There may be a few more weeks to go before 2019 ends, but it’s a pretty safe bet what my game-of-the-year will be. Unless something comes along next month and absolutely blows me away, Eastshade by Eastshade Studios is the title which is now on my favourites list.
It’s one of the most beautiful releases I’ve ever played, both in terms of feeling and artwork. Imagine picking up an open-world RPG where you can meet colourful characters, do your bit to help them and take in wonderful scenery but without any enemies or fighting to put you on guard. This lack of action won’t appeal to all gamers but for those looking for a calming experience, it means you can fully absorb its atmosphere and bask in Eastshade’s rosy glow.
It was bittersweet when the end credits rolled because I just didn’t want to leave and I’ve been looking for a game with similar feels since. So when I received an email this month about the Kickstarter campaign for Book of Travels, it seemed like just the thing I’d been waiting for. Shelter and Meadow developer Might and Delight is advertising its new project as a ‘serene online RPG’, and there’s something about the description on the Steam page that makes me think of Eastshade.
I’d normally begin posts like this with a description of the title’s storyline but Book of Travels is somewhat unique. As art director and co-founder Jakob Tuchten said himself in the promotional video, this is going to be a very different sort of MMORPG experience. It takes place in a world called Braided Shore inspired by classical fairytales and Eastern mythologies, and focuses on social roleplaying, exploration and non-linear narratives in a beautiful place with darkness at its edges.
Players are encouraged to explore and find their own stories rather than having a plot forced upon them. You’ll encounter random events such as meeting a group of townsfolk, watching a flock of deer or striking up a conversation with a travelling merchant; and these will either require your immediate attention or inspire you to seek out particular places and leads. There’s no overarching goal and no real beginning or end so ultimately you’re in charge of shaping your journey.
There are some traditional RPG elements however including crafting, trading and, unlike Eastshade, combat. You’ll also be able to create your own character and select their skills but what’s new here is that they’ll also be given a unique backstory and personality traits, making them a protagonist with real depth. During their journey they’ll learn how to use physical abilities, passive powers and Knotcraft: a means of communication but also a method of conjuring magical energies.
Might and Delight are calling Book of Travels a ‘tiny multiplayer online’ (TMO) as they’re building a world with a lot of content, but with few players on each server. The aim of this is to make temporary alliances meaningful and turn your encounters into powerful experiences. You won’t miss out if you prefer to wander alone but the game is tailored to be exciting when travelling with a group of new-found friends, because the intention is to create a multiplayer culture based on collaboration rather than PvP.
Your choices and interactions with the world and other players may have effects you wouldn’t usually see an in RPG. Events that are usually trivialised in such releases are instead made into strong emotional moments here. For example, witnessing a death will weigh more heavily on your character for each day that passes; but once you can visit the deceased’s resting place, your grief will transform into a new kind of energy that will spur you forward.
At the time of writing, the campaign for Book of Travels is already 617% funded and six stretch goals have been met – and there’s still around a week left to go on the clock so there’s time to show your support! Head over to the Kickstarter page for more details and follow Might and Delight on Twitter to stay up-to-date on their progress.