Journey captured the hearts of its players when it released nearly a decade ago. This adventure game created relationships between two gamers without the need for words. Through non-verbal communication, players were able to overcome all manner of obstacles. If that type of experience resonated with you as it did with many others, Book of Travels feels like the next iteration on this concept.
Fancying itself as a TMO (tiny multiplayer online), Book of Travels throws a handful of individuals into its vast world. Will you meet? What will you accomplish together? What mysteries might you discover? These are the questions I faced in my time with Book of Travels. It's funny, I'm not one for creating relationships with random players I've never met before -- I'm more inclined to do my own thing. Yet, Book of Travels somehow managed to make me feel, even for a few fleeting moments, that I was on a nice adventure with friends.
Growing Pains in Book of Travels
I'm going to halt my praise for Book of Travels to address some important issues -- issues that are not unexpected for a title in Early Access. It should be noted that although Book of Travels is a smaller multiplayer experience, it seems to face similar growing pains that new MMOs often face. During my playtime, there were a limited number of players restricted to press and Kickstarter backers. Despite the smaller population of players, for several days Book of Travels was completely inaccessible. Servers weren't up -- not a single one. This is not to say that the official launch will have server issues, but it's important to temper expectations. This is a multiplayer game, so on launch, you might come across similar issues.
Another issue with servers: by default, players are thrown into European servers. When you start up your experience, you'll want to make sure you choose the proper region. I started a character on a European server without even realizing it. When I switched to United States servers, I had to restart my character. You'll also have to make sure you choose the proper server every single time you boot up Book of Travels. Every time you try to log in, the European region is chosen automatically. At a bare minimum, it should save your server preference.
You also have to create your own account for Book of Travels. This is not unexpected for a multiplayer game; however, I would expect the ability to use your Steam login information instead. That's not implemented, although it would make it a lot easier to get into the game. Right now, it's one other password that you have to remember. Outside of account issues, Book of Travels has some concerning optimization problems. In some areas, I would get only 30 FPS, although the system requirements are low and my PC far outclasses what is required. Other areas run upwards of 144 frames per second, so it's a mixed bag what you're going to get.
Book of Travels' Wanderlust
Enough gripes, though. Book of Travels is a legitimately engrossing game. It all begins with character customization, which so far is quite impressive. You first begin by choosing a form, which is like your archetype. This determines what your player appearance is. Then you can input your background, personality, starting equipment, and more. Character creation focuses less on outward appearance and more about who your character is as a person. This is important because players can't communicate verbally. My only gripe with character creation is that first and last names are determined by a dice roll. These rolls are infinite, but I'd rather either choose from a list to see all the options or make my own name. Then again, this avoids the issue of running into some immersion-breaking schmuck like "xXXEdgelordXXx" or what have you.
After character creation, Book of Travels throws you into a server with up to seven other people, and really, there is no goal. What you want to do is all up to you. More areas will be added in later updates, but for now, there's a sizable amount for players to explore. There are different areas you can explore on the map separated by loading screens, and these areas have all kinds of things to discover. There are NPCs to talk to, objects to interact with, materials to scavenge, and more.
To faithfully live up to the backstory of my character, I created my own goal. I wanted to become a spellcaster and discover knot patterns. You see, knots of rope are tied to bind a spell and then are untied to release the incantation. It's a unique idea for a spell system and one that I wanted to learn more about. My journey took me far and wide across the land as I spoke to various NPCs, each with a new story to tell.
Eventually, I found a fellow player that I decided to communicate with. Through the use of non-verbal symbols provided in the game, we were able to convey meaning to each other. An icon of my character waving, for instance, meant I was interested in talking. And this player, I could tell, wanted to show me something. They shot fireworks out of their hands like magic and conjured a light that would follow them around. This was the magic I wanted to find. Though I departed, I knew these knot patterns were out there somewhere, so my journey continued.
I managed to find the spells I was seeking, though I had to journey far and wide before I found a merchant on an island accessible only by ferry. Through trading, I was able to acquire such knot patterns and learn them myself. I even bought the same spells that my friend I found was casting. Trading is an interesting feature in Book of Travels. Rather than using a money system, value is determined by the items you carry. Items carry a non-monetary, and certain items are more valuable than others. I had to trade a lot of fish and other doodads I've found on my journey, but I feel like it was well worth my time.
It's adventures like these that really sold me on the concept of Book of Travels. With no set goal, the world is your oyster. I would, at some point, like to find a group of individuals and discover more of the secrets that Book of Travels offers. Maybe I'll even dabble in the art of tea brewing. There are also various objects you can interact with within areas around the map that require teamwork. This can be hard to facilitate non-verbally, but developer Might and Delight offer the tools to make this possible.
Book of Travels is a Totally Unique Experience
There's traditional MMO gameplay like leveling up and allocating points to learn new skills -- skills like the magic I mentioned, for instance. Other than that, though, I haven't played many games quite like Book of Travels, with its incredible worldbuilding and lack of direction. It is this lack of direction that makes this game feel like uncharted waters for the MMO sphere. And moreover, it boasts a visual style the likes of which I've never seen. It's as though you're exploring a living illustration. It is heavily influenced by Asian culture, it seems, and the music has that cultural zing to it as well. A lot of my pleasure from Book of Travels stemmed from just seeing the world, learning more about it, and relaxing to the music.
Might and Delight is definitely attempting to create a game with a lot of experimental and risky features. But so far I truly believe these risks are paying off. Book of Travels might not have an endgame objective, but the freedom of choice means you're not going to run out of things to do for a long time, even in Early Access. I believe there is much more for me to discover, and that my journey has only just begun. If Might and Delight can iron out some Early Access woes, we have a truly special game on our hands.
TechRaptor previewed Book of Travels on PC via Steam using a preview code provided by the developer. The game is set to launch in Early Access on October 11, 2021.