The Bookwalker: Thief of Tales review | As a fan of most tinybuild games, I decided to give The Bookwalker: Thief of Tales a go to see what it was like. To start off, I was pleasantly surprised by its presentation and how it surprised me by its opening moments. The Bookwalker is actually two different genres in one game. Your initial exposure to the game has you exploring in first person with realistic graphics within your apartment, and you can slip between this world and the book world by holding the right trigger. It’s a pretty neat concept and the two different styles are very striking. The book world is more asymmetrical top-down based which lets you see every aspect of the world. But how do they utilise each I hear you ask? Read on to find out.
ℹ️ Reviewed on Xbox Series X | Review code provided by PR/publisher, this review is the personal opinion of the writer. Got unanswered questions about this game? Get in touch on Twitter!
What We Liked!
- The Graphics | Graphically The Bookwalker is a mixture. The above screenshot shows the graphics during real-world segments. They look beautiful and there is a decent amount of detail in every corner of your apartment. Light bounces realistically, and outside sounds are bound by attenuation. The overall presentation of this area is really good and surprised me quite a bit given what I had seen of the game before playing. I didn’t expect it. Inside the fantasy world, it is a different situation entirely. The game takes on a more asymmetrical top-down effect that gives you a full overview of the area. Here we have a mixture of both 2D assets mainly used in the environment and 3D which is used for the character models. Again, the fantasy world setting is still visually striking across all 6 of the different worlds you can explore.
- The Music | The music and sounds in The Bookwalker are varied and sound great. The real-world area has no music to accompany it but does use 3D sound along with realistic sound effects. The floorboards creak under your feet, the phone rings and its distance from the player adjusts so that if you are out of the room, you don’t even hear it. The fantasy book world is where things take a more creative stance. Each of the worlds I visited had its own background music that fits within the theme they were aiming for. For example, the dungeon area had a gloomy soundtrack with water drips falling and steam sounds gushing from pipes. The Wizard World as seen below has a more orchestral-sounding backing track with more surreal sound effects. It’s carefully crafted and adds a lot to each level.
- The Story | By far The Bookwalker’s strongest point is in its storytelling. I personally liked its dark and mysterious real-world story mixed with the fantasy of the books that you get to explore. You play a writer who has been sentenced to 30 years of writer’s block and confined to your apartment. With your livelihood at stake, you reach out for help from a mysterious bureau that can reduce your sentence for you by completing a series of jobs that involve stealing items from famous books. With each job you complete the years remaining on your writer’s block are reduced. You can tell they have taken inspiration from actual books as well without saying what book it is. The third tale is set in a wizarding school and you are tasked with stealing the headmaster’s wand. Any guesses what book this may be from?
- Very Linear | The Bookwalker: Thief of Tales is a very linear game and while it doesn’t hold your hand per se, it’s small enough in scope that you never feel lost. Given how they allow you to swap between the real world and the book world, I would have liked to have seen more puzzle elements that require more thinking from the player. For example, when faced with a task that requires you to go back to the real world, your chatty companion just tells you what you need to do. It’s a shame as I think it would have encouraged more players to explore these worlds that have been created. Some people may appreciate the heads-up on where to go, but I feel there are other ways to go about it.
- Performance Issues | Playing on Series X is not without its issues. The real-world areas of The Bookwalker are horribly optimised. During these sections, it’s at a bare minimum of 30fps with constant dips below that. Switching to the book world manages to go back to 60fps in most places. It’s a very jarring experience when switching and does cause some screen tearing when moving around the world. I think a more aggressive use of Anti Aliasing with a resolution reduction and Vsync could solve this issue, but it is playable since you only spend a small amount of time in this area.
What We Disliked
- Too many bugs | Let’s get this out of the way. On too many occasions I had to restart the game due to bugs that either soft-locked me from progressing or outright broke the game. In fact, even now at this point of writing this game is still broken. I’m talking full-on broken. During the wand-stealing tale, you are given a portrait to hang on the wall that reveals a secret entrance. The Xbox version is broken and does not work. I reached out to the developers and joined their discord and was told that the only fix for this as of now was to download the game via PC Gamepass and use a mouse and keyboard. I won’t go into detail as to why this isn’t and shouldn’t be classed as a fix, but it is also troubling when a patch was supplied to Xbox to fix this issue but it failed their testing. All of this info can be found on their Twitter page. It’s very disappointing as the game is actually pretty good, so you can imagine my disappointment when I found out that I couldn’t progress any further.
- Barebones Combat | The Bookwalker features turn-based combat that doesn’t offer anything past 4 different moves. You can attack which uses your ink, drain, which deals one damage but refills your ink a little, stun which causes 1 damage to all opponents and shield, which saves you from damage for 1 turn. There are no abilities to learn or special moves, and the whole combat as a mechanic feels tacked on last minute to add more substance. Even if combat wasn’t featured in the game I think it would function well enough on its own given its strong story-based elements.
How long to beat the story | 6 hours
How long to get all achievements | 8 hours
You’ll love this game if you like these | Disco Elysium & Firewatch
The Bookwalker: Thief of Tales is an engaging, yet frustratingly broken game in many places. With two visually striking styles to experience, The Bookwalker held my attention and kept me playing until I literally couldn’t play anymore.
Unless these bugs are sorted you are limited to playing on PC only.
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Gaming is in my blood. Be it handheld games, Xbox, PC, Switch or Playstation, I am all over it.
I make my own games as part of my profession and love playing co op games with friends in my spare time. Avid dog lover and camper van enthusiast.