A recently posted Steam article has given gamers the first concrete descriptions of how combat works in Book of Travels. It will feature a unique core combat mechanic that’s not quite real-time and not quite turn-based, along with multiple methods for bypassing/escaping combat if a player’s doing a “pacifist run.”
The setting of Book of Travels is called Braided Shore, a pastoral land filled with sleepy villages, tea-houses, steam-powered locomotives and barges, surreal supernatural creatures, and mysterious ruins. The players of Book of Travels are “Travelers,” people who wander the landscape on journeys of discovery, seeking out secrets of magic, history, lore, and dreams, while occasionally dealing with the dangers posed by roaming bandits and wicked spirits. As the release date for the early access version of Book of Travels draws closer, developers at the Might and Delight game studio have been publishing articles on Steam describing the gameplay features players can expect from their idyllic, exploration-focused “Tiny Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game.”
The narrative premise of Book of Travels translates into a gameplay experience centered on exploring beautiful landscapes (rendered using watercolor-painting style graphical assets), collecting new tools, provisions, and recipes, and co-operating with fellow players to tackle quests and pursue emergent storylines. Similar to atmospheric games such as Journey, the focus is on discovery and ambiance, rather than strife and heroic destruction. Still, combat is a part of Book of Travels, a gameplay mechanic players can approach in different ways.
According to the “Conflict, Combat & Tension” article on the Steam Page for Book of Travels, basic combat in this multiplayer RPG revolves around two character ratings – “Force” and “Ward.” The accuracy of a player or NPC’s attacks is determined by their “Force” rating, which starts out at a base amount when a fight begins and steadily increases the longer a player waits before making an attack. Similarly, a player or NPC’s chance to deflect an attack is governed by their “Ward” rating, which diminishes whenever an attacker successfully lands a hit (and replenishes after combat ends). This battle dynamic sounds like it will encourage standoff-style duels where players and NPCs stare each other down and wait for openings – like Western gunslingers or Ronin from a Japanese period drama looking to end their battle in a single strike.
Will combat in Book of Travels be real-time, letting players to maneuver and dodge around opponents, or will it be more like the “Active Time Battle” turn-based systems of certain Final Fantasy games? Will players only be able to wield swords and spells, or will weapons like staves, bows, axes, gauntlets, and guns also be available? For that matter, will cooperating players be able to tag-team powerful bandits or spirits together? These questions remain answered for now, though Might and Delight has shared other fascinating details about the Book of Travels battle system; for instance, players can put a hand on their sword to scan the strength of nearby hostiles, then use magical Knots or fortifying tea Brews to give themselves an edge before entering battle.
From the looks of things, players keen on doing nonlethal “pacifist playthroughs” in Book of Travels will have a lot of options for avoiding combat. First, players who keep a careful eye on the threat radius of certain enemies can tip-toe around them. If going around isn’t an option, players can use character skills like Smoke Cylinder or teleportation spells to make themselves temporarily undetectable. Finally, players can surrender belongings to attacking bandits to get them to back off, or simply flee to escape combat, albeit at the cost of waking up in a random location and being de-buffed for a time.
All in all, Book of Travels is shaping up to be an interesting twist on multiplayer RPGs, where combat and conflict are only one part of a larger experience. Players who want their characters to be fearsome fighters can master a dynamic combat system and acquire various combat-related features, while players who want to focus on exploration and discovery can create character builds focused on non-violent qualities and avoiding battle.