Book of Hours Review – Comfortable, Cozy Occultism

Book of Hours delivers on a rare yet no less appealing fantasy; Curating an ancient catalouge of occult knowledge and enjoying a warm cuppa as you do.
Logo for Book of Hours
Image: Weather Factory

Have you ever wished for a flair of magic in your life? Does the idea of running a run-down, probably haunted manor filled with occult relics along the misty seashore of a cold coastal village appeal to you? Have you ever, upon a midnight dreary, wished you could ponder, weak and weary, over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore?

Then try Book of Hours, nothing more.

Book Of Hours Catalouge
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

Book of Hours is a deck-building puzzle game developed and published by Weather Factory, the same group behind Cultist Simulator. If you’ve played the first, you’ll be familiar with the gameplay of Book of Hours, though newcomers may find themselves stumped as to how to progress in a game that features practically no tutorials. Though figuring out the mechanics can be a puzzle in of itself, you’ll discover a powerful tool towards progression can simply be good reading comprehension.

In Book of Hours, you play as a librarian tasked to curate and care for the esteemed and mysterious Hush House. This ancient castle in the cold British Isles defends not but a collection of profane and curious occult texts, and as curator, it’s your job to tend to said slightly evil hardbacks. Though this might sound like the setup to a horror game, in Book of Hours, you’re likely to find something more akin to a laid-back, relaxing farming or sorting game. Rather than fleeing ancient ghosts or fighting terrible curses, your time as curator of Hush House will see you reading and categorizing forgotten occult books, tending to the ancient and dilapidated castle, and using your esoteric knowledge to help those who seek it. Sometimes this means telling a fortune or two; sometimes, it means serving tea in your waiting room.

Weather Factory does an excellent job of pulling out that part of me that longs to be a round-glasses-wearing, sweater-clad witch or warlock, engrossed by warm coffee and timeworn books as the rain patters against the roof above me. This is the very definition of a reading game, which is fitting, given that you’re playing a librarian. It’s a game that wants you to engage with your love of learning, and you might find progress hard if you don’t.

Book Of Hours Village
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

As I mentioned before, the puzzle gameplay can be confusing at first. It uses a deck-building system, where you’re given cards to complete specific tasks and need to use said cards to complete more. Every action in the game requires a particular set of properties, which each card has. Introducing yourself to a neighbor requires a card with two sets of properties, but one WITHOUT another kind. Once you get the hang of it, it makes sense, but you’re not going to get the hang of it as quickly as you think you are.

I’m a bit ashamed to admit that I was kind of fumbling around Book of Hours for the first hour or so I played. Around minute 45, I started to put the pieces together. It was a big embarrassment that it took me that long, but there were certainly clues to how to play that I willfully ignored leading up to this point.

Without any real tutorial, your best bet to figuring out the gameplay of Book of Hours is through reading. And I don’t mean reading the many traits on the cards, though that can help. As I mentioned earlier, Book of Hours is what you’d call a reading game, and if you take the time to actually do that, things make sense a lot faster.

Book Of Hours Tree
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

Each action you need to complete, or puzzle, has a description of what it is you’re trying to accomplish. Simply reading that description will help you figure out what the right cards to solve it are. At the beginning of the game, I found myself stumbling about the first little section of the map, knowing only that my character had just washed up on the beach and needed to find their friend in town. After clicking on many buildings, all of which were locked to me, I finally read the little description of my objective and realized that the friend I was looking for was the blacksmith. I should have learned my lesson right then and there, but this was a problem that would continue several times throughout my playthrough.

Though I will say there are certain parts of the game where strong reading comprehension and logic won’t help you solve the many puzzles put before you. A good example of this happens early game, where the village Hush House looms over is hostile and untrusting to strangers (rightfully so, due to some bad history explained pretty early on.) To receive the assistance of the townsfolk, you need a proper introduction to each household in the village.

Rightfully, you might assume this means meeting each villager one at a time and progressively using your bonds with them to meet more villagers. However, the solution to unlocking the homes of the strangers was.. hiring vagrants at the town’s inn? I’m unsure why a wandering, unshaven poet or an escaped convict was my ticket to meeting the rest of the town. I suppose they could have been locals, but the hiring strangers’ bit seemed to imply you were seeking the help of strangers passing by. Either way, it wasn’t what I expected the solution to be based on the information that was given to me, and it’s a pattern that repeats a few more times.

Book Of Hours Unusual Help
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

Nitpicks aside, Book of Hours still presents a strong setting filled with interesting characters, ideas, and secrets to discover. Slowly restoring Hush House and reading and subsequentially cataloging each book you find along the way is a totally unique feeling you won’t find in other experiences. And at the price of $20 for what is easily a 30 to 40-hour experience, you won’t regret taking this venture beyond the gates of the elusive Hush House.

The Final Word

Though its heavy focus on reading and “learning the mechanics is half the fun” design may put some players off, Book of Hours is a unique game that promises something few other titles can mimic. If you find yourself even a little intrigued by the unique, occult setting and the promise of mysteries to discover and catalog, you’d be making a mistake if you didn’t give Book of Hours a try.

8

Try Hard Guides was provided with a PC review copy of this game. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles in the Game Reviews section of our website! Book of Hours is available on Steam.

Erik Hodges

Erik Hodges

Erik Hodges is a hobby writer and a professional gamer, at least if you asked him. He has been writing fiction for over 12 years and gaming practically since birth, so he knows exactly what to nitpick when dissecting a game's story. When he isn't reviewing games, he's probably playing them.

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