A couple of years ago, I took a week off work after having some spare annual leave to use up; and unsurprisingly, ended up spending most of it playing video games. The one I remember most fondly from back then was Epistory – Typing Chronicles, an adventure game with a twist. Everything from movement to menus to action is controlled through the keyboard and combat is completed by typing in words.
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.
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.
Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.