Review: The Book of True Will

in Games, Uncategorized

Game: The Book of True Will by NeverSilent

Summary: A nuanced tale of four people having intense theological debates…and there are a lot of fun puzzles, too!

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Like politics, religion is one of those topics you’re just not supposed to talk about. On the one hand, it plays such a huge role in world events that it seems very worthy of discussion and debate. On the other hand, it’s also a very personal and private part of life for many people and it’s always dangerous territory to critique someone’s inner life. As far as games go, churches are either harmless places to get healed or bizarre cults worshiping demons.  You almost never see a game where matters of faith are all that complicated, which is the primary reason why The Book of True Will is so interesting.

The search for answers drives the characters of this RPG Maker XP puzzle game, which immediately drops the player into the dungeon while the reason for their adventure is gradually revealed in flashbacks. It started when messenger boy Kyle stopped by a church to say hello to his childhood friend Pira, who is now a nun. Kyle is a nice enough guy, even though he’s not as wise as he thinks he is, and he gets into a bit of trouble early on by expressing his disappointment that she gave up a scientific career (I can’t help but wonder if he had other reasons to be upset about a pretty girl he knew choosing a celibate life). Pira is a nice person but lacking in some social graces and her attempts to introduce Kyle to her faith don’t go well. But at least these two have some tact. It’s their respective companions, Leroy and Madelyn, that really cause some trouble.

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I bet you say that to all the girls.

Former mercenary Leroy is one coarse dude and you can’t help but feel for him when the others scold him for even swearing (any god who actually would get offended by “naughty words” needs a hobby). A less interesting story might have portrayed him as the only sane man in a world of pious idiots. However, it quickly becomes clear that he’s a bully with absolutely no concern for other people’s feelings. Meanwhile, Madelyn is all too eager to get offended but seems incapable of making an argument that relies on actual logic. If these two feel familiar, it’s because people like this can be found in every internet discussion anywhere about anything. The tension between them is so belligerent that if this were a romantic comedy, they would wind up married at the end, but instead things escalate into an explosive argument that goes on for an uncomfortably long time. When the dust settles, the group decides to explore a recently excavated temple that is said to house the very first copy of a holy text – The Book of True Will. They hope that will prove once and for all what is really at the core of these beliefs and settle the dispute.

If this is making it sound more like a movie than a game, fear not – there are puzzles galore. There are no battles and no main menu, but there are a lot of puzzles and most of them are a lot of fun. The typical pattern is that the player is introduced to a type of puzzle and then must solve similar ones of increasing difficulty. If you’re liking the mechanics, then the repetition is fun…but if you’re not, well, it can get rough. Thankfully, the majority of the puzzles are delightful, including a brilliant lock-picking game and a puzzle about translating runes that really gives the old noggin’ a workout.

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Does that say ASS? Madelyn would be appalled!

There are some puzzles that players find frustrating. I had a hard time with one that involved studying a path and then navigating it in the dark.  The lights were turned out on the player far too early and what was intended to be a memorization exercise turned into simple trial and error. Yet for a game that tries out so many different puzzle ideas, the fun factor was impressively consistent. The final challenge is an amazing sequence where you dodge waves and waves of fireballs and totally feel awesome when you finish it.

The game’s visuals are almost all the RTP, which I know isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. The mapping is a bit spotty too; there are a few maps that have a lot of unnecessary empty space. For a first game, however, this is exactly the kind of thing a developer should be doing. It’s much easier to recruit people to help with art and other assets once you’ve proven your own skill with some content. Everyone needs to start somewhere.

Even if the visuals were top-notch, what would still make this game memorable in the end are the characters. This is not a game where you will be getting them confused. They are vibrant and all show different sides of themselves during their adventure. The scene that sticks with me the most is a brief but essential moment where a huge crowd of NPCs is gathered in front of the temple. As you talk to them, you see that they range from hateful idiots to thoughtful, intelligent people. It’s clear that faith means something different to every one of them and it’s not hard to see the parallels between their questions and ours. There can be no consensus on the mysteries of the universe as long as they remain mysterious, but The Book of True Will suggests that there is no right or wrong answer and urges us not to be scared about that.

Has anyone played this game? What did you make of its social commentary? What was your favorite puzzle? What should we review next? Let us know in the comments…and try not to slip into Leroy or Madelyn territory!

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