Playing with Reed: The Bookwalker: Thief of Tales


Official Launch Trailer for The Bookwalker: Thief of Tales

“Art belongs to everybody and nobody. Art belongs to all time and no time. Art belongs to those who create it and those who savour it. Art no more belongs to the People and the Party than it once belonged to the aristocracy and the patron. Art is the whisper of history, heard above the noise of time. Art does not exist for art’s sake: it exists for people’s sake.”

-Julian Barnes, The Noise of Time

There's a lot of games out there competing for our attention, some with better marketing teams than others. However, sometimes you find little gems that sneak by those big announcements, and creep into your queue with a wink and a rustle of papers. 

The Bookwalker: Thief of Tales was developed by Do My Best and published by Tiny Build, both indie developers and publishers. According to the developer's Twitter, this game took them six years to make. You can definitely tell the care that has been taken with the game, with the character development, and the fully fleshed out worlds you end up in. 

The Bookwalker follows Etienne, an author who has been sentenced to thirty years of "writer's block", which are basically shackles that prevent him from doing certain things. In fact, shackled authors are typically required to work for a major publisher, with the ominous warning that most authors don't survive serving their sentences.  Etienne has been offered the opportunity to complete jobs for an unknown collector. These jobs require him to use his abilities to travel into books and collect powerful items, delivering them in a timely manner. His sentence, however, is an anomaly - even his contact is surprised. He has to do six jobs for them, and they promise to remove his shackles when they are done. 

Not every job goes well and they aren't without their own dangers. In his first job, Etienne finds another Bookwalker, who has died on the job. He has a companion - a slip of paper in a lantern who doesn't know what book he is from. Etienne calls him Roderick, and this character acts as a guide and a bit of conscience for him. Etienne can't talk to him outside of his trips into books, but he keeps the lantern close by. Roderick ends up not only being a helpful guide, but eventually Etienne's friend. 

The story reminds me quite a bit of the short story "Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut. Maybe it's just the tone of it - the slightly dystopian outlook of a world that would punish their creative communities for crimes against art - and art can become something that the author can explore personally. 

The world building in this game is really fantastic. There are mention of "original" authors who have created works without being able to walk in the stories like Etienne can. Etienne's world outside of books is narrowed to his tiny apartment, where the bathroom is monitored and locked if you can't pay the bill, and the kitchen is communal. His neighbors are suspicious, and the views are just brick walls or directly into another apartment. Etienne never sees the person who picks up the cases with the items he steals. His world, the "real" world, seems drab and dark. The stories he enters have life in them, life that Etienne views as just fiction when we start this story. But throughout the six stories that you enter, you realize that Etienne has more depth to him than what his real world surroundings show. 

Honestly, I really have only two complaints about this game. I had originally picked it up via XBox Game Pass (for PC). When I first started playing it, I noticed that the text was completely cut off, meaning I was missing context for the overarching story. I didn't play more than five minutes of it before I did some research, and found out that this was an issue specific to that release. I read that a patch was coming out... so I waited. And I waited. And I waited. The thing is - I don't know what the process is for different gaming platforms to get patches through. I don't know if it was the developer or Microsoft, but I finally decided to purchase it on Steam, where it didn't have that issue. 

Again, whatever the reason, buying it on Steam fixed my issues entirely, and I was able to enjoy the game. 

My second complaint? I NEED MORE IN THIS WORLD. I really feel like someone could write a book series just exploring the "real world" and the abilities of a bookwalker. 

In short, I highly recommend this game, especially if you have ever wondered what it would be like to meet the characters of the books you read.

Now, if you'll excuse me....