Despite not having a physical game release, The Banished Vault, out now from Bithell Games and The Lunar Division, has a physical manual. The 60-page softcover book is available to purchase from Amazon for £4.99/$4.99, and it’s both a novelty and a thing of beauty.
Physical game manuals used to be a staple, but they’re long a thing of the past. There used to be something rather special about picking up a new game and flicking through its manual: you’d learn the basics, and you’d get to admire some game art too. Perhaps you’d even learn a few secrets. Full manuals were replaced with pamphlets then eventually phased out all together. Occasionally, games have digital manuals. But often, tutorials and in-game tooltips do the job that the paper booklet used to do.
Bithell Games has brought back a slice of nostalgia with The Banished Vault’s physical manual. Sure, having to pay extra for it might not sit well with everyone – there’s a digital version available as part of the game – but there really is something quite special about holding a physical instruction book – especially one as detailed as The Banished Vault’s.
This is a deep game that really benefits from the additional guidance provided by the manual. Split into five sections, The Banished Vault Game Manual walks you through the first two introductory scenarios, introduces players to the controls and the basics, goes into more detail about the key game concepts and, finally, provides a reference for all the resources found in the game. It’s both a manual and a guidebook then – and an excellent tool for anyone playing the game.
The last 14 pages of the book are left blank, providing beautifully illustrated note pages for players to make their own notes. Again, this is something that the manuals of days gone by may have included, and it’s a nice little addition. Would we want to write in ours? We’re not sure – we wouldn’t want to make a mess. But those less precious will undoubtedly enjoy having their own notes in the same place as the official guidance.
Perhaps what makes The Banished Vault Game Manual so special is the beautiful artwork that fills its pages. Sure, there’s plenty of text and helpful screenshots of the game, but its pages are also brought to life with stunning concept sketches. They’re a delight to look at in themselves, making flicking through the manual an absolute joy. The two double-page illustrations are a real highlight.
If you’re playing The Banished Vault and have £4.99/$4.99 to spare, picking up the Game Manual should be considered essential. Playing a game with a physical helper by your side really is an elevated experience, and the fantastic presentation of this little manual – not to mention its gorgeous illustrations – make it something quite special.