EGX Rezzed 2019: Nanotale

A couple of years ago, I took a week off work and ended up spending it playing video games. The one I remember most fondly was Epistory – Typing Chronicles, an adventure game with a twist. Everything from movement to menus to action is controlled through the keyboard.

I’d really enjoyed the title and so was excited when I heard the news that developer Fishing Cactus was working on its next project, Nanotale – Typing Chronicles. And when I found out that it was due to be on display at this year’s EGX Rezzed it was added it to my schedule and made the first stop of the event. Several other attendees had done the same and the stand was full by the time I got there, but after fifteen minutes or so I managed to get my hands on the keyboard and give the game a go.

A recent press release explains that Nanotale tells the story of a world on the brink of destruction as the heart of magic siphons its last hits. Archivists have studied the mysteries of the planet since time immemorial while holding their vow of neutrality, and players step into the role of novice Rosalind. She sets out to the magical valley to collect plant and rock samples and catalogue any strange occurrences in an attempt to unravel the secrets surrounding the demise of the world.

The demo I had the chance to play started with a simple tutorial to ease players in gently. The WASD or arrow keys can be used to control the protagonist’s movement and standing next to a sparkling plant causes Rosalind to document it in her journal, a way of gaining experience points. Every now and again a page of the book pops up on screen to tell you more about what you’ve found and it’s necessary to type a highlighted word in correctly to advance the text.

After a few minutes the demo advanced to a later stage in the game so attendees could get a feel for what Nanotale’s full mechanics are going to be like. Pressing the spacebar causes words to appear above various plants in the environment and entering these results in Rosalind throwing a spell at them. Do so at a blue bulb and water will appear from the ground, causing foliage to grow; while aiming for a red bulb brings forth fire and burns it all down again.

Not everything is peaceful however and enemies can be found lurking in the forest. Fighting these involves first typing a word for a spell such as ‘push’; and then inputting the word that appears over the creatures’ head so the spell is thrown at them. Certain foes take more than one hit to defeat though and you can face a number of them in one go, particularly where you have a hold an area for a certain amount of time, so it’s a matter of trying to stay calm, being as accurate as possible with your typing and strategically picking which enemies to aim for.

EGX Rezzed, video games, Nantotales - Typing Chronicles

This magic isn’t only used for combat: entering ‘hot’ changes your spell to a bolt of fire while ‘ice’ turns it incredibly cold. The former is useful when you need to transform any thick brambles in your path into ash or melt walls of frozen water, while the latter comes into play when you need to form bridges over rivers. You also have the option of typing in additional words including ‘ray’ and ‘large’ which have the effect of changing the shape of your magic, and these were used quite nicely to solve certain puzzles.

Fortunately the developer had taken the decision to not allow the protagonist to die in the demo so even when my health bar drained, Rosalind persevered. It’s incredibly hard to focus on playing a typing game while the noise of an expo is going on around you so I was very thankful for this! I therefore didn’t find out how to regain health but refilling mana was simple enough; you could either find crystals dotted around the environment to fill it up in one go, or enter words above certain objects to do so incrementally.

Nanotale gave me the same feeling as Epistory but it’s clear the developer has put a lot of thought into how to evolve the mechanics since their previous entry in the Typing Chronicles series. The experience feels fuller thanks to the inclusion of some of the new RPG elements described above, and I’m looking forward to seeing how these will be used throughout the complete game when it’s released in Q3 later this year. The project looks absolutely gorgeous too – check out the alpha gameplay teaser video above.

While you’re waiting, you can add the title to your Steam wishlist and follow Fishing Cactus on Twitter to stay up-to-date on their progress. If you liked Epistory or enjoy playing typing games, Nanotale is definitely one to keep an eye out for.

Beginner’s guide to indie: part three

It’s time for the final part of my beginner’s guide to indie and, if you didn’t find something that tickles your fancy in part one or two last week, then hopefully we’ll manage to put that right today. Once again, a big thank you to Dan from Now is Games for suggesting I write this series and being the inspiration behind it.

As mentioned in my last posts: the following list contains only games I’ve actually played myself (except for the final category below) and, as pretty obvious from the content on Later Levels, I tend to favour adventures or games with strong narratives. However, I’ve made a point of not making every entry a point-and-click so hopefully there’s something for everyone here. Without further ado, let’s round this series off!

Typing games

Epistory – Typing Chronicles is a game I’m not sure many people know of but it’s definitely worth checking out if you enjoyed The Typing of the Dead: Overkill (my guilty pleasure). There are no zombies this time however: the world unfolds in front of you like an origami storybook and it tells the story of a writer who’s stuck for inspiration. You defeat your foes by typing words shown on-screen and every element in the title is controlled exclusively with the keyboard.

On the other end of the typing-game-spectrum is Hacknet, a simulator based on UNIX commands and real hacking rather than the Hollywood-version of it. The hacker responsible for creating the most invasive security system on the planet is dead and it’s now up to you to unravel the mystery and ensure that Hacknet-OS doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. If you’re not good under pressure or tend to type with two fingers only, then it’s probably not one for you.

Visual novels

I’m not a huge fan of visual novels and so my knowledge is somewhat lacking, but here’s one I actually enjoyed playing. Cinders is a mature take on the classic Cinderella fairytale and it’s not as cutesy as you’d imagine: this heroine isn’t afraid of taking fate into her own hands, even if it means breaking the rules. There’s plenty of player choice and my Cinders became an independent lone traveller who didn’t need a man by her side – you go, girl.

Next up is one of my favourite video games: To The Moon. It’s been called an adventure and an RPG but its gameplay elements are so light that it’s more like a visual novel with some movement. If you’re looking for action then it won’t be to your taste; but if you want to get drawn into an amazing story then I urge you to pick this up as soon as possible. Just be aware that you’ll be crying like a baby by the time the credits roll and will probably need a hug.

Something different

Looking for something different? Then you’ve come to the right place. First in this section is Her Story, a full-motion video (FMV) game which has you sorting through clips of old police interviews in order to discover what happened to a woman’s missing husband. Viva Seifert plays the protagonist and she does so perfectly; her body language, expressions and tone of voice all come together to make you wonder if she’s lying about what she knows…

Proteus isn’t a title that will appeal to everyone but if you’re in need of a ‘digital holiday’, then here’s your stop. Although the only mechanic is exploration and all you can do is walk, it’s a lovely and calming experience: this procedurally-generated island is home to creatures and ruins with magical properties, and a dynamic soundtrack changes in response to the world around you. A new island is generated each time so you’ll always see something unique and can use the ‘postcard’ feature to capture it.

What’s next?

There are loads of indie titles waiting on my wishlist and here’s what I’m playing next. I’ve heard good things about Night in the Woods, an adventure game focused on exploration, story and character. College-dropout Mae returns home to resume her former life but things aren’t the same: it seems different now and everyone has changed. Leaves are falling, the wind is growing cold, strange things are happening and there’s something in the woods…

Athena from AmbiGaming has been playing RiME recently and she has convinced me to give it a go! You play as a young boy who has awakened on a mysterious island after a torrential storm. Wild animals, long-forgotten ruins and a massive tower beckon you to come closer; and armed with your wits — and the guidance of a helpful fox — you must explore the enigmatic land, reach the tower’s peak and unlock its closely guarded secrets.

It can be an effort to work up the motivation to turn on the console or PC after a long day at work when you have only a spare hour in the evening; and sometimes the thought of jumping into another 100-hour open-world RPG can be a bit daunting. But it doesn’t mean you have to give up gaming completely because that’s where smaller indie titles can fit in nicely. Although huge big-budget games do have a certain appeal, there’s also something nice about being able to make good progress in sixty minutes and complete a title within several sittings.

Hopefully you’ve found an indie release among the 23 I’ve listed in my three-part beginner’s guide that has inspired you to give them a try. If you have any other recommendations, please feel free to leave them in the comments below and give me a few more to add to my wishlist!