General Recommendation: I recommend this game, it’s a short, fun, and immersive take on running an inn in a fantasy world, with a lot of variety and different potential plotlines.
Preview: Can you make the family inn profitable enough to earn your medical degree?
This is a fun and short game that takes a fresh and entertaining look at running a tavern in a fantasy city, with all the problems that entails. It’s an engaging read, with a wide variety of different pathes that can be taken.
The characters in this story are handled well. There’s enough variety among the inn staff members that there can be a variety of plotlines, but there’s not so many characters that the reader loses track of any of them. Each character gets a chance to be in the spotlight at some point, and can develop in different directions depending on your policies surrounding the running of the inn.
This isn’t just a puzzle-like game about running an inn. There is focus on the narrator’s pursuit of a medical degree, his relationship with Eliza, and his future prospects beyond his role as an innkeeper. These elements add character and depth to the story, making the consequences of whether or not you succeed at running the in more meaningful. You have to decide what your priorities are and what’s important to you. This game has a good balance of choices that are optimization-based and narrative-based.
Also of note is the detail and care that’s obviously gone into the worldbuilding here. Some of this is because EndMaster has two other stories set in this world, but the way it’s weaved into the narrative is very well done. As the focus of the game is on the running of the inn, the worldbuilding never overwhelms the plot or supercedes the focus on the inn. However, the details that exist add a lot of depth to the setting. It’s clear that this is a a big world that doesn’t exist simply to give the story a location, there’s a lot going on beyond the scope of the story.
This sense of immersiveness helps keep the narrator’s struggles in perspective. Unlike many storygames, the narrator is not a powerful or influential figure; he’s a relatively normal guy trying to survive in his niche in the world. This balance between the narrator’s agency and restrictions, combined with the depth of the world, gives the game a very realistic and grounded feel. There’s all this fantasy stuff going on, all of which is interesting, but you’re here to run an inn, and that sense of reality is transfered to the player.
-The introductory sequence does a good job establishing the characters of Dave and Tom, and the narrator’s father. It also does a good job showing where the narrator is at this point in his life, providing a snapshot of his childhood. The scene serves as a good reference point for the later chapters in his adulthood, and really emphasizes the secure nature of the narrator’s life up until this point.
-The background info in the informational links is interesting, but it barely has any effect on the story. It might be neater if the information were delivered on a more as-needed basis. As it is, the worldbuilding details (like the adventurer’s uncovering a dwaarven tomb) add a lot of atmosphere to the game. Conveying the bacakground information in a similar way would prevent it from seeming like an info dump, and further contribute to the game’s atmosphere. The same is true of the staff updates interspersed throughout the story.
-Pity that the Flying Griffon is an antagonist.
-I like the way the different staff members are used to present decisions. Having different characters supply different options for the player is a great way to both further characterization, and provide the player with a more balanced view of the options.
-Eliza’s interest in the narrator is shown well with her comment about potential workplace relationships.
-I find it amusing that a retaurant owner has been working with demons. Not only does it drive the plot forward, it’s a good worldbuilding detail. The characters react to this information the way they might react to some kind of mafia ties reveal, the way demons and magic are treated in this game shows the extent to which magic is a relatively common tool in this setting.
-Cindy never feels quite as fleshed out as the other characters. This is understandable since she doesn’t get as much screen time and isn’t as important, but since choosing whether or not to stay with her is the basis of the final decision, it would be nice to get to speak to her a bit more before making a call.
-I like that you can’t both keep the inn and end up with Eliza. Real life rarely has an optimal solution to it, there are always tradeoffs. I also like that the game’s optimal ending is somewhat mundane when compared to many of the endings in EndMaster’s other games. It’s a good contrast.
-Troll adrenaline is another excellent worldbuilding detail.
-I like the way the narrator’s workplace relationship with Eliza is handled. Workplace relationships really do cause problems in real life (far more than they do in fiction) and it’s nice to see the consequences of attachments like this shown.
-Took me half the game to realize it was “Flameflower” and not “Flamethrower”.
-David and Tom’s inclusion in the story is used well, the reader is already familiar with them, and aware that they put the narrator at risk. The fact that David and Tom are uneasy with the morality of this action is a good indicator of just how messed up it is.
-I like that the path where you hire the Crimson Talons continues just beyond the scope of the inn’s prospects and shows how the narrator’s dealings follow him into his later life.
-Incitahol appearing across multiple branches is a good bit of continuity.
-I like that the failure endings still give a quick summary of how your life went.
-Even for choices that deviate from the main path, there are a number of smaller adventures the player can engage in, such as the daquala path, and the incitahol path. Both are unusual pathes that intersect with the running of the inn and add detail to the world.
-The pacing of this story is quite good. It correctly identifies the important elements and focuses on them, not wasting time with irrelevent details.
A couple issues.
Mastery of Language
There are a couple sentence structure issues, the language can be a bit choppy at times.
Though this story does have a main branch, you can deviate from it pretty significantly and still have a fleshed out and full read. Some of the secondary branches are short mini adventures, while others go into more detail. There’s a great amount of variety.
Player Options/fair choice
Excellent. The player often gets three or more options when making decisions, and the outcome of each option is very well foreshadowed, with potential consequences being discussed by the various inn members before a decision is made.
My first time playing this game, the first ending I reached was probably the second best one, where you save the inn and marry Cindy instead of getting back together with Eliza.
CONCLUSION: The best way to describe this game is fun. It’s a well-imagined concept that sticks to its strengths, offering a lot of variety in gameplay without exceeding its scope.
General Recommendation: I definitely recommend this game. It’s one of the few games on this site that is truly epic in its scope, and provides a wide variety of different gameplay experiences, including many that readers probably haven’t been exposed to in other games.
Preview: After fleeing your hometown, what will you do to make a name for yourself as a rogue in your new city?
Whereas the strength of many of EndMaster’s other works, like Eternal or Necromancer, lies in the epicness of the plot and circumstances, this game draws its strength from its protagonist’s humble origins. While the Eternal and Necromancer have been born destined for greatness, the Rogue is a pickpocket running from a backwater village to escape local trouble. There is no guarantee he will ever amount to anything historic, and indeed, on many pathes he does not.
In many pathes, particularly the Klyton ones, you play simply as a rogue trying to make your way in the world. Though in many stories only making history is rewarded with an official epilogue, in this game you can get an epilogue for much more simple intimate things; such as settling down with your family, or reopening the family inn, or returning home after years abroad. You can also get epilogues for modest success in your career as a rogue, such as in epilogue 3. With this wide variety in possible epilogues, the story provides the player with a lot more flexibility than many similar games.
Of course, this contrast also serves to make the pathes where the Rogue does achieve historic greatness all the more awing. The player can truly appreciate the extent to which he has pulled himself up form his bootstraps and made a name for himself, as they know how easily things could have gone differently.
The tonal difference between the pathes in the city of Holgard and the rest of the story is notable. While the entire story is well written and plotted, there’s an extra layer of complexity and edge to the Holgard city pathes that makes them feel much more gritty and real.
It’s interesting how many of the Rogue’s epilogues allow him to be unsatisfied. In Ending 2, Zal has died and he has no direction. In Ending 6, he’s living a fairly hollow existence. In the middle of the Holgard path, he reminisces about how he’s not enjoying his success and things have gotten overly complicated. This works well, as it shows that mere success isn’t enough for him to feel satisfied, and it makes the endings where he achieves real happiness more meaningful.
The Rogue is definitly an antihero, though how much depends on which pathes you take. In some pathes (such as endings 1, 5, and 12) he keeps a relatively moral outlook and eventually leaves his life of crime. In other endings the opposite happens, such as him running a thriving slave trade in ending 9. EndMaster has always been skilled at writing characters who are morally lax but still engaging and likeable, and this story is no exception. It takes skill to have a character do the things the Rogue has done and remain sympathetic, but it’s done quite well.
The setting’s various fantastic religions are handled very well, with each taking the focus on some branches and affecting the plot. For the most part this lurks in the background on the Klyton arcs, with Virgil representing the Joachimites, and occasional references to Yag. This lets relgion be familiar to the reader when it takes center stage on the Holgard pathes. The story also does a good job representing polytheism in a realistic dnd-like way. Many written fantasy works fail to capture the diverse and patchwork feel that role playing games tend to have surrounding their pantheons. With the 4-5 major gods involved in the plot, Rogues creates a gallery of gods that have the depth to support a variety of storylines without overwhelming the player with names. The factional interactions between the gods creates a tense and suspenseful atmosphere in the Holgard arcs, in addition to the worldbuilding they provide.
Tom’s inclusion is a nice callback to Innkeeper, and the role he plays fits well with what we know of his character.
Zalmora’s inclusion as a major player across two arcs lets the reader see her from a variety of different angles. As an older and more experienced thief, she serves as a contrast to both the Rogue and the Rogue’s other potential love interests. She can be seen as the Rogue’s “default” love interest; a human rogue who is very similar to him in a lot of ways. All the Rogue’s other love interests are different than him in some major way, and these differences stand out more when compared to Zalmora.
I like Vaughn. He seems to be one of the Rogue’s more well-balanced associates, and provides stability to the Crimson Talons arcs.
Virgil’s inclusion on the various Klyton pathes is a good way of tying them together. He takes a more hands-on role in the path with Mara, but still not quite center stage.
I like Yvette, but I’m not especially happy with the way her arc turned out. We have an intriguing character, a budding angel-blooded mage who’s just coming into her own who then does… nothing. She marries the Rogue, has kids, and never learns about his shady past. It would have been interesting to see how her own skills and abilities could interact with the Rogue’s but they never intersect.
Franklin is a fun character. Angellic characters are often tough to potray in a balanced way, but Franklin seems well-rounded, and his attitude towards his daughter and son in law seems reasonable.
The idea of the Rogue adopting a daughter is a very fun one, and while Mara is still a child, she brings the story in interesting directions. I found the turn towards romance disappointing, however. The age gap and power dynamic differences are too severe for them ever to have a truly equal relationship, and by including attraction into their relationship, the story sacrifices the more interesting parental feelings she evoked in the Rogue.
Tych’s role is a more interesting one, as he’s never quite trustworthy, but ends up working with the Rogue at times. Their final interaction where he calls him blivik is well done.
Isabella is very well characterized. From her first scene it’s clear who she is, and her aloof nature fits well with the vampiric archetype. The Rogue’s relationship with Isabella tracks his journey towards becoming a true vampire. It’s also interesting to see her gradually grow to like or dislike him depending on whether the player is on track for epilogue 6 or 7. She only opens up and becomes a reasonable partner for the Rogue when he makes specific choices.
Ghoul Lisa and Lisa are pretty much completely different people, with ghoul Lisa being barely even sentient. Ghoul Lisa is important only in the influence she has on the Rogue, and despite her lack of sentience, she drives him towards purpose and a goal. I’d be curious to learn how Lisa will react when the Rogue eventually becomes powerful enough to turn her fully into a vampire, given what we learn about her personality on alternate pathes. Lisa as a human is more interesting. It’s good to see where Lisa winds up after the Rogue was detained for a year, and it’s also good to see that she’s doing alright for herself, knowing that she doesn’t have as much luck in other branches. Lisa is an interesting character as a concept, but we never have a chance to see her take initiative for herself, all her development happens when she’s been forced apart from the Rogue.
Heather fits the “asshole wizard” too, but in an entirely different way than Ral. She’s much more organized, much more subtle, and proportionally much more dangerous. No matter what branch you’re on she’s generally bad news, but interestingly, in some of the Rogue’s earlier interactions with her, she can show an altrustic side that later doesn’t show as much, with her increasing bitterness and lack of morality
Warts is my favorite character. Though he isn’t a major player at any point, he remains consistently one of the Rogue’s only real trustworthy allies. Seeing how their relationship changes and doesn’t change over the years really brigns into perspective the other changes in the Rogue’s life. On the road to epilogue 10, he’s pretty much the only real friend the Rogue makes that he doesn’t betray in some way. It’s nice to see him gain acceptance from his people and have a happy life settled with his family.
I like the balance of Garrick’s character. As Sneaks says, he’s a fairly good boss as far as rogues go, but it’s clear that spending lots of time repressing his feelings with a succubus over the years has taken its toll on his mental stability. He’s a sympathetic character in this way, but it doesn’t prevent him from being a compelling antagonistic force when his goals eventually clash with the Rogue.
It’s interesting to see the changes in Sneak’s character from when the Rogue meets him in the Holgard path, to when he runs into him later on the Klyton pathes. On the Holgard pathes, he seems to play a similar role to Vaughn, being a steady voice of reason and a friend to the Rogue. I was always disappointed that you have no choice but to betray him, and I’m glad there are other pathes where you can end up being friends.
Tanya is handled quite well. She’s a delicately balanced character, initially rejecting her demonic bloodline, and late rembracing it. Having her feelings for the Rogue be purely subsumed by this goal would be unsatisfying, but allowing them to have a successful relationship would be equally unsatisfying. Tanya IS a succubus, and the idea that she could maintain a balanced relationship with the Rogue while becoming fully demonic is unrealistic. What happens with them instead is much more satisfying. I tend to be hesitant of the trope where the main character wears down his object of affection over time, as there’s often no clear reason why the woman eventually changes her mind about him. I don’t have that problem with the relationship with Tanya. Her initial hesitation is more out of wanting to protect herself and others than genuine dislike, and she grows closer t othe Rogue as he’s one of the few people to actually see her as a person. Tanya’s life has largely been dominated by outside influences, such as her demonic heritage, and Garrick’s involvement with the Guild (though this was largely unintentional). When the Rogue is able to resist and accept the risk of her demonic nature enough to care about her and her own personal interests, it’s believable that her feelings towards him would change. It would be interesting to learn what happens to her on the pathes where she never meets the Rogue, and if she ever becomes a full succubus regardless.
Vera is certainly an… interesting character. Oddly enough, despite her somewhat fanatical devotion to the Rogue, she’s one of his few partners who genuinely stands up to him. His relationship with her mirrors his relationship with Tanya; both are attracted to the other, but unwilling to enter a relationship due to not wanting to endanger them. In the rogue nation path, Vera and the Rogue are able to overcome the obstacles to their relationship, while Tanya and the Rogue are not. Vera’s assertiveness makes her likeable, but her pro-slavery attitudes prevent me from really liking her or approving of the relationship. She’s one of the most morally loose characters the Rogue associates with.
Annah is annoying, but in an endearing sort of way, and her relationship with the protagonist is entertaining. Seeing her relationship develop with the protagonist over the years helps frame his own journey. Her importance to her pathes contrasted with her disappearance on the other 10 makes her presence key to the arcs she does participating, and it’s fun to see the influence she has on her plotlines.
I also have some notes on the gods in this story, as the depth of the religious worldbuilding really adds a lot:
Yag has a bunch of fun details, appropriately enough, such as the focus on dice, the lack of a strong desire for active devotion, and the go-with-the-flow nature of his priests surrounding their fates. His personality feels relaxed, and appropriate for a luck trickster god.
There are a number of obvious similarities between Dendrin and Fel, to the point that one might suspect a relation between them. The tendency of the Felians to work in the background is fun, and leads to some interesting plotlines.
It’s nice to see a knowledge/magic god of dubious ethical standards. Dorna is clearly one of the more dangerous gods, because of her power, the attitude of her followers, and her subtlety. I found myself trusting the alliance with her even less than the alliance with Fel.
Karn is the least involved in the plot, but his presence is still important to round out the city’s pantheon.
I like that the Joachimites can very easily take on a purely antagonistic role towards innocents despite being a religion dedicated to holiness and light. It’s also god that we get to see various different sides of the Joachimites, between Virgil and the interactions on the Holgard path.
Neroth fills the role of a typical darkness god, and he fills it well. As a more one-dimensional antagonist, he works well as one of the first antagonistic forces the Rogue faces on the Holgard path, and later steps aside to allow the Rogue to face more complex antagonists.
-Obviously, setting this story as a sequel to Innkeeper immediately ties the player into the world. The reader already has a basic feel for the setting and some of the characters, which gives the story a sort of head start on characterization.
-I enjoyed the Holgard Rogue’s Guild pathes most the first time I played this, so I’ll be saving those for last.
-It can be tough to write fight scenes in a way that is both quick and accurate, but the confrontation with Klint is bot well-paced and descriptive.
-Lol, “It’s not the size of the weapon, it’s how you use it.” -“Yes dear, you keep telling yourself that.”
-Seems odd that the hanging cages are considered a mercy.
-I’m enjoying the contrast in tone between the pathes where the Rogue makes his way alone, and the ones with Annah. Appropriately, there’s a much more casual feel, and a lighter tone. It makes a good contrast with the other pathes.
-The protagonist pretending to have a pistol is amusing, especially considering he actually does have one on the Holgard path.
-I appreciate the comedic dynamic she and the protagonist have, as well as the skill it takes to balance it. This type of bickering can be easy to write in a way that puts the reader off, but EndMaster balances it quite well.
-Virgil being mentioned before he’s seen, as well as his first introduction, characterizes him efficiently.
-Klint’s father’s appearance is done well. It’s logical and foreshadowed but not made obvious, and surprises the reader.
-The narrtaor beaking up with Annah is good for their relationship. Annah developing her own support system makes her a much more equal partner for the Rogue, and allows her to be characterized in ways that a relationship wouldn’t have given room for.
-Annah’s repeating that in different situations the narrator would probably get along with Jenny suggests to me that she appears in other branches.
-Ah, it’s always annoying when you can tell a drink is drugged but can’t choose not to drink it.
-I suspected that Tom or Dave might be running the Talons, and I’m pleased that that’s the case. It’s a nice callback to Innkeeper.
-The Rogue’s thriftiness is a fun character trait for him that gives the opportunity for character driven scenes and relationships. I’ve always found paranoia endearing in characters.
-The references to Yag rolling the dice are a nice worldbuilding element.
-Nice Innkeeper reference with Flameflower’s appearance.
-I like how Checkers plays a small but continued role throughout the story. Checkers helps to ground Annah’s development.
-The sequence with Flameflower and the bandits is done well in a way that shows the seriousness and tragedy of the situation without overplaying it.
-It’s quite amusing that the Rogue has somehow ended up being looked up to by a gang of teenagers.
-Annah’s had some excellent character development. She’s changed a lot, growing in competence and realizing she’s more morally loose, but the changes all seem believeable, and take her character in interesting directions.
-I like that what’s happening in Jicol is followed up on in more than one path. It’s interesting to see what the Syndicate is doing in Jicol without the narrator having already dealt with them in Holgard.
-It’s also an interesting contrast that in the Annah pathes the narrator is very wary of gangs, but ends up leading one in the Holgard path and some of hte Klyton pathes. It shows the difference between his character in the arcs.
-The scene with the Innkeeper is done quite well. His limited appearance on the other pathes makes him showing up here all the more impactful. He’s acting in character with what we know of him from Innkeeper, while still having changed and grown in a reasonable way since that story.
-The Inkeeper’s interaction with his son is quite touching. It’s clear that he wants him to step up and still cares deeply about him after all this time. I like how the Rogue’s ongoing thriftiness is now used as a point in his being a father. Their conversations on the way back to Klyton really go to show both what has changed in the past twenty years, and what hasn’t.
-Ending each major branch with the sister’s return is an excellent narrative decision. It ties the story back together to the beginning, and gives a logical in-universe reason for the reader to look back on the story and reflect. It also helps to highlight the difference between the Rogue’s situation in each of the epilogues.
-I like the use of technology in this world. Like in Innkeeper, there is technological advancement, but it has yet to reach the general public, and is similar to magic currently in its use and availiability. It works well with the tone of the setting.
-Ending 11 is fun. It’s amusing that after all the trouble with them in other branches you can have a positive relationship with the Ebony Claw Syndicate, and the idea of being a crime family is both fun and oddly wholesome.
-It’s a little annoying that choosing to leave the Syndicate is the only way to successfully join them.
-The detour in the Delantium Kingdom does a good job of establishing the riskiness of dealing with the Ebony Claw Syndicate.
-Having pathes in Klyton both with and without Annah is a good way to show the significance of her presence. The silence and simplicity of the journey to klyton without her there does a good job of showing both the advantages and drawbacks of her company.
-Tom’s appearance being brushed over on the Annah path is also a nice detail, and a good way to show differences, and the references to different Crimson Talons members in Annah’s arcs also makes meeting the characters in person in the Klyton path more interesting.
-It’s interesting that in the Klyton path you run into Zalmora much sooner than on the Annah path.
-It’s interesting that all of the drugs are named after colors.
-The scene with the wanted poster for the Grinning Man does a good job setting the scene.
-It’s nice to see the Rogue interacting with both orgainzed crime, disorganized crime, and disorganized organized crime. With the Thieves’ Guild he’s part of a competent organization trying to fit into it. With the Crimson Talons he’s one of the more competent members trying to salvage the group. And he also has the opportunity to be a solo thief in Klyton. The differences between these pathes show how the player’s decisions have affected his character and provides a wide variety of different plotlines.
-I like that Jake uses the word “Bloody” for his group, regardless of which one it is.
-All the references to Innkeeper on the Klyton path are fun. I’m pleased to see more of Scales, I always thought he was an intriguing character.
-Mr. Reynold’s concern for Olaf’s welfare & wife is a good character detail.
-I find it interesting how the Rogue’s relationship with Zalmora is different when they’re part of the Crimson Talons and when they’re independent. They seem to get along more casually as independent associates than in a formal organized system.
-Man, Madeline is nuts. EDIT: Not surprised to learn she’s part succubus, I was getting suspicious when the Rogue mentioned the dreams he’d been having.
-Not sure why we’re trying to assassintate the Governor of Hessla. Seems counterproductive.
-Amusing that in the 3rd epilogue you can have a positive relationship with Mr. Reynolds, despite all the conflict he causes in alternate branches. It’s also interesting that the Rogue runs a legitimate business in this epilogue.
-It’s interesting that the relationship with Zalmora doesn’t work out in many branches. It makes sense given what we know of their personalities, and I tend to like when stories show relationships ending in realistic ways. In the epilogue where they do end up together, the number of epilogues where they don’t makes it feel more earned, and shows clearly the circumstances that allowed it to happen.
-Zalmora’s marriage proposal is quite amusing.
-I like the attention given to the side characters, like Junior, the Ogrefling.
-Epilogue 2 is allowed to be both a “Victory”, due to being one of the epilogues, and a failure, due to the nature of the Rogue’s circumstances. The sister’s visit and their shared journey towards Teckleville gives the ending a sense of hopefulness and continuity, the Rogue’s life is not over. More than the other epilogues, this one feels like the beginning of a story rather than the ending, in a good way.
-The side adventure with the pirates is entertaining. Side adventures like this one and the one with Madeline give the story more depth.
-Wendy’s appearance is done well.
-This game devotes a lot of attention to death endings and side pathes, which is nice. In many cases, these dead ends have multiple pages and options.
-The parallels between the Rogue’s situation with and without Annah as a freelancer in Klyton are good.
-Dr. Gossey’s appearance is an entertaining surprise.
-I like that qweepas appear across multiple branches.
-Pretty pathetic that you can’t do anything to protect Elena. If this is going to be representative of this path, I don’t have much respect for the Rogue here. Also it’s pretty weird that he names his qweepa after her.
-It’s interesting that the Rogue is less thrifty on the path without Annah. Perhaps his reluctance to spend was more of a reaction to her spending habits than an inborn trait.
-The various tasks the Rogue ends up doing on the independent Klyton path remind me a little of parts of Legend.
-Virgil’s continued appearances across the various pathes is a good bit of continuity, and it helps set up his character for the point where he begins taking a more active role in the plot.
-The fact that the Rogue not being a rapist makes him a catch to Ola says a lot about Gix.
-I like that the Rogue can end up being involved inthe massacre on Rifiv’s ship that he later hears about in the other pirate path.
-It’s nice that we get a chance to see a bit of how magic works in this world on the branch with Yvette, for the most part magic has only been a background element.
-I think Yvette can do better than the Rogue. He’s lied to her, pushed at her boundaries, and they’ve spent all of one trip in each other’s company.
-I like Mara so far, and I like the impact she’s having on the Rogue. He’s probably not the best influence on her, but certainly better than what we’ve heard of the Klyton orphanages.
-Sneaks’s appearance in Jicol on multiple different branches is nice.
-I wish you have the choice not to enter a relationship with Mara. The power dynamics feel wrong and the age gap is too big. I liked their relationship better when it was purely paternal.
-It’s nice that you can end up on either side of Mr. Reynolds’ political campaign.
-Honestly, I don’t think the Rogue should have ended up with Yvette. He’s lying to her and he has no intention of stopping. I like her and I like Trinity as characters, but it doesn’t feel deserved.
-The difference between the Klyton and Holgard pathes is made immediately apparent with the death of the merchant. In Klyton, you can afford to pet the dog every now and then and keep your head clean, Holgard will afford the player no such luxury. On these pathes, it is a burtally kill or be brutally killed world. The fact that the Rogue has now killed three people is addressed but not dwelled on, which shows how life is treated more casually here.
-It’s clear from the Rogue’s conversation with the wizard that he’s scared and unnerved.
-Lol, “Did you just magically enslave me?” “I hate when it’s put like that.”
-The references to Legend on the path with Ral are entertaining. It’s also nice to see more about how magic works in this world on this path.
-The tone of the path with Ral does a good job of showing the Rogue’s situation. He’s stuck and frustrated, and this comes across well in his narration and the attitude of others.
-The use of the word “Plivik” is clever, as is Tych’s characterization in general.
-The beginning of the path with Ral has an interesting episodic feel that’s quite different from the rest of the game.
-The wazia is a well-imagined fantasy creature, not sure if it was made up for this game or not.
-“Sounds very similar to plivik.” “Sometimes in our culture the two are interchangeable.” This is another good character moment for Tych and the Rogue, and the sprite culture at large.
-Lol “You have a pet manticore?” “Sure, doesn’t everyone?”
-While the religious faction war is the focus of the story in the Holgard city pathes, it’s nice to see it affecting the plot on the vampire path. It’s also nice to see Heather interacting with the Rogue in different contexts.
-It’s too bad there’s no path that follows the Rogue when he chooses not to go to Isabella for help with his condition and instead leaves the area. It’s an intriguing situation for him, with a lot of possibility.
-One strength of this path is the way in which the narrator slowly grows away from being a rogue. It starts with his service to Ral, then his cold condition, then his vampirism. The change happens slowly enough that it’s believeable, and opens plotlines rather than shutting them.
-Fittingly, the Rogue’s first and foremost challenge as a vampire is boredom. My dude needs a hobby. He should take up fishing or crocheting or the trumpet or something.
-The plotline involving Heather and the religious war does a good job showing the Rogue’s aimlessness. He’s not doing this because he cares, he just doesn’t have anything better to do than let himself be used by Heather. Fittingly, it doesn’t end well for him.
-I like that the Joachimites appear in both the Holgard and Klyton branches. For the most part, those two pathes are fairly disconnected.
-It’s interesting that on the path where the Rogue dominates a village he’s able to correctly identify the power imbalances in his relationship with Isabella. The Rogue enters relationships with power imbalances in many other pathes (such as with Mara), but doesn’t seem aware of the issues, despite having a much firmer grip on morality.
-Green Eye’s character is interesting, and provides an unusual challenge for the Rogue.
-I like the doppelganger. She adds interesting possibilities to the plotline, and is a unique character.
-It fits that the Rogue never winds up properly happy on the path with the ghoul villages. It doesn’t fit with what he wants out of life, it doesn’t challenge him in ways that matter, and he has no real friends. It’s good that this path shows that despite his power, these endings aren’t necessarily positive. The ending with Isabella, by contrast, shows the importance of companionship to the Rogue’s genuine happiness.
-The vampire pathes just don’t really do it for me, for a couple reasons. The Rogue is more interesting when his moral code is a bit tighter, and when his journey towards power is more gradual and self-driven. In the vampire arcs, he’s thrust into power without ever really earning it, and predictably uses it without having a full appreciation for it. Another factor may be that choosing to deviate from the vampire pathes’ main plots often leads to “your life as a Rogue is over” endings. The path with Lisa is slightly more engaging, as the Rogue has a clear purpose he’s trying to achieve. I also found the earlier parts more engaging, before he is turned into a vampire.
-The theme of freedom surrounding the pathes with Ral is interesting, particularly since the Rogue never really achieves it in most of the pathes. He remains bound to Lisa on the ghoul path, bound to Isabella on the second path, and in no case manages to avoid becoming a vampire.
-Lol, “Poor depressed vampire wallowing about how nobody understands his pain. Why the hell is it that half of all you vampires are like this?”
-Ending 8 is oddly wholesome, with the Rogue committed to making things right with Lisa despite everything that’s happened. It’s nice to see him still upholding his obligation to fix his mistakes despite other changes to his moral code.
-I like all the variety between the different gangs. The ECS, Thieves’ Guild, Crimson Talons, and Black Hooks each have their own unique character.
-I’m usually irritated by transcribed accents, but Warts’ speech patterns are subtle and understandable enough that they’re not irritating.
-Lol, “Thank Yag we got outta there when we did.” “Thank ME we got out when we did.”
-The tone of the Holgrad pathes is done quite well. Whereas the Klyton pathes have a casual and relaxed atmosphere, in Holgard, there’s a constant sense that everything is slowly coming to a boil. This sense of unease is especially pervasive in the earlier parts of the arc, where the Rogue is still learning how he fits into the city’s political structure. Oddly, despite this, he seems to “fit” more with Holgard that with Klyton or Ral; the city is a dangerous place, but he’s a dangerous man, and this city is where he fits in most naturally.
-The Rogue’s initial relationship with Tanya is refreshing, as his other love interests are the ones interested in him for the most part. It’s realistic that not everyone the Rogue is interested in would immediately throw themselves at him. The Rogue’s behavior towards her is a little pushier than I’d like, but it’s forgivable since he’s under demonic influence.
-The mini adventure with time travel is an interesting detour, and makes me wonder what caused it to be included in the narrative. Though certainly entertaining, it’s wholly disconnected from the rest of the story, making me wonder if there were plans to flesh this out into a full branch. It bears some similarities to the alternate universe plots of SSS in tone.
-The interaction with Naji is oddly wholesome considering the circumstances.
-The background information on Neroth from the Rogue’s first burglary is helpful when he becomes more important later on.
-Lol, “I obviously don’t have that much influence if you’re able to keep a secret like that from me.” “Um, well I did just confess to you.” “Oh right. Shit.”
-It’s interesting that the politics in Holgard initially remain in the background to the Rogue’s story. References are made to the Baron, and later the Baroness, but the Rogue doesn’t become directly involved in city-wide politics, or the religious war, until later.
-The sequence where the Rogue is recalling how the people’s he’s slept with have died is presented well.
-I like that the Rogue is morally against slavery, I just wish it was due to a genuine moral code rather than his unresolved issues surrounding Tanya. It feels like a major blow to his character when he later abandons this code in the path with Vera.
-Yinen’s identity as the inquisitor is an interesting detail, but it fits well with what he’s told us of his history. Even though the plotline isn’t explored in depth, it’s intriguing.
-The Rogue’s killing of his sexual partners on the Holgard path is one way to show the effect dating a succubus has had on him. His eventually getting over it on the Vera path shows his release of Tanya, and his inability to do so on the hero path shows how he’s never able to let her go.
-The plot surrounding Kol is a good way to round off the rogue nation branch. After all the large-scale confrontations on the branch, a more intimate family-based challenge wraps up the story nicely.
-The way Heather develops in the hero path is logical given what we know of her ambitions and actions on other pathes.
-I like the irony of the “hero” path having the Rogue take some of his most immoral actions.
-The sequence with Tanya at the end of the hero path is excellently written. The Rogue is not a nice person (understatement of the year), particularly not on this path. Neither is Tanya. However, they are both capable of love, and uniquely equipped to overlook each other’s faults (as Tanya says “you really don’t judge, do you?”). Their reunion illustrates both their feelings for each other, and why these feelings can never be reciprocated. It provides a satisfying conclusion to the relationship within the scope of the story, managing to be genuinely touching despite the extreme circumstances.
There’s a number of typos and proofread issues, but not many actual grammatical issues.
Mastery of Language
There seems to be an improvement in language use in this story compared to some of EndMaster’s previous ones. The comedic pacing of the sentences seems better and more thought-out. The dialogue in general is well-paced. There are still a few sentence structuring issues.
This story also does a good job intermixing description and summary with dialogue, which is good since it covers such a large expanse of time.
Very good for a story of this length, there are 12 full epilogues. There’s a lot of variety here.
Player Options/fair choice
Pretty good for fair choice. The consequences of actions tend to be well foreshadowed. There are exceptions, of course.
As far as player options goes, there’s only so much you can do there in a game of this length. There are a number of places where the Rogue makes major decisions without consulting the player, or decisions that should logically lead to major pathes end with “your life as a rogue is over”. The game states up front that it is more story-focused, however, and it would be unreasonable to expect otherwise in a game this long and complex.
The decisions that split the game into different branches tend to be representative of the true decision being made, and make it clear to the player what effect their choice will have on their gameplay. The one glaring exception to this is choosing how to avoid an orgy, which leads to a major split in the game’s branches based on a pretty random decision by the player.
I got ending 9 (Rogue Nation) the first time I played this game, and then played through the rest of the Holgard pathes. After exploring the others, I came to the conclusion that Rogue Nation was probably the best ending, just wish it could be without the slavery.
I have spent at least seven hours reading and reviewing this game today alone, and that was just for the final two pathes (9 and 10). I’ve been spending hours on this for days. My finger aches from clicking the little blue buttons. Worth it.
On to the next one!
CONCLUSION: An epic storygame that lives up to its high reputation.
General Recommendation: Highly recommended. Just be sure you’ve read through Necromancer first, because this story relies on the player’s knowledge of that game.
Preview: Witness the end days of a world as a musician in the army.
This is a difficult game to review. It has so many layers of narrative structure and subtlety that I’m sure I’ll realize I missed something shortly after posting this. But I’ll try to do it justice.
The narrator’s most key trait to this story is his humanity. His struggles, goals, and actions, are all based around the idea of being alive in the world, such as his struggles with his bravery, his role in the army, and balancing his practical needs with his artistic vision. The narrator’s repeated choice to flee and live or fight and die shows very starkly that sometimes being brave and summoning up the courage to do something really is futile. The narrator is well aware that he’s failed to make a difference at these times, and he struggles with being put in the position of a survivor and hero, when he only lived because he ran away. What he really wants is the chance to practice his music and develop his talent into something special, but practical concerns prevent him from doing so. Though part of the army, he has no special attachment to the Zalan Empire, and just wants to keep his family safe, especially as the war becomes more and more dire. These two challenges contribute to his general sense of being lost and adrift; he’s very unclear on what he wants and how to get it and this story does a good job of communicating that. It’s a very human struggle that anyone can relate to, at least to some extent.
The story handles these themes well on their own, but they become much more powerful when set against the backdrop of the end of the world. While most stories that tackle these themes ultimately come to a positive conclusion, or at least a proactive one, in this story the narrator never gets an answer to his philosophical questions, he never really comes to terms with his reputation, and he never has the chance to find fulfillment and purpose. This is not due to his own actions, but due to circumstances entirely outside of his control. Even when he handles the situation as well as he possibly can, he’s doomed to failure because he’s facing an opponent he simply has no chance of overcoming. Oddly, this has the effect of making the focus on narrator’s challenges more poignant. In the midst of this epic chaos and confusion, this is a very human story focused on the narrator’s human struggles: His fear, his passion for music, his love for his family. These struggles do not disappear or fade when faced with larger-scale issues, instead, they become all the more important. When these painfully human struggles and challenges are ultimately wiped out as life is destroyed forever, it’s a tragedy. So much so, that even Catalina can recognize it, if only for a moment, even if it never quite reaches her husband.
Which brings me to the second key point about this story: It’s a companion piece for Necromancer, and a completely brilliant one. Necromancer is a game of power. In Necromancer, the player is a world-conquoring tyrant with nothing standing in their way as they bend anyone opposing them to their will. It’s fun, it’s exciting, and it’s an emotional rush. It’s fun enough that you allow yourself to push aside the fact that this power is being used to commit horrible atrocities, and simply enjoy the ride. Necromancer is, essentially, a brilliantly-done power fantasy.
But Death Song takes Necromancer as it exists and turns it into something far more personal and powerful. Death Song shows the player Necromancer from an outside perspective, and shows them the consequences of their actions. It never gets preachy or moralistic, instead simply showing the player from an objective angle how the other people of this world are affected by the events of the plot. It slows the player down and makes them think, considering the implications of this story far more than they would with it as a standalone or a linear story. This is done most directly (and effectively) in the final scene with the narrator’s frustration and musings about the Necromancer and Catalina. The narrator at no point allows the pair any kind of forgiveness or acceptance, nor do they ever back down or try to justify themselves to him in their pursuit of global genocide. But he and Catalina are able to speak, human to human, and reach the slightest of understandings.
This is a very artistic game, and stands alone among EndMaster’s works as a much more subtle look at literary themes such as death and human power, or the lack thereof. It’s a challenging concept to tackle, but it’s done masterfully for maximum emotional impact.
-I like the way the narrator’s involvement in the mercenary band is handled; he’s uncomfortable with some of their actions, but too dependent on the income to do anything about it.
-The Necromancer’s father’s inclusion on the mercenary arc adds depth to his character, and is helpful to both Necromancer and the framing of this branch. The conversation between the narrator and Captain helps give his perspective on his family and lets the reader understand him in a way they can’t while looking through his son’s eyes.
-The difference between the narrator’s personal integrity on the mercenary and army path is interesting.
-The story starts with smaller incidents, such as the conflict in the mine, before building up to events that happen in Necromancer. This helps the reader get a feel for the protagonist outside of the plot references.
-The destruction of the narrator’s lute on the mercenary path is a good plot details and shows the change in his development.
-The scenes with the mercenaries and army recruiter do a good job immediately establishing the tone of the two groups through dialogue and actions.
-The letters to home work better than most informational links, as they provide insight that would be difficult to potray through the text, and give insight into the narrator’s thoughts rather than important strategical information.
-The Quillars are an interesting fantasy race.
-Despite the fact that Zalan/Retland politics are ultimatley unimportant to the plot, I like their inclusion. It makes the world bigger.
-The narrator’s talent for music and his company’s appreciation for it is built up gradually as the situation with the necromancers becomes more severe. Fittingly, his musical talent gets much more focus on the arc with the army than with the mercenaries.
-Having the narrator survive only by fleeing is an interesitng decision, one that gives added layers of depth to his character beyond just a lucky survivor.
-The details about different types of music such as elven or dwarven help characterize the narrator and side characters.
-Warnov’s appearing twice helps show how the situation has changed.
-The narrator’s relationship with the Necromancer’s sister is well done. It’s thoughful and touching, but never overstays its welcome, and is played out realistically.
-It’s an interesting touch that the narrator’s relationship with Helena is only ever developed through the letters to home. It makes it feel all the more distant and wistful, which adds to the tone.
-The appearance of the faries is a nice break in the story. It’s touching to find a place that hasn’t yet been reached by the destruction, and all the more tragic when it’s eventually destroyed.
-The final sequence as the narrator grows old and the world dies is quite well written.
-Though like Necromancer the main branch of this story is quite linear, I think this game benefits from being a CYOA rather than a straight story. The multitude of death endings really hammer in how badly the world is being damaged and how easy it would be for the protagonist to simply die.
-It’s refreshing to play an EndMaster game with a mostly moral protagonist.
Mastery of Language
Noticably better for this story. The language is much more even and balanced right from the beginning, and becomes almost poetic later in the story. The final sequences of the main path are notbaly well written.
Very little, but it’s not the point.
Player Options/fair choice
Generally good, considering the linearity of this story. Actions are foreshadowed.
I don’t cry at books or movies, and I did not cry while reading this story. But it was a close one.
CONCLUSION: An excellent game, both on its own and as a companion piece for Necromancer. Notable for its artistry and subtlety.
General Recommendation: I recommend this game. It’s a fun read with a sense of epicness and scale that many longer works fail to capture.
Preview: Will you successfully embrace your destiny as a true necromancer?
This story’s greatest strength is the sense of scope it builds up. Though actually one of EndMaster’s shorter works, this story deals with events on a larger scale than most other storygames, following the narrator’s journey to ultimately end the world. It’s an ambitious idea to tell a story about, and EndMaster handles it very skillfully.
The pace of this story is lightning fast in the best ways. No time is wasted on irrelevant details, instead the story jumps straight to the action. In the early parts of the story, it focuses more on how isolated incidents and conflicts are dealt with. This scene-by-scene approach gets across well how time is passing, and by the time the story shifts focus to a larger more epic scale, the reader really feels like a lot of time has passed. Despite the fast pace of the story, it never feels rushed, and the narrator’s increases in power never feel sudden.
The Necromancer’s family is used quite well in this story. Though the Necromancer faces large-scale sweeping challenges like the attack on Nuro and the confrontation with the vampires, ultimately the final challanges he must face are intimate and personal. In a longer story, some scenes with his family at the beginning could serve to establish their relationship, but given the length of the game, the informational links work fine.
There’s always been something amusing to me about the necromancer’s initial state as a college rich kid slacker. He starts off being very human, with very human traits and failings and desires. This shows strongly in his initial interaction with Big Red (as well as his plan to murder him), where he’s clearly in deep over his head, and on the early stages of the necromancer path where he gets curious and excited about new abilities and prospects for expansion. The two major pathes in this game do a good job showing the possibles ways for the protagonist to develop from this initial state. The necromancy path shows him shedding his mortal desires and wishes and becoming a pure detached personification of death. However, the second path makes clear that this was not inevitable: On the hellbound path, he instead embraces the material traits of pettiness and cruelty, sacrificing his natural gift in an attempt to gain power. Despite growing in power to levels almost approaching those of the necromancer path, he never achieves the confidence and competence of a true necromancer, always grasping fearfully for more power and needing to lie and cheat to get it.
Tone is used very effectively in this story. The tone at the beginning of this story is very conversational and casual. This does a good job setting up the world as it currently exists, and makes the tone shift later in the work more impactful. On the hell path, the narrator’s tone becomes gradiose and arrogant, using sweeping language. The Necromancer path also uses expansive phrasings, but this time it comes across as genuine, as the narrator can actually back up his claims.
There’s a sense of epicness and fate to this game. On the hell path, this is true from the perspective of Big Red’s manipulation of the narrator. There’s a sense of inevitability to his eventual domination. It’s most true on the main path, however, which tracks the narrator’s journey to becoming a god of death. Serena’s intervention, as well as the narrator’s steadily rythmic journey towards power makes the path feel fated and destined. This is a particularly interesting theme, given that the nature of the choose-your-own-adventure format prevents anthing from ever truly being fated. It’s done well, however.
The focus on fate and the “purity” of the narrator’s death powers is what makes this game more than just a hack-n-slash kill-em-all adventure. Yes, you do conquer the world, but it’s about more than just conquoring the world: It’s about the Necromancer’s realization of his destiny and place in the multiverse.
-The pictures with captions add a lot of atmosphere to this game. I’d be curious to know how they were created and where they’re from.
-I’m not a big fan of info links in storygames, and this story has a bunch right at the beginning. The information itself is well-organized and well-written. The need to include bcakground information is understandable in this game, as this game will jump straight into the action and doesn’t have time to introduce worldbuilding in the traditional way, as longer games like Rogues can.
-Big Red correctly identifies that the narrator is “confused and curious” at the beginning of the story. He has the potential to be a great necromancer, but he’s not one yet.
-The protagonist’s isolation on the hellbound path verses joining the Dark Order is a good contrast between the two branches.
-In the fight with Quayle: “You see a small gray building that doesn’t seem to be suggering any effects”. I know this is certainly a coincidence, but I can’t help thinking of the gray building from Tales from the Basement and SSS.
-Aftermath is a good name.
-Lol, left hand demon.
-The politics on the hellbound arc are fun.
-The toll that the narrator’s allegiance with hell takes on his body is a good way to show his corruption.
-The scene with the narrator’s father on the hell path does a good job of highlighting the narrator’s arrogance and blindness, while also showing his insecurity.
-The narrator’s treatment of his sister and father on each path is another way to show the difference in his personality. On the hell path he brutally tortures both of them for pretty much no reason. On the necromancer path he comes to an understanding with his father before his death, and faces his sister with respect. This shows the larger differences between the two pathes as well, on the hell path the Necromancer is petty, vindictive, and insecure, on the necromancer path he’s far from being a good guy, but his pursuit of power is out of something more pure and dispassionate, allowing him to reach an understanding with his family, even if their goals are unequivocally opposed.
-The epilogue to the hell path is quite well written.
-I also like the contrast that on the hell path the narrator is actively seeking godhood, but only on the necromancy path can he achieve it.
-Big Red is an excellent character, and used to full effect in this story. Of all the demons, he plays the role of a “true” archetypical demon the most; manipulating from the shadows and striking after being very patient. The reveal at the end that he has been manipulating events the whole time manages both to surprise the reader but also feel preordained; how else could the Necromancer’s associated with hell have ended?
-It’s interesting that the ending where you side with the vampires in the hell path winds up being more positive for yourself and the world than the ending. I like that the game shows the opportunities the Necromancer has to turn away from his conquest.
-I like the way Mr. Demar and Big Red have inverse character arcs. Mr. Demar starts out as a pinacle of knowledge in the dubious side of the academic, but later turns out to be unable to handle the situations he’s created. Big Red gets offed in the first chapter, only to later be revealed to have masterminded the apocalypse in his spare time.
-I like that the Necromancer immobilizes the zombies using a nature spell, something he’s horrible at.
-Another parallel: In the hell arc, the Necromancer starts off alone and winds up surrounded by others. In the necromancy arc, he starts off with lots of allies and ends up alone.
-The jokes about all the necromancers previous failed attempts at magic are amusing.
-In general, I like the way EndMaster handles vampires in his stories. Like elves, they’re one of the fantasy creatues that it’s very easy to write in a cliche or irritating manner. However, the vampires in these stories are written in a self-aware fasion, emphasizing the inhuman aspects rather than the human ones.
-I like the inclusion of time magic. As this is a story about necromancy, it never takes center stage, but the effects we are allowed to see are intriguing and show the reader where necromancy fits in in the world of magic. It also makes a good and unusual challenge for the Necromancer to face.
-I like the reltionship between Catalina and the Necromancer better after they’re together. It’s not really clear why she changes her mind about him during the coutship stage, but once they are together, they make good partners.
-The Ghoul King is done well. He makes an unusual and fun ally in the early parts of the game. His later betrayal makes sense given what we know of his character, and does a good job showing the changing circumstances for the Necromancer.
-It’s interesting that the Necromancer is in denial about his desire to kill everything for a long time.
-The scene where the Necromancer becomes the Great Lich Lord is well done.
-The Necromancer’s increasing exhaustion and lack of emotion throughout the necromancy path is a good way to track his gradually losing his humanity and becoming a personification of death.
-The final chapter of the necromancy arc is largely about whether or not the Necromancer is fully committed to his path of death. I like that many of the endings where he turns away are allowed to be positive, as this is realisitc.
-It seems odd that your mom says “as was predicted” regardless of what you choose.
-The final scene where the Necromancer leaves the world is quite well-written, capturing the sense of epicness and scale that the story has been building to up to this point.
Mastery of Language
There are a number of sentence structuring issues, particularly in the beginning of the story. At times, these contribute to the conversational tone.
One thing that’s notable about this story is that the writing and style improves noticably as the story goes on, to the extent that it might well be deliberate. It certainly does a good job of illustrating the changes in the scope of the story, the changes to the narrator, and the changes to the world, as the seriousness of the events is mirrored by the language and phrasing used.
Not great, the story only has two major pathways. This isn’t a problem, as the story states up front it’s more “story” than “game”.
Player Options/fair choice
Fair choice is pretty good, the consequences of actions are well-foreshadowed. The player options aren’t great, as the story only has two official endings and a single choice at the beginning determines which one the player is on track for. This isn’t a problem, as the story states up front it’s fairly linear.
PERSONAL EXPERIENCE: I played through the necromancy path when I first played a few years ago.
CONCLUSION: An well-written and entertaining game that brings an impressive sense of scope to the reader’s journey.
General Recommendation: I recommend this game, though you should definitely read all of EndMaster’s other games before this one, as there are a lot of references. All the paths are enjoyable on their own, but they really shine when you can appreciate the depth and history that went into each of them.
Preview: Get a closer look into the heads, lives, and fates of three major characters from EndMaster’s other works.
These stories are most notable for the way they fit into the extended universe of EndMaster’s stories. The Pure tells the story of what Tanya has been up to since her appearance in Rogues, The Vile follows Semra’s fate after the events of Eternal, and The Deadly gives us more insight into the character of Catalina. While there have always been connections and references between EndMaster’s works (such as the harbinger ending of Eternal and epilogue 16 of SSS), this collections takes a big step forwards in tying the disparate stories together into a cohesive narrative. These stories give the reader the kind of enjoyment that can only be had from full immersion in a complex and interconnected world. Not many authors have connected universes expansive enough to support a story like this.
One character unites all these stories: Big Red, the demon first introduced in Necromancer. In The Pure he is the story’s instigator, bringing Tanya to the realm of the ancients and then disappearing, leaving the reader wondering how he is tied up in all these events. We know him to be a master manipulator, but also know him to be against the “ancients”, so his involvement here is an enigma. His involvement in The Vile is more clear cut, he’s taking advantage of Evigrus’s destruction to try and nab a bunch of valuable svelk souls. The transparency of his involvement here is what eventually allows him to be outwitted in this path. His role in The Deadly is the least involved, with him simply nudging Catalina towards necromancy. Unlike Tanya, who fights him, and Semra, who deals with him, Catalina simply refuses to engage with Big Red, and they go their seperate ways.
This story feels like a prologue in a lot of ways. We’re given a snapshot of a character and a setting, and are introduced to a new and unusual conflict. It’s clear that this conflict is only just beginning, and that the characters really have no idea what they’re going to be facing here. It’s just the tip of the iceberg in what is sure to be an epic struggle. This is especially true when this story is fitted in with the other stories set in EndMaster’s extended universe, such as “eterpia”. It feels as if some larger story is brewing behind the scenes.
Despite being framed as a conflict between infernals and celestials, the real battle here is between law and chaos, with Tanya on the side of law and the celestials having joined with the “ancients” on the side of chaos. Cosmic battles of law vs chaos tend to be more interesting than the traditional good vs evil ones.
The references to other works are done most explicitly in this story, as characters from several different works are brought together by the introduction of an entirely new threat to the EndMaster multiverse, with the promise of future collaborations between them to combat this threat.
An aptly-named story. We follow Semra here, and the ensuing plot is exactly as brutal and depraved as one would expect. Though we don’t learn anything new about Semra’s history or attitude, we get a chance to see her operation style and thought processes, whereas in Eternal she’s always lurking behind the scenes and pulling the strings. Here she’s been backed into a corner and needs to take much more decisive and desperate action.
Of note is the dero’s involvement in this arc. They’re one of the more intriguing races introduced in Eternal, but get very little screen time. In this story, we learn a lot more about their history and culture through Semra’s interaction with one of the more non-traditional dero communities. The worldbuilding surrounding the dero is intriguing.
Right off the bat, the path with Catalina is far more intimate than either of the previous two paths, with their large-scale conflicts. The path begins by focusing on Catalina’s haphazard childhood and budding necromantic powers. While the other two paths are fast-paced and deal with life-or-death challenges at every turn, this one takes its time, focusing on slowly building up to the events that have shaped Catalina’s life. It really feels like the reader is experienceing the full extent of her childhood on this path, and it’s fun to pick up on the details that later resurface in Necromancer.
Catalina is not an avatar of death gifted with fantastic necromancy powers. She has a talent, but it’s not the god-like ability Azreal has. This makes the tone of this story quite different than the tone of Necromancer. As Catalina, the player has to be more crafty, relying on a variety of skills and intelligence rather than the brute-force magic that Azreal can get by on. It’s a refreshinig angle to view the plot of Necromancer from.
Oddly, though Catalina’s view on her life is ultimately triumphant, the plot could very easily be interpreted as her defeat and surrender. She intends to lead the dark order, but instead falls for Azreal and allows his goals and ambitions to eclipse her own, leading to her death and the death of the world. Catalina does not view this as defeat, however. Her view is best summed up in her words to the musician; she sees what is happening as inevitable and beautiful, the natural order of things. It’s particularly interesting to see a character take this attitude in the choose-your-own-adventure format, as characters in these formats tend to be more proactive.
-Starting Tanya’s path off with a scene from Sinthinia’s perspective is an interesting choice. It does a good job setting the scene and characterizing the main character from an outsider’s perspective, which is good, as the reader isn’t immediately supposed to know who this is.
-Tanya’s dislike for promiscuity is interesting, since she didn’t seem to have anything specific against it in Rogues. Probably a reaction to her nature as a succubus.
-Tanya’s dislike for the name “mistress” compared with Semra, another of this game’s narrator’s use for it is an amusing contrast.
-I like the attention being given to the internal politics in Tanya’s army.
-I bet Tanya and Francis would get along, actually, if they were serving in the same military.
-Engan does a good job coming across as nonthreatening initially.
-The weirdness of the town is built up slowly and effectively. The first part of this story is suspenseful, and makes the action in the second half more exciting.
-The concept of a plane where harming others is impossible and entrapment can only be done through trickery is interesting.
-Walking backwards to find the door is a good detail that adds to the growing weirdness and uneasiness.
-The angels all have mixed feelings about Tanya’s ability to kill them. I like that they’re not just a monolith, and that many of them have grown to regret coming here, such as the celestial who tells Tanya to warn the other realms.
-We learn just enough about these “ancients” through Engan to see what a threat they are.
-“You’re going to a dark place and I’m going to enjoy putting you there” is repeated across a couple different stories and branches. I wonder what the significance to it is?
-I like the order vs chaos dynamics in this story, especially since the ordered protagonist is non-traditional.
-It’s too bad Arash doesn’t live, I would have liked to see him survive. His death is important however, since it shows important factors about Tanya’s character, and is a good event to focus the final scene around.
-Tanya’s relationship with Zel is another good way to frame the story’s beginning and end, and show the kind of change she’s trying to make in the infernal realm.
-Tanya is another example of a lawful protagonist done well. It’s interesting to see an infernal committed more to the “lawful” side than the “evil” side, and brings new dimensions to the conflict in hell.
-The final scene’s focus on Tanya and Aron works well to end on a more personal note.
-The eldritch threat faced here feels appropriately alien, but it helps that it has been seen before in other EndMaster games, such as in Necromancer and Death Song, and the torment ending of Eternal. Coming completely out of the blue would feel unforeshadowed, instead the threat is one the player has been semi-aware of for some time, but possibly underestimated.
-I like that not all the non-canon endings end in death, and that some of the non-canon branches earlier in the story go deeper than just a single choice.
-Though Tanya’s conversation with Sinthinia is non-canon, it offers insight into the conflict between them that we don’t get on the main path. It also raises questions about Big Red, which the main path doesn’t have time to address.
-Semra’s behavior around her own kind is no different than her behavior arouund Francis, which manages to be both surprising and make sense. The opening scene does a good job reminding the player exactly how unstable she is, while also reminding them of her obsession with Francis.
-It’s spelled “Derro” in Eternal but “Dero” in this game.
-Marzost is a well-developed character. He’s an unusual dero and throws Semra off her game somewhat. He’s reasonably intelligent in his pursuit of saving his people, and his attraction to Semra is logical (though still fucked up) given what we learn about him. He adds variety to the dero race. Like a lot of EndMaster characters, I’m left feeling unsure about whether or not to pity him. He’s certainly a pitiable character given his history and what happens to him, but he’s done a lot of bad things too.
-Of course “beating around the baby” is a svelk idiom.
-The scene where Semra learns of Francis’s death, and her ongoing thoughts of him, do a good job showing her continued obsession with him.
-I’d like to note that one thing EndMaster does well in all his works is creating evil characters with realistic goals. None of the villains are just committing crime and murder for the hell of it, they all have reasonable motivations and things they’re trying to achieve. This is especially true with Semra.
-Thoguh Semra does really want to help her people, saving her own neck comes first and it doesn’t take much for her to throw them under the bus.
-The implications of the dero being soulless are fascinating. It’s used well as a device in this story, fits with what we know of them from Eternal, and is an intriguing worldbuilding element.
-The sex scene betwen Semra and Marzost is one of the most brutally violent things I’ve read. Even if it’s not a genre I like, I can tell it’s excellently done, and the full brutality of the situation is made clear to the player. It takes skill to pull of a scene like this without it being needlessly gratuitous.
-The loophole Semra exploits to get out of selling her soul is a clever one that’s set up efficiently in the story beforehand.
-It’s a pity that Semra survives in the canon ending. I shudder to think of the poor people of the world from Rogues she’s been released on.
-The depth of the non-canon branches is good.
-The Necromancer saying “you’re just mean and I don’t like you” to Semra is amusing and satisfying.
-The beginning of The Deadly does a good job setting the scene and characterizing the narrator (who I assume is Catalina). Telling this story flasback-style is interesting. It’s an original way to frame the story, and it helps solve the issue of playing a game as a character whose story has already been told somewhere else.
-The opening scene with the butterflies also does a good job setting the scene. We see the prosperous urban/magical city of Nuro, and we see Catalina’s less fortunate upbringing in it. Despite her young age, we can see she’s already attracting death.
-Interesting to see things from child Catalina’s persepctive.
-Chloe’s presence is important on this path, giving Catalina a peer to talk to. Also it’s always fun to see orcish characters in heroic roles.
-I like that the development of Catalina’s powers is taken slowly. While the Necromancer learns necromancy with ease, it takes Catalina time and effort.
-It’s nice to see a fictional orphanage that seems to be actually trying to help the children who live there.
-The relationship and goodbye scene with Catalina and Ms. Olga is touching.
-I like the way this game is divided into sections (Growing, changing, seeking, etc.)
-Magic users being identifiable by their smell is an interesting concept.
-Including Catalina’s liking of music here is a good detail to connect it to Death Song.
-It was clear that Alec had some ulterior motive here.
-Amusing that Catalina goes out to try and get laid and instead ends up killing a vampire. Necrophilia is so much less complicated.
-It’s fun to see the politics behind the Dark Order from Catalina’s perspective. Azreal was always a bit of an outsider, and never got to learn the mechanics behind it in as much detail. Good to see Mr. Demar be a bit more rounded out.
-I like that Catalina relies on nature magic too in dire situations. She’s a well rounded magic user.
-Not surprised to learn that Catalina fully plans on controlling Azreal from behind the scenes.
-Lol, “Yes, I’m fine, I’m just dead.”
-Makes sense that dead Azreal isn’t that interested in sex anymore. It shows how he’s transforming into a personification of death.
-Lol, “I mean, other than genocide, what have I done?”
-It’s good that the scene with the musician in Death Song isn’t ignored, but also good that it’s not given as much attention, since it isn’t the focus of this arc.
-I like the way the framing device is used for the non-canon endings on the Catalina path. People often have elaborate daydreams and musings about how life could have played out, and one can imagine these experiences would be all the more intense for a ghost. The surreal way in which reality breaks down at each non-canon ending emphasizes the dream-like nature of the entire path.
Mastery of Language
Generally good, though there are a few proofreading/sentence structure issues in places.
Not great, each story has one canon ending, and reaching it is a victory. This is more like reading a set of linear stories with the added challenge of trying to survive. It's not a problem, though, since the reader is made aware of the story's somewhat linear nature beforehand.
Player Options/fair choice
Generally good, the consequences of actions are foreshadowed and don’t feel random or unearned.
I did alright when I first played The Pure, though I did better in the second half than the first half.
I didn’t enjoy The Vile as much as The Pure, just a little too sexually violent for my taste. I did alright in terms of not dyring.
I did better than usual on The Deadly, only dying a couple times.
CONCLUSION: Another fine example of EndMaster's work, and a rare example of the depth of an extended universe being explored for full reader benefit, immersion, and enjoyment.
General Recommendation: I recommend this game. The story is largely linear, but this in no way detracts from the enjoyment as the puzzles and narrative are both engaging and well-constructed.
Preview: You accidentally intrude on a stranger’s dream, and now must complete a series of trials to keep your right to dream, otherwise you will lose the ability to dream. At the same time, you deal with a dangerous situation with a friend in the real world, and delve deeper into what this dreamworld really is.
Basic Plot & Coherence:
The plot is logical, and one event follows another. The author did an excellent job gradually increasing the stakes and the tension. I only read through one of the three plotlines (the Rick one), but I found that both the dream and real life sequences were entertaining and complimented each other. Each successive trial brought something new, but consistent, to the narrative. The various subplots and mini-plots for each trial were well tied in. The only part I didn’t understand was why the main character is so afraid of his inner evil. He doesn’t show any inclination towards evil action (until the final choice you can make in the “e” stage), and although he experiences temptation from his evil self, he doesn’t ever seem realistlcally likely to give in to it. Still, that subplot was also very well done, and foreshadowed well the aforementioned “e” stage ending. Excellent plot.
Characters & Development:
Every character, even the ones that only had a scene or two, seemed well rounded and developed. None of them seemed flat or two-dimensional. The main character had a consistent personality, which is tougher to do in an interactive format, but was done very well. Rosaline’s personality was equally well-developed, and I found it believeable that the two characters could get along as well as they did, particularly while cooperating in a difficult situation. Rick was also well-developed. Admittedly, having a twin is a pretty common plot twist, but it was pulled off very well. The subplot with rick maintained both humor and tension, the character dynamics between rick and the main character were done well. Importantly, the characters and their attitudes changed realisically over time as the relationship developed.
There were mistakes in places, but nothing too horrible.
Mastery of Language:
The language was excellently used and contributed well to the overall tone and feel of the story.
Mechanics & Coding:
Excellently coded. The story maintains the constant “jungle” plotline, while weaving in details for three seperate subplots. Each of the challanges was cleverly built, and logically solved. I was especially impressed by how you worked the puzzles.
There was only one glitch I noticed, if you take the correct underwater path at a certain time in the “u” stage, you still end up failing the challenge.
It's a very linear story, but there is a surprisingly large and well-done amount of branching for such a linear story. You have the choice of multiple subplots, numerous endings, and numerous places to stop off along the way. The story is honest about its linearity, and works well within those bounds.
Player Options/Fair choice:
Generally pretty good. You’re given a lot of freedom in how to solve the various puzzles, although there are a few places where the player doesn’t have much choice about things.
Nothing to complain about for “fair choice”. Consequences are adequately foreshadowed, and there are no “gotcha!” moments that the player doesn’t deserve.
Endings: The best endings (in my opinion) are the two you can get by completing the “jungle”. The dark path ending was foreshadowed well with the evil subplot, though it’s a little unclear what exactly the main character is doing. Each of the endings you can take along the way by taking a job in the dream world are well fleshed out and present a complete picture. Even the “you fail” endings seemed to give a complete picture of what happened to the main character after the events of the story.
I played this through using the Rick subplot, so I can’t accurately represent the other two. For me, the most challenging stage was the “l” stage (especially the patience part), I repeatedly made horrible choices and failed here. This was one of the few interactive fiction games during which I never felt bored or wanted to quit.
CONCLUSION: A truly excellent work.
General Recommendation. I strongly recommend playing this game. Easily the best single-player RPG on its site, and as far as I know, the internet.
Preview: Good old fashioned dungeon crawling. Face puzzles, monsters, succubi, and electric rats in your journey to defeat an evil sorcerer. The mechanics are excellent, and the plot and endings are quite clever too.
Basic Plot & Coherence:
In an RPG setting like this, the plot is theoretically unimportant, but here the detail given the the plot and setting really shines through. It’s a classic fantasy plot, big bad evil guy has evil magic book and evil magic fortress, must be stopped by intrepid young hero with the help of mysterious old wizard, and resisting the temptation of an evil succubus. But here, the interactive format allows these characters to flesh out and come to life, in a clever subversion of an ordinary fantasy plot.
Characters & Development:
Although largely the characters are vessels for the story, this category gets a 5 because they each serve their purpose. Kragan the wizard is simultaneously helpful and irritating, Lilianthea clearly has great and evil plans she’s trying to use you as a pawn in, even the dark elf lackey in his one scene makes a clear impression. Raven himself can go in vastly different directions depending on player choice. In the “normal” plot, he plays the “humble farm boy” trope straight, defeating the mad merodatch and saving the day, before proceeding to be successful in the rest of his life. But you can also play him as an arrogant aspiring dark mage, or an unwitting pawn in Lilianthea’s schemes. The flexibility the story provides is incredible.
I certainly didn’t notice any mistakes.
Mastery of Language:
Each of the character’s speaking style reveals lots of information about their personality. The narration has a colorful and entertaining way of presenting the various challenges and tests. In short, the tone contributes excellently to the story.
Mechanics & Coding:
Masterful. The battle mechanics provide meaningful choices to the player, and each puzzle has a logical and clever solution.
There are a surprisingly large amount of endings to this game, given its limited scope. The branching out of this story is almost ridiculous in its flexibility and coherence. Each of the endings comes about logically, and adds a new layer onto the character and the world. I’m impressed by just how much impact the player has over narrative outcome in a story that’s simultaniously clever with its puzzles and combat mechanics.
Player Options/Fair choice:
Each combat and puzzle provides the player with multiple approaches and ways to tackle the problem. Nothing ever feels forced. The use of items is also masterful.
Never does it feel like the consequences of a choice weren’t accurately foreshadowed.
Nitpicks: The “bone head death” puzzle at the end has multiple solutions and many of them (the ones I tried) don’t work. I eventually had to use the answer key Berka posted somewhere.
I really enjoyed this. I tend to prefer more narrative games over more mechanical ones, but this hit the sweet spot. Each page was engaging, the challenges were well constructed and fun, and the combat system managed to be entertaining as well, despite consisting of clicking repeated links. Unlike a lot of similar games, this has a lot of replay value, particularly for trying to find new endings. I've finally found all the game's endings, which is satisfying.
There are very few compliments I can give that I haven’t already given. One of the best interactive fiction games out there.
General Recommendation: I recommend this game. It’s a very good story, with excellent mechanics.
Preview: You and your brother must survive training to become gladiators in ancient rome. Your decisions of who you want to be, and how to treat the people around you will affect the ultimate outcome of the game.
Basic Plot & Coherence:
The plot is this: You and your brother are sold into slavery and become gladiators. You must navigate your training, while developing skills and relationships that become more and more important. Everything fits well together. The events are logical and believeable, and the story does an excellent job of keeping the narration coherent, despite having so many options for who your character grows up to be. The tension between the two gladiator trainers is built up well, and the climactic battle provides a good pay off, while the consequences and death caused by the match increase the tension in preperation for the next installment.
Characters & Development:
The characters really shine in this story. Beyond the relationship tracking mechanic, each of them has a clearly defined personality, and multiple different possible character arcs depending on the main character’s choices. The characters are what give this game replay value. You can have a vastly different play experience by making different friends, and seeing different characters develop in different ways. I particularly liked Lula, she, the main character, and Alexius seemed to fit well together as a group struggling to orient themselves in difficult circumstances. All the characters later on had their own complexities. I started off liking Titus and disliking Rhodes, only to have my opinion on them swapped by the end of the game. Each of the gladiators met later on have their own distinct personalities. Zeru, Gerda, and Brasus each are intersting in their own way and contribute to the narrative.
If there were mistakes, I didn’t see any.
Mastery of Language:
Excellent use of matching language to the general tone. The children in this game are also well-written.
Mechanics & Coding:
The story does an excellent job of creating both a satisfying narrative, and having skill and relationship building statistics that make sense and are important to the story.
Despite the relative linearity of the plot, the skills and relationship you build and the important choices you do make (such as choosing who to save) really make you feel like your choices matter, and will be important furthur down the road. That said, it is a relatively linear story.
Player Options/Fair choice:
You certainly have a lot of choices about how to build your skill and relationships, despite the linearity.
There’s no point where it feels like you had no way to forsee the consequences of your actions.
On my first playthrough, I went down the path where you get along well with pretty much everyone, other than Gerda and Rhodes. Towards the end of the playthrough, though, I made up with both of them and was frustrated by the final battle forcing you to only be able to save one of the characters in danger. The story was captivating, and each of the options really made me think about what was the best strategic choices.
CONCLUSION: A fun and engaging game, which uses player statistics to build the story in a way I don't often see.
General Recommendation: I recommend this game, it's fun and uses its concept well to provide interesting challenges.
Preview: Your ship got stuck in hyperspace, and you need to solve time-travle-related puzzles in order to survive.
Basic Plot & Coherence:
It’s a strong premise, you’re stuck in “light space”, similar to the concept of hyperspace. Largely, this serves as a backdrop for solving time-travel-related puzzles and trying to figure out how to use your items to successfully defeat the space pirates and survive. The plot isn’t too complex, since it’s mainly a puzzle game.
There were places where the plot didn’t really make sense. It isn’t clear why the time on the ship shifts as it does, nor is there any real way for the player to take advantage of it. Some places that seem totally safe later turn out to be deadly. It also isn’t completely clear why some circumstances change that allow you to solve puzzles that were insolvable before. That said, other than this, it’s a tight game.
Characters & Development:
There are really only two characters, you, and your granddaughter. While they both serve their purpose in the narrative, it would have been nice to see more development.
The grammar seemed fine.
Mastery of Language:
The language is simple and direct, which is appropriate for a puzzle game.
Mechanics & Coding:
Here is the game’s chief point. It’s mostly a puzzle game, where you figure out how to get your ship back into normal space, so as not to die horribly. It’s not completely clear why some vital mechanics having to do with the time distortions work they way they do. It seems to be fairly random.
It’s a linear puzzle game with one victory ending.
Player Options/fair choice:
The player always has plenty of options, and the consequences of those actions are forseeable and fair.
Nothing to speak of. I played through and solved the puzzles with minimal deaths.
CONCLUSION: A short fun game with interesting challenges.
General Recommendation: I recommend this game, it’s an engaging story with a wide variety of interesting options, and a non-traditional IF format.
Preview: Forty years after the muses sacrificed themselves to save the world, you, husband of Ivani muse of heroism and storyteller, go on a journey to the grove of the muses, where the muses’s graves are. Your choices and decisions will affect the ultimate fate of the world.
Basic Plot & Coherence:
This has a strong premise, and it was executed well. This story is largely divided into two parts: The journey to the grove, and the final decision once you reach the grove. The choices made along the journey to the grove ultimately affect which options are presented to you once you reach it.
The journey largely consists of making choices about what kind of stories you want to tell and what kind of person you want to be, and based on this, you get options for different endings. Choose to tell comedic stories, and you have the option of becoming the muse of comedy. Make destructive choices, and you have the option of ending the world. The journey has an incredible number of options, and even after reading through as many branches as I could find, I’m sure I didn’t find all the endings. This story manages to be both expansive and tightly constructed at once.
Characters & Development:
Mostly it’s the main character who gets development. Beyond the choices you can make as a player, he retains the same basic personality: a storyteller, who wants to understand what’s happening to the world. The side characters are decently developed as well, even those that appear only for a scene or two.
No mistakes here.
Mastery of Language:
The language here is surprisingly poetic and well done. Poetic language usually isn’t my thing, but I enjoyed it here.
Mechanics & Coding:
The coding here isn’t complex (at least I think, I don’t know much about coding), but serves to give the player different options for endings depending on their choices. It serves its purpose and kept me going back through the different branches long after I’d finished.
The branching is where the story really expands into such a large tale. Each seperate journey and ending gives the player new insights into the world and characters, plus the game has excellent replay value.
Player Options/fair choice:
Largely there were no problems with this. There were a few places where I felt that the player didn’t get all the information the character would have had to make a choice, but nothing serious.
Endings: Boy, are there a lot. There seem to be a few standard endings, like “tell the muses your story” and “write Ivani a love poem” that show up in several different places, but the endings that involve listening to a specific muse’s call seem rarer. I’ve found the chaos, comedy, sage, and world-ending muse endings, and I’m sure there are more.
I quite enjoyed this. After playing through what seemed to be the simplest path, I went back and found many of the others, such as dealing with the mages and the blood religion. I think I’ve found most of the endings, but I’m still missing a few, such as child of sandrella, which I saw mentioned in another comment.
CONCLUSION: A unique game with a unique concept and unique format.