck you in, in fact, it does have its own charming personality. It basically takes almost everything that worked in the past and improves it, or more fittingly modernising the formula, while still keeping that old-school feel of the golden-era of LucasArts/Sierra games and at least trying to break the status quo set by those classics. I can easily say that this is one the best accomplished modern adventure games I have ever played in a very long time and can also say that it will stand the test of time as far as P&C games are concerned. It just falls slightly short from a masterpiece status thanks to its unjustified ending, but The Book of Unwritten Tales is a prime example of how P&C should be tackled for new and old audiences in times like these where military shooters and other saturated AAA-titles seem to take the spotlight in the media. There is more passion and product value in this than in many titles out there and I am glad I actually got to play this, eventually. What an unforgettable and delightful experience all around.
Like I said earlier, what the hell was I doing in 2009? I shall not repeat the same mistake in 2015 when the sequel will be released.