IFReviewed by Andrew Plotkin on 2006-06-25 09:31
Oh, dear, a scenario straight out of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. (If I had my old rulebooks, I could probably tell you which edition.) This is never a good sign in fiction.
However, if I ignore that aspect, I find quite a nice piece of work here.
Very hefty, solid background. A lot of this background is presented in the initial reading matter -- too much, I'd actually say. The game does a good job of presenting the important material in context; the initial brain-dump could be trimmed down.
The game is well-paced -- gentle introduction, segue to the main body, and then four branches which you can do in any order. Each branch does a good job of keeping you focussed and moving forward. You can certainly die -- some parts of the game really aren't solvable without much trial-and-error-and-death -- but I always felt that the situation was solvable, and I was always right.
The writing was just a little weaker than I might have wanted. The storyline goes through a lot of events, both tragic and triumphant; but I was never quite sure which outcomes were part of the intended storyline, and which were suboptimal solutions on my part. Mind you, I liked the storyline, including the sorrowful parts. I was just uncertain when I should be appreciating them.
Good use of verbs to facilitate what I wanted to do. Good use of a toolkit of spells. I spent a little time flailing for the right command (particularly in the timed scenes), but this was never severe enough to turn me off of the game.
The only aspect of the interface which really irritated me was the dialogue system. In some scenes, the game relied on ask/tell (and, sometimes, give and show). In others, I hit dialogue menus. This was both inconsistent and a disappointment. The ask/tell scenes really were well-done; why couldn't the other interactions have been coded to the same standard?
I know I'm categorizing menus as necessarily inferior... well, that's how I felt when playing. The menus never offered me choices that I actually wanted to say! In those scenes, and only those scenes, I felt like I was trying to play someone else's personality. (And a milksop, at that. Or is that "milksap"? :)