There are some videogame worlds where I want to explore without some bloodthirsty creature or ruthless monster trying to kill me. Sometimes I’m down for fisticuffs, but there are times where I just want to wander around and take it all in. I just want to traverse The Witcher 3’s Novigrad, collecting herbs and picking plants, without a ferocious wolf trying to gnaw my arm off. It’s the reason why I often switch on an invincibility mod for Hollow Knight, I want to truly sink into the dark undergrowth of Hallownest and wander around taking in the game’s beautiful subterranean world. I want to give the ambience my full attention and just have a good ol’ meander.
Might and Delight’s upcoming RPG, Book of Travels, takes this wanderer philosophy to heart. It’s an upcoming online adventure game currently in the middle of its Kickstarter campaign that is self-described as a "collaborative and friendly roleplaying experience." Book of Travels is unique in that there are no linear quests or overarching storyline, players are free to explore the handcrafted world of Braided Shore at their own pace. Might and Delight describe it as a TMO, a tiny multiplayer online game, that focuses on emotion, exploration and companionship, two themes that the studio in more than familiar with.
"Making the Shelter games taught us how to evoke strong emotions and to make simple things 'matter' to players, aspects that I think are perfect to bring into the RPG genre" Might and Delight’s art director, Jakob Tuchten explains. "We felt that we had stumbled upon many unique and interesting multiplayer mechanics that seemed to make people interact and roleplay in really friendly and creative ways, mechanics that we wanted to develop further."
Might and Delight’s games are great at creating meaningful ways of communicating without using any words or dialogue. Creating companionship through wordless interactions has always been a key theme: the unspoken bond between an animal mother and her cubs in the Shelter games, the friendship between a bear and a lynx cub in Paws, and Tiny Echo’s silent spirit delivering mail to a small forest community.
This thread is also part of Book of Travels. When you cross path with another online player, you can only communicate through symbols and emotes. It’s an idea that the studio had explored in their first MMO, Meadow, and it has created some surprising and meaningful player bonds.
You don’t have to buddy up with other travellers though, Book of Travels lets you be a lone wolf if you want. You can go off and have your own adventure, following story leads and uncovering mysteries on your own. There is a wealth of lore under Book of Travels fairytale surface, and one which you can choose to delve into.
"The biggest for me personally is that we have developed a game design surrounding roleplaying freedom," Tuchten says. "This means that you can tailor your character, your skills and abilities to match how you want to play. Because of the game's open-ended design, you’re not forced to be a hero which to us makes the roleplay aspects so much greater."
Book of Travels does have some traditional RPG elements. You can create your own wanderer character including their star sign, backstory, and personality traits and there are also parts of the game that let you gather resources, craft items, and learn special abilities. You can be a carefree wanderer driven by adventure, a self-proclaimed historian seeking to discover Braided Shore’s past, or a mysterious cloaked nomad with a knack for brewing magical teas.
There is some aspect of combat in the game but, the Steam page warns, "battles can be rewarding, but you will learn more in defeat than victory." Like a true wanderer, there are no essential missions or game set goals, you just let your curiosity guide you.
"We have completely flipped the script on the linear quest-lines and A to B narratives," Tuchten says. "Our world is based on finding small bits and pieces and putting together a puzzle of underlying narratives. If you choose to, there is a vast world of stories that you can unfold. But again—this is done so that you have to take the initiative, dig for clues and decide what leads to follow. We believe that this will be so much stronger than spoon-feeding players with a storyline and forcing them to be the protagonist regardless if it fits their character’s personality or not."
Book of Travels has taken traditional aspects of online RPGs and reimagined them in a very Might and Delight way. Judging on the overwhelming success of their on-going Kickstarter campaign, both fans and those not familiar with the studio’s work have been spellbound by the strange, whimsical idea of a serene RPG.
"We are completely blown away!" Tuchten says. "Not primarily because we exceeded the financial goal, but because of the community we are building together with fans. The response has been amazing and the overall tone in the feedback, discussions and communications all tell us that people truly understand what we are trying to do and are excited about being a part of it! We all feel like this game can become something really special!"
The amount of support and discussions from the campaign, it’s clear that there are players who want this specific game experience and I am certainly one of them. It’s not often that a game gives you the option to embody the character of a wanderer and, from all the information on the Kickstarter page and Steam page, Might and Delight seem to have captured the curiosity and thoughtfulness that makes the wanderer character special.
Book of Travels is currently in the middle of its campaign, so if this whimsical TMO RPG sounds like your type of herbal tea then make sure to check out their Kickstarter page.