Blue-gray trees rustle in the wind at night above the lanky figure obscured by clunky robes and illuminated only by a small fire in front of them. Over the fire, they combine a few spare ingredients in a pot and make a warm cup of tea that soothes and energizes them—a brief respite from the cold of the night. Their only companions are the crackling of the flames and the faint pluckings of guitar strings. Then, they stand, shouldering a bulky pack and pulling a raggedy hood over their head as a light rain begins to fall with quiet splashes. From there, they plod across a varied moody landscape, picking plants, bartering with NPCs, and slowly expanding their library of skills. This is what players should expect from Book of Travels.
Book of Travels is developed and published by indie studio Might and Delight and just recently launched in Early Access on PC. As the studio behind the cult Shelter series, Book of Travels builds on the studio’s experience creating unique gameplay loops within absolutely gorgeously painted worlds. However, Book of Travels is a very new approach for the studio, as it is what the developers are calling a tiny MMORPG.
What this means for Book of Travels is that players load into servers of less than ten players that they can come across randomly. When players first create characters, they customize them from several randomized options, including a name, a class-like Form, starting inventory, and a few personality traits. Each of these categories offers players a randomized selection of options when they create their characters with the goal of encouraging players to roleplay their characters in various ways.
Most of the systems that push players to roleplay their characters are very optional, with Book of Travels giving players the space to flesh out their characters more if they want to without requiring it for those who don’t. Players then select their starting point in the world by choosing from options like being shipwrecked or traveling by foot, as well as whether they want to start in the North, East, South, or West section of the map.
Not only does this system allow players’ stories to start in a unique feeling way, but it also allows players to spawn near their friends for some cooperative play. Of course, the game can be played fully with friends, but at this point, Book of Travels feels much more targeted towards solo players. A large reason for this is that the game’s small servers allow players to run into other players here and there, but not too often.
These interactions happen sparsely enough to highlight the isolation that players often feel while traveling around the world of Book of Travels. Players can only communicate with one another through a select number of emotes that are determined by their character’s Form. This makes these interactions a lot more interesting as players discuss working together to complete cooperative tasks.
These tasks each use some of Book of Travels’ more than 300 abilities that players can unlock and level up. These abilities offer many different options for players to interact with the game’s world, and there is an impressive diversity between them. For example, players can also unlock different tea recipes that can offer them different boosts when drank as well as being able to cast some simple magic spells by consuming plant reagents as well.
These activities take up most of Book of Travels’ gameplay loop as players travel across and discover the world while managing their survival needs and expanding their abilities. Players play through several quests and small narratives that play across the game’s map and the world to grow their character. These stories are great at building the world of Book of Travels while also giving players some direction to their adventures without being restrictive or pigeon-holing players into building their characters in specific ways.
Another standout part of Book of Travels is its visual design. Traveling through the game world is sublime with its calming sound design, elegant visuals, and just how peaceful gameplay is. Of course, there is combat that players can undertake with other players and NPCs alike. Still, it fits well into Book of Travels’ more relaxed mechanical approach while also being largely avoidable for players who aren’t interested in it. However, it may cost them when they run into some bandits.
Book of Travels also gives players the feeling of existing in a very grounded world, with servers dictating the time of day that players experience as well as many elements like ferries operating on a real-time schedule that players have to workaround.
Overall, Book of Travels is in a very solid place as a newly launched Early Access title. It offers a unique experience that should satisfy players looking for a more meditative or unique online experience. However, the game still has quite a ways to go in the form of content, especially if it wants to keep players around for a more extended period. Thankfully, there are many avenues the developers can explore to this end, especially once they start receiving feedback from players throughout the Early Access process.
Book of Travels is available now on PC.