General Recommendation: This is definitely one of EndMaster’s most underrated games. I strongly recommend it, particularly for those looking for a more traditionally branching cave-of-time experience.
Preview: As the captain of a unit in the human empire, how you react to the possibility of discovering ancient alien technology will affect your future, and possibly that of the entire galaxy.
Plot & character notes:
-Salo and LaFleur are characterized quickly and effectively with their opening paragraphs. Their informational links certainly help, but we learn a lot about them just from their initial description, which is good economy of storytelling.
-I’m not a big fan of extra informational links, but I know that many people do prefer them, and this story certainly utilizes them well. It provides the necessary background information without going overboard, and the information is conveyed in an entertaining way.
-The selection of names for the various races is also excellent. Each name perfectly captures the intended nature of each race, particularly the Xont and Elojin.
-“Elojin are cowardly and run at the first sign of danger.” “You mean like now?” Lol.
-Trying to show that the narrator is steadily falling under alien influence is tough to do in a show-don’t-tell way (particularly in an interactive format where players don’t like being told how to feel) but EndMaster pulls if off in a way that feels natural. The “Feeling different” device seems built to help with this, but it doesn’t really work, the necessary information is already conveyed through the writing itself in a neater way.
-Ah, too bad the Elojin had to be killed. I like trying to play nice in these games, but in a work of this tone, allowing the Elojin to survive would only undermine the narrative. As it is, the inevitability of his death contributes to the building theme.
-Alyssa is well characterized, and stays consistent throughout the various branches. It’s interesting to see the different directions her character can go in depending on the narrator’s actions. Her presence as a genuinely likeable side character helps too, especially in a game like this where so many of the side characters are just untrustworthy, or obstacles, or both.
-I like the Gequek hologram, he’s a fun and intriguing character, and in the mechanical sense, a good interactive way to deliver the necessary plot exposition in an entertaining way.
-The idea of the loyalty-inducing germ weapon is also intriguing, and a good explanation for the Xont’s disappearance. Can’t imagine what could go wrong in designing a weapon that increases xenophobic tendencies. On an unrelated note, one could theorize that some mutated form of the virus is actually prevalent in the galaxy at large; all four major nations are xenophobic and expansionist, so an outbreak of Xont germ might explain this inclination.
-The game’s longest path has a surprisingly hopeful and optimistic ending, which makes the entire work feel a little more significant. In a world as bleak as the one presented here, the possibility of future improvement for the galaxy is quite unexpected and meaningful.
-This story does a perfect job balancing political intrigue with adventure. Obviously the planet itself serves the adventure factor; dealing with natives, rival conquerors, and exploring ancient ruins. Meanwhile, your team members, especially Indoctrinator Salo, serve as a microcosm for the political tensions throughout the empire. At the end of the main path, the broadening of the scope to larger political consequence feels both natural and expansive; it works well due to the political groundwork laid early in the story, and expands the scope of the story to a larger view.
-I like that the player is allowed to turn off the main path and end the story prematurely without immediately dying. This is a realistic outcome of the player’s actions. The wide variety of mundane endings that are neither victorious nor deadly makes the positive victory endings feel more special and earned. This is also true of the endings that mostly focus on your relationship with Alyssa, this story allows the narrator victory and failure on both a personal and galactic scale.
-The path where you shoot Alyssa fall further under Xont influence is handled equally well, and forms a nice narrative parrallel to the path in which you let her shoot Salo.
-The ending where you conquor the galaxy was handled well. Often endings like this either emphasize the positives of galactic rule too much, or try to scold the player for being bad. This one does neither; instead presenting the facts of the situation and the narrator’s new outlook, and allowing the player to decide for themselves how they feel about their choices.
-I like that we get to see what the Elojin do with Xont technology, it makes them a legitimate threat rather than just a plot device.
-The plot where you fall under the influence of Xont technology and try to “seize your destiny” shows the dangers of Xont influence, in contrast to other pathes, in which is is possibly to use Xont technology for positive ends.
-I found the open nature of the ending where the narrator says “Who’s with me?” compelling, despite ending abruptly, the story feels neatly finished and a natural narrative conclusion to the events told.
-Dealing with the Mazatt commander who has also fallen under Xont influence is an interesting turn, and it contrasts well with the narrator’s own arc. This arc ends predictably and fittingly. It reminded me a bit of apocalypse now (good movie). Actually, there’s a lot in this story that reminds me of apocalypse now. EDIT: Heh, after reading further, that line seems like it’s a direct reference to apocalypose now.
-It’s weirdly gratifying to see the ending where LaFleur gets his desk job. Poor guy just wanted to push paper in peace.
-The path with the Krik isn’t as fleshed out, but that makes sense, the main story here is about the Xont. Nevertheless, the mission with the Krik does a good job illustrating what a “typical” empire scouting assignment might be like.
-It’s nice that change can be made to the empire’s policies in a variety of ways, such as through Alyssa’s personal success.
Grammar & Mastery of Language
The grammar is fine. The technical aspects of the writing could be better, there are many misued words and grammatical issues that could be fixed with a single editing round. The repeat clauses especially jumped out.
This game’s conversational tone strikes a delicate balance of sympathizing with the reader while not coming on too strong, but after the first few pages, the game settles into a consistent voice that works well with the plot.
A oft-undervalued aspect of setting the tone of a setting comes down the writing style. This story does an excellent job in this respect. The narrator’s bitter, cautious, and disillusioned attitude towards his own life and empire frames the dangerous and frustrating nature of the challenges he will face on the planet itself.
Particularly good. Most of EndMaster’s games follow the format of having pivotal plot choices at key moments, interspersed with save-or-die choices. In this game, there’s a wide variety of different endings that can be achieved, even when the player strays from the main branch. This storygame has one of the best distributions of width and depth I’ve read. Though EndMaster’s usual strategy allows his later games to dive much deeper into the arcs the story does follow, it’s nice to see this level of attention devoted to player agency and choice.
Player Options/fair choice
Pretty good. There are a few deaths that seem random, but for the most part, actions have logical consequences.
-The death link on the first page seems completely random and weird. It does make sense, given what we learn later of the other character’s movements, but it would be smoother just to cut out that pointless first choice and get on with the story.
Endings: This story has an unusually wide variety of endings that can be considered “official”. Games on this site usually tend to follow a couple specific pathes, so it’s nice every now and then to run into a game like this with a broader approach.
PERSONAL EXPERIENCE: I played this game first a few years ago, before I had an account. After dying a few times, I got the ending where you use the hologram to change the empire’s policies.
CONCLUSION: An excellent game!
General Recommendation: I recommend this game, particularly to those looking for a well-branching narrative, those fond of traditional monster movies, and anyone looking for a fun and varied game.
Preview: Can you, a semi-washed up werewolf, reclaim your former glory days and make an impact on this world popultaed with characters from monster movies?
The idea of a world where monsters from horror B-movies live alongside humans is a truly unique concept that I’ve never seen done anywhere else. It’s a fresh idea with lots of possibility, and the wide variety of branches in this story explores it in a full and satisfying way, without ever letting the concept overstay its welcome. It’s not easy to put werewolves, mad scientists, and martians all in the same world and still have it feel natural, but all the elements of this story feel like they really could exist alongside each other.
Wolf’s pride in his own, and his struggles with his changing role in a new world are struggles many people can relate to. This parallel makes the character three dimensional and relatable, while not hitting the reader over the head with it.
Once again, EndMaster does an excellent job writing a character with an antisocial nature and aggression issues to be genuinely likeable, without falling into any of the common edgy pitfalls many similar characters do. Wolf is an excellent character, and the perfect choice to narrate this story. His done-with-everything attitude only makes the story’s campy aspects more fun and amusing.
The campy concept of movie monsters works well with the episodic tone of the story’s different plots. Each of the plots is its own little snapshot of Wolf’s life, allowing a glimpse into the colorful variety of characters and monsters you can encounter.
Despite each of the individual characters not having much screen time, each of them brings something new and interesting to the story, and it’s fun to see the variety of different inspirations for the characters in this story. A few highlights are the creature from the black lagoon, a typical long-winded posturing alien invader (I know he actually looks like bigfoot, but I kept visualizing him as the alien from looney tunes), an assortment of mad scientists (from Invisible to Fly), THEM!, killer plants.
I’d be quite curious to know the inspiration for this story, as it is a genuinely original concept.
-The opening paragraph does an excellent job of characterizing the narrator with “You also realize it’s still daylight. You hate waking up early.”
-As always, I’m not a big fan of extra information links. I do think they’re important in this story though, as without them it would be tough for the player to get a feel of this unfamiliar world and its characters. As usual, the pace of EndMaster’s writing style helps these links be genuinely entertaining rather than just info dumps to slog through.
-Selecting a werewolf to tell this story through is a good choice. Many movie monsters are too specific or strange to be familiar to the average reader, but everyone is familiar with the concept behind werewolves.
-I’m usually annoyed by random murder schemes against the main character, but the tone of this work and characterizationo of Jekyll make it believable.
-I like that the government is taking advantage of the mad science in this world. Too often, alternate universes that have a concept like this (such as “real life superpowers” or “wizards”) will ignore the obvious real-world implications of its developments. Details like this make the world feel much fuller.
-The ending of the super serum plot is a nice “and the adventure continues” way of wrapping things up. I came, I saw, I kicked ass, I didn’t get paid. Life goes on.
-Henry tries to do the supervillain thing and explain why he did everything, and Wolf is having none of this shit.
-Though the ending where you refuse Henry’s offer is obviously more mundane, it does a good job of showing what Wolf’s “typical” jobs are like.
-The martians being defeated by the common cold is both amusing, and scientifically accurate, especilly since Earth has a higher temperature and more biodiversity than Mars.
-Gil’s complaints about factories being built in his swamp is an excellent tone-setting detail, showing both reality of the world, and the frustration many of the old monsters are having with its changes.
-I like how Wolf and Godzilla are both fans of each other, the casual way in which they interact fits the nature of the story’s humor.
-Moreau’s “paradise” has obviously been on the tipping edge for a while. In the endings where you do talk the inhabitants into standing up for themselves, the island descends into violence soon afterwards.
-Lol, Andre can’t get ANY free sugar packets? He’s clearly just not trying hard enough.
-It’s interesting that many of the monsters (like Kong) have gotten used to human comforts. It just shows how much the world has changed for them.
-It’s amusing that Wolf’s main beef with the body snatchers is how boring they are. UPDATE: Curses! Defeated by the history of cabinet making!
-It would have been interesting to see the storyline with the killer plants developed a little more, they’re certainly a staple of the genre and lend themselves to a wide variety of plots.
-After the (fun) chaos of the previous arcs, the plotline with Lawrence and Mary is a surprising and pleasant diversion. It’s nice that Wolf gets the chance to reconnect with his ex and his son, and meet some new family members he can be proud of.
-It’s both interesting and in character that Wolf remains satisfied as long has he gets pretty much any ending other than death. He’s attached to the “Alpha Wolf” image, and reassures himself that he’s still top dog no matter what, even in the pathes where he’s failed to assert himself.
-Interesting that Wolf hasn’t run into any of the wannabe werewolves, because there are PLENTY of them, and yes, Wolf would definitely hate them.
-Wolf’s random decision to go attack Vlad and/or Victor would seem weird in almost any other story, but given his personality and the tone, it works here.
-The path were Wolf takes the pack of actors for Mary’s movie under his wing to kick Victor’s ass is oddly amusing. It seems that on both this path and the one with his son, he winds up playing the mentor figure role regardless, despite his derision of the concept.
-I like the way the conflict between vampires and vampire hunters has adapted to the modern age, and I like the references to how the cinematic potrayal of vampires has changed a lot over time.
Grammar: All good!
Mastery of Language
Yeah, there’s a bunch of sentence structure issues, this could have used another proofread. It’s not enough to distract from the writing, but enough to be noticed. Some more commas would be nice.
Branching: This game has some of the best branching out there, even better than EndMaster’s other majorly branching work, paradise violated. The player gets to make lots of important decisions.
Obviously the broad nature of this story means the individual plots can’t be as deep or complex as the ones in EndMaster’s longer works. The story doesn’t suffer from this, however, rather it fits the work’s episodic tone.
Player Options/fair choice: Very good, there is generally a clear strategy available for each challenge.
I guess I never gave this game a complete playthrough the first time around, so finding all the new branches while doing this reveiw was a pleasant surprise.
CONCLUSION: A fun and particularly original game, with a unique brand of humor.
General Recommendation: I recommend this game, particularly for those looking for a nostalgic reminder of the kind of fantasy books you read when you were younger.
Preview: After being transported to a fantasy world by the evil Nightmare Tyrant, can you use your budding powers of imagination to make it safely home?
Too many authors of children’s stories think they can get away with one dimensional characters and little humor or dialogue of interest. EndMaster does not fall into this pitfall, making each side character their own distinct person, and making the writing enjoyable for kids and adults alike.
In many ways this story seems like it’s aimed less at children, and more at teens and adults recalling a specific aspect of their childhood. Certainly it works as a children’s story, but the work’s tone and elements heavily recall a specific genre of children’s fantasy books that older readers will be more likely to recognize than younger ones.
Many books of this genre focus on an imaginative protagonist pulled into a fantasy world, who uses their unique skills and traits to succeed and return home. In this story, the narrator’s powers of imagination are explicitly supernatural, providing both a driving force for the plot, and tying into the main theme of the power of imagination. The story does a good job with this theme. It uses it as a driving force for the plot rather than hitting the reader over the head with it, and the narrator’s deus ex machina abilities are allowed to cause as many problems as they solve. What’s more, as with many of the elements in this genre, the imagination-powered abilities act as a metaphor for the protagonist’s life in the real world, with the protagonist and nightmare tyrnt each respectively representing the positive and negative side of imagination.
-The opening paragraph firmly establishes the main character as a child, particularly, the kind of kid who likes to make up stories. The scenario used to show this is one that’s probably relatable to a lot of readers, and has a humorous and familiar tone.
-The bad guys in this game are comically evil, complete with evil laughs and one-liners. In a more serious work they might be out of place, but here they fit well with the whimsical tone of the stories this work is trying to capture.
-The imagery in this story is particularly good, it’s an important aspect of the genre.
-Many children’s stories seem to have difficulty writing adults interacting with children. This one handles it well, however, all the characters react logically. The “wizard” sees potential cheap labor, and Lyssia and the Captain are balancing protecting the narrator from the Nightmare Tyrant with other priorities.
-The worldbuilding that exists here (such as the description of Null) seems neither barebones nor overwhelming. It’s presented in a neat way that intrigues without distracting.
-Many of the characters here are traditional fantasy archetypes. We have the wizard/charlatan, the captain, the adventurer, the talking animal. It would be easy for this method of cast-building to act as a shortcut for real development, but all of these characters are well-rounded, even those with only brief roles. The use of archetypical characters also contributes to the traditional and nostalgic feel of the story, by including many figures that frequent fantasy readers will recognize from childhood novels.
-The Null is a cool concept for a setting.
-Johnny’s presence illustrates well the consequences of capture by the nightmare tyrant. He also represents a metaphoric more realistic threat, the threat of parental neglect and apathy.
-“Was it a dream?” endings are usually groan-inducing, but as it’s a staple of the genre that inspired this work, it would be practically negligent not to include it.
-I like that the protagonist can defeat the shadows in a variety of different ways, depending on the path.
-I also like the inclusion of many common fantasy elements, such as talking animals, little people, and ghosts. Though for the most part these elements are not essential to the plot, they really make the setting feel like a traditional “fantasy” fantasy world, perfectly capturing the genre.
-The protagonists’s powers mirror the antagonist’s, which is always a nice narrative touch.
-Little scenes, like the conversations between Salzat and Lakri, are what really flesh this story’s world out.
-Once again, the worldbuilding that’s done in this story fits its scope very well. Qualan’s description of his homeland iis yet another frequent fantastic archetype.
-The idea of a halfling pretending to be a dwarf is amusing.
-It’s nice to see more of Melcaar in the second path, and to see him being legitimately helpful rather than merely taking advantage of an opportunity to get his garden cleaned.
-“Creativeness” should be “creativity”.
-There are some dialogue punctuation issues.
Mastery of Language
This story could’ve used another round of proofreading to tidy up the sentence structure issues. It doesn’t distract, though.
Quite good, particularly on the branch where you try to scare away the purple people. There are multiple victory endings that can be achieved, and the player has control over the direction the story goes in. The Melcar branch is a bit more linear, but this makes sense in context.
Player Options/fair choice:
Overall quite good. The consequences of actions are fair and foreshadowed, which is particularly important for a story with a younger audience.
PERSONAL EXPERIENCE: I got the ending where you make it home with the Adventurer’s help.
CONCLUSION: EndMaster has proved with this work that he’s capable of producing high-quality writing for any number of different authorial styles. A fun read.
General Recommendation: This game is recommended for those looking for a surreal and campy life-or-death political drama surrounding the factional tensions of a messed-up carnival.
Preview: A surreal and campy life-or-death political drama surrounding the factional tensions of a messed-up carnival.
I’m a fan of works that take small situations and dramatize them into life-or-death power struggles, and this game is a fine example of this trope done well. Its factional nature keeps the game full of genuine suspense and unease, while the inherent absurdity of battle for the fate of the circus keeps the mood light and entertaining. Choosing your alliances is fun, as is choosing the best way to achieve your goal once you know what it is.
It’s tough to make a game fun to play with such a pathetic main character. However, the Geek never indulges in self-pity, and has his own brand of cleverness when dealing with circus politics, becoming an unlikely catalyst in the carnival’s future. The player is forced to work to achieve their goals with limited resources, making the game’s choice of protagonist an asset rather than a hindrance.
The Geek’s lack of power is really a tool in this game, as the Ring Master realizes. As an unaligned character loathed equally by just about everyone, only you have the true power to determine the fate of the carnival. It’s an interesting take on the character archetype.
-Yikes, that’s one heck of an info dump. I’m not fond of informational links in games, and this one starts off with a lot of them.
-Not a big fan of characters using more than one set of pronouns, it tends to make the writing choppy and confusing. That said, it’s less jarring here, since the Ringmaster is meant to be a choppy and confusing character. I still prefer “they” as a term for gender-neutral characters.
-“Prevus” the clown, lol. Subtle.
-After playing paradise violated, ground zero, and alpha wolf, where the narrator is surrounded by incompetence, it’s an interesting change to be playing an underdog surrounded by people who are stronger than he is, and being used by people who are smarter than he is, like the Ring Master. It requires a different style of play, and gives the game a unique feel compared to these other works.
-I find it amusing that Madam Orbec always seems to know what you want from her when you visit.
-This is a game that could very easily become overly campy or ridiculous, given the nature of the situation (particularly how easy it is to die at a carnival), but the writing style and the way in which the story is presented prevents the story from becoming too over-the-top.
-Successfully siding with Charlie still gets you killed if you doon’t have extra protection, as well it should. I like that choosing with whom you ally is just as important to this game’s outcome as how well you do it.
-The secret behind the pinheads is amusing and logical.
-Huh, Madame Orbec really IS magic.
-I like the way the occult is handled in this story. It’s never really explained or made explicit, and you only really learn things about it in the bad endings. Magic is used to cause problems in this story, not to solve them, and it fits well with the tone of the work.
-I like the Ring Master character. They seem like one of the few genuinely clever and reasonably well-meaning people at the carnival.
-This game is a nice dip into a strange world. Concepts and characters are explored lightly, in a way that intrigues without going into too much detail. I think the short scope of time covered by this game helps, the player is thrust into an unfamiliar situation and must orient themselves. The shortness of the game prevents the player from becoming really comfortable with the world, and keeps them on the edge of their seat, as intended.
-Like Alpha Wolf, the concept for this game is quite unique.
Mastery of Language
There are a number of sentence structure issues, but overall it’s not bad in this one.
The first time I played this, I assumed variables were used, but I realize now that this is in EndMaster’s traditional cave of time style. There really are a lot of different ways this situation can play out, and the player has a lot of control over the game’s outcomes.
Player Options/fair choice
Though it’s very easy to die, it never feels random or undeserved.
On my first play through I got the ending where you convince the midgits to rebel against Charlie and unite under Salina. Probably the best ending, after reading through all of the others.
CONCLUSION: A surreal and entertaining game.
General Recommendation: If you can take a joke, then you should play this game. It’s a well-crafted story that does exactly what it set out to do, with a number of humorous moments.
Preview: Can you make good choices and survive high school unscathed? Hint: No.
I usually hate games that force the player against their will into poor choices and then try to waggle their finger at them, but I guess I can respect a game where self-righteous finger-waggling is the entire point. To those of you looking to make a game designed to forcibly teach the player a moral lesson, take warning: This game already takes the concept and does it in a better and neater way than it has any right to. You are unlikely to succeed in a similar task.
Part of this game’s success comes from the fact that it admits right up front that this is what it’s trying to do. Many of these other moralizing games try to “trick” the player into thinking the bad outcomes of their decisions were really their fault. This game is much more honest; it makes it clear to the player that you can’t win, you’re just along for the ride, so buckle up.
This story really does an excellent job of toeing the line between the absurd and the poignant. I’m constantly torn between feeling like “No, high school is nothing like that” and “Yes, that’s exactly what high school is like.” The absurdity allows the game it’s unique humor, but the humor in this story is very grounded in the real dilemmas reall high schoolers face, making you stop and think even through the surreal nature of the game.
Is this game actually successful at its purpoted goal of teaching wholesome life lessons? Well… kind of? Certainly the pitfalls the narrator can fall into do have less-extreme real-life parallels, and it is a fine example of what not to do as a high schooler. Perceptive high school readers will be able to look past the over-the-top nature of this game to appreciate the genuinely valuable advice it’s trying to offer.
The game certainly succeeds when it comes to entertainment value. There’s a sort of morbid fascination involved to finding out what exactly is going to kill you this time around. The fact that I genuinely enjoyed this game when it’s part of a genre and style I usually can’t stand is a testament to the writing craft and intelligence that went into its construction.
Overall, this is a very well-crafted game. It takes a simple concept, and packs a lot of high-quality humor and satire into a short game. The writing is delightfully scathing, and the game makes very good use of the choose-your-own-adventure format to tell a unique story.
And now you know!
-Each branch ending with the moral of the story is a particularly clever touch. Each of the morals takes a legitmate moral (“Don’t do drugs”, “Don’t overestimate your ability”) and turns it on itself in an ironic and biting way, all while pointedly ignoring the fact that the player has no real alternatives. It also provides a well-utlized avenue for jokes that might otherwise be tough to fit into the narrative.
-Man, why do people drink bleach when there are perfectly good bridges availiable in most towns? It’s basic risk-reward analysis.
-The narrator’s parents don’t show up more than they need to, but when they do, they serve to emphasize then extent to which the narrator really has no support systems. And they add humor.
-Each of the various branches in this story are short and sweet, culminating in an amusing final scene. The length makes it easy for the player to quickly skip from path to path, and makes the story easily readable. This is a concept that does well from having more width than depth.
-Fun with acronyms!
-This game is successful at leaving the player with a sense of frustration, as there’s the sense that it would be so ridiculously easy to solve all the narrator’s problems with merely an ounce of common sense. Preventing the player from doing this is sort of the point, and it’s an effective narrative device.
-“You’ll probably expect a long and graphic detailed scene… well sorry, use your imagination.” Lol.
Mastery of Language
There are some sentence structure issues, but not too many. Those that do exist actually contribue somewhat to the story’s conversational tone.
Really excellent, there’s a very wide variety of different endings the player can get.
Player Options/fair choice
Deliberately and masterfully awful.
CONCLUSION: An excellently written story that satirizes both high school and those that try to give shallow morals about it.
General Recommendation: I definitely recommend this game, in addition to the usual elements of humor in EndMaster’s works, this one has an additional layer of depth.
Preview: Can you break out of the cycle of emotional repression you’re stuck in in a way that improves your life?
I think this work is best read after one has already read a number of EndMaster’s other games and has a sense of what to expect from them. The way this game subverts player expectations means more when you fully understand how different this game could easily have been.
In a lot of ways, I see this game as a companioin piece to “A very special choose your story” (hereafter called AVSCYS). Both focus on the misadventures of a high school loser, and both are incredibly clever in their own ways. However, while AVSCYS focuses on the powerlessness of the narrator to change things, this game does the opposite: It focuses on the incredible power and agency the narrator has to affect the world around him.
Whereas in AVSCYS, no matter what you do you wind up dead or otherwise humiliated, in this game all of your actions are charged with consequence and meaning. Every action you take has an effect on your mental health and the lives of others. The wide variety of endings is where this game really shines. This, more than anything shows the power the narrator has to turn his life in a multitude of different directions.
This game also deserves praise for the complexity and nuance of its moral lessons. Too many similar stories seem to be trying to deliver a message that can be boiled down to a neat pithy phrase (as done humorously in AVSCYS). However, these pithy phrases can never be applied in all cases in real life. By instead showing how different actions have different outcomes in different situations, this game potrays a much more powerful statement about the complexity and difficulty of navigating of the real world.
-The repeated refrain of “you feel nothing”, echoed across many of the bad endings really hammers in the bleakness of the narrator’s life. He has no hopes, no connections, nothing to live for, and can’t see any way to change his situation. The fact that this refrain is repeated multiple times helps to make this sense much more powerful. The wide variety of nothing endings makes the endings where you do succeed more powerful.
-Most of the “you feel nothing” endings do this, but the catatonia ending in particular shows just how detached and hopeless the protagonist of this story is.
-The sequence where you kill your mom and go on a shooting/try to cover it up with your sister is somewhat disconnected from the rest of the story, but nevertheless plays an important role. Covering up the murder shows the sense of panic and disorientation that prevades the narrator’s life; after having killed his mother, he’s more shocked and surprised than anything else.
-This game really gives the player two kinds of choices: You decide what to do, and then you decide how to feel about it. After killing your mom, you can panic, or you can keep your head. After deciding to go on a killing spree, you can decide if you care about revenge, or just causing chaos. This game is more than just events happening one after another, it’s an exploration of the ways the narrator’s emotional reactions affect himself and the world around him.
-I like that characters appear across multiple branches, and that events remain consistent. Henry is bullying Aaron when you arrive at school no matter what, but depending on your earlier choices, your reaction to this event can be very different. At the same time, the player is allowed to get different information about the characters depending on which path they encounter them on. On the shooting path, you don’t learn much about Jessica, but what you do learn adds depth and groundwork to her appearances in other pathes.
-Again, I’d like to draw a contrast between the shooting in this game and the one in AVSCYS. While that game focuses (very effectively) on the dark humor of the situation, this one takes a much more introspective look at the narrator’s decisions. EndMaster is capable of approaching the subject from a variety of different angles, each of which have their own value.
-If you do choose to follow the school shooting path, it’s fitting that you can’t get any endings where you feel something. You can die and find a kind of peace, but no outcome leads to any kind of emotional resolution. This isn’t the way for the narrator to find answers.
-The narrator finds relief in some of the “you feel nothing” endings, which is fitting. Many people in depressive states like this one are reluctant to leave them because of the emotional vulnerability they’ll be opening themselves up to.
-It’s interesting the wide range of interaction the narrator can have with the mother. There’s the incest, obviously, but there’s also murder, alleigance, hate, compassion, and disgust. It can be tough to have such a wide range of character interactions while keeping all personalities consistent, but neither the narrator nor the mother ever seem to deviate from their base personalities. The wide variety of interactions sheds light on the complex relationship the characters have, rather than feeling like disparate stories.
-You can get positive endings by choosing to side with your mother or sister, as doing this is at least expressing some kind of emotion. However, dividing your family means you can’t get the best ending of making peace in your family, you can only improve your own personal situation.
-After siding with your sister, the game has a nice progression where you can choose whether to interfere or not in a variety or disputes. In some cases your help is appreciated, in others, it’s obnoxious or unwelcome. The game does a good job of showing how the context of the situation matters, and that good ideas and principles can’t be applied unanimously to every situation. Trying to get too big too fast is just as depressing as doing nothing, and ultimately drags the narrator back down into his depression.
-The game also shows well that choosing to change and rebel isn’t enough, you have to do so thoughtfully and effectively, otherwise you’re just trading one bad situation for another. You can end up becoming just like your sister, or just like your mom, who are each dysfunctional in their own ways. Or, you can get a lifestyle that seems superficially satisfying, but doesn’t resolve any of your internal doubts.
-I like that the game allows some endings to be mediocre, like the one where “you feel normal”. There’s no real victory here, but things have changed a little, in a way that is mostly positive. This reflects real life, most of the time outcomes aren’t clear cut.
-All of the arcs in this game are about power, but the arc where you side with your sister is about aggressive power. You are not a peacemaker, but you can be a victor, a bully, a rebel, a defender, or any number of active roles. This is a good contrast to the arc where you side with your mom and never get access to the same kind of power, and to the arc where you side with neither, and develop the power to affect positive change in more subtle ways.
-Again, reaching out to your mom works, reaching out to Henry doesn’t. Different approaches are needed for different people.
There are a few grammatical errors in the game.
Mastery of Language
Sentence structure is mostly good, though there are issues in places.
Quite good, there’s a lot of different ways this game can go. The wide variety of different possibilities adds to the game’s theme.
Player Options/fair choice
Not great, certain actions lead to choices the player doesn’t really have control over. But that’s not really the point of this game, so it doesn’t create any problems.
PERSONAL EXPERIENCE: Playing this game a few years ago, the very first ending I got was group hug.
CONCLUSION: An entertaining, well written, and surprsingly thoughtful look at the life of a repressed teenager.
General Recommendation: This game is either your thing, or it’s not. If it is your thing, you’ll have an excellent time and will find it quite entertaining, and I recommend it. However, there are going to be some people for whom the humor in this story just doesn’t land.
Preview: Can you get a job and make enough money to convince your girlfriend to sleep with you at the end of the day?
The narrator of this story seems to have all the traits I disliked about the Geek, and none of the cleverness and resourcefulness that made him likeable. Even on the pathes where you succeed at making a quick buck, the narrator learns nothing, and nothing in his life really changes.
That said, the consistency of the narrator’s tone and attitude throughout the story ties together all the disparate branches. He is characterized quickly and effectively, and he keeps the story grounded despite the bizarre events that happen around him.
Everything here feels incredibly real. With most games there’s some sense of disconnect with the real world, but all the characters feel like real people you could actually meet and talk to, and somehow even all the bizarre events that happen are grounded by the narrator’s attitude towards them. Character voice and tone setting is done extremely well.
The mundanity and similarities between many of the endings (returning home to Tina) makes a nice bookend for all of the branches. You go out, you have a weird day, and then you go home. There’s a sense of rythym and cycle to this game that ties together all the branches. This game feels quite episodic, with all the plots feeling like things that could have happened to this character on different days.
For the most part, this story just leaves me wondering what the point was. Most of the endings are extremely mundane, with nothing changing in the protagonist’s life, and nothing meaningful happening during the story.
I’m still rating it an 8, because I try to rate games on quality rather than personal preference, and the only reason I didn’t enjoy this as much as some of EndMaster’s games is that I’m not in the target audience. Nevertheless, I can appreciate the craft and care that went into it, and for what it is, it’s very well done.
-I get the sense this story is going to have a lot of gross-out humor, which isn’t really my thing. EndMaster has a talent for doing themes I dislike well, however, so I’ll reserve judgement.
-An… alligator? Was not expecting that.
-Employer killed in alligator attack, so the only logical thing to do was pick the cash register for change.
-There is plenty of gross-out humor, but so far it’s done in a way that’s more zany than genuinely disgusting. EndMaster doesn’t go into vivid descriptions, rather letting the reader use their imagination, which is more effective.
-Why is Tina dating this guy?
-The description of Jim’s room does a good job of characterizing him quickly and effectively.
-I find it amusing that you become a quasi local hero for getting into a scuffle with a guy with a brothel.
-I suspect th sequence at the pig farm will mean more to me when I get to Suzy’s Strange Saga.
-Also amusing that you accidentally provoke your cousin’s killing spree and just kind of leave.
-Crazy cat lady seems incredibly suspicious, but possibly rich.
-Lol you get cursed to be followed around by cats. The horror!
-I like that characters appear across multiple pathes, like Dan.
-The alien abduction is completely random, but fits oddly well with the tone of the work.
Mastery of Language
Eh, not great. There’s a number of sentence structure issues. It fits well with the narrator’s haphazard nature, however.
There’s an incredible amount of branching here. Pretty much every choice goes into its own unique narrative. The branches are generally not very deep, allowing for a reader to go quickly through a lot of different possible options.
Player Options/fair choice:
Generally good, outcomes are fair and predictable. There are some exceptions to this.
This is the first of EndMaster’s games I hadn’t played before, so it was nice to read some fresh material. The first ending I got was the one where you get a job at the burger place and get fired for being in the room when an alligator busted out of the toilet.
CONCLUSION: Not my thing personally, but an objectively well-crafted story.
General Recommendation: I recommend this game. Those fond of the lol random and/or offensive genres will have an excellent time. Those who are unfamiliar with the genre can be pointed to this game as a fine example of the genre done correctly. Even those who dislike the genre may find themselves enjoying this story despite those elements, as it has such a wide variety of possible plotlines and outcomes that there’s probably something for everyone.
Preview: Can you successfully get a life? Or will you retreat to the mediocrity of your basement, if you survive the outside world at all?
This is a game that really has nothing else quite like it on the site. The closest I can think of is Trash (with similarities in humor and setting, and the same episodic feel), but there are subtle differences in theme and character that make this one it’s own unique thing.
Despite essentially being three seperate stories, the grouping of these tales into a single game helps the narrative of each individual game stand out in its own way. Cave of time storygames are already seperate stories grouped around a single character; this game takes the logical next step by grouping its narratives around a theme.
Ebay Escapist: A fine exampe of a “lol random” game done correctly. There’s a through-line of theme between all the branches, and even the plots and events that make no sense seem connected and fit with the world crafted around them.
Good Girl: It’s impressive how grounded this branch feels despite dealing with situations that are as fantastic, if not more so, than the other branches in this game. The narrator’s more detached tone, coupled with Suzy’s less, y’know, crazy, personality slows down the plot here and makes each mini-adventure seem more serious.
Anime Addict: Not my thing, probably for the same reasons I didn’t get as much enjoyment out of trash. I’m not familiar enough with the subject being mocked to really appreciate the satire and humor here. I expect other people in the target audience will find this branch quite entertaining and clever.
I’m not in this game’s target audience, but I did enjoy it more than any other work in the genre I know of. I liked this game more than Trash, due to the existence of semi-sympathetic characters, and more variety in humor types and plotlines.
-Ebay Escapist starts off efficiently characterizing the lead by showing that they prefer dreams to realisty.
-I can already tell this story is going to be something different when the first major obstacle I face is a homicidal plant. Earth is saved!
-I know that stopping the kudzu & dying unrewarded vs running away and being blamed is more a result of the narrator’s pathetic life than anything else, but I do like when stories allow heroic actions to go unrewarded. It gives stories depth and makes the player question whether they’re playing the game to do well or to do good. More realistic.
-Gosh darn exchange rates
-I usually dislike when actions have very random outcomes, but it seems to fit the tone of this story pretty well, adding to the surreality and randomness.
-…now I can buy that bomb shelter I always wanted? Is this a ground zero prequel?
-Chainsaw murdered because of inconsistencies in english spelling. My own fault, really.
-Lol, I like that the styrofoam island is in more than one branch. Details like this prevent this branch from falling into the traditional pitfalls of similar games. It simultaneously adds connectedness and randomness in a positive way.
-This Ebay Escapist branch is probably the most well-crafted “lol random” game on here. Things happen without any apparent reason behind them, but in a weird way, everything fits with the world in a consistent way.
-I can’t believe the freaking abestos car is worth more than the island.
-After switiching to the anime branch, I’m struck by both the subtlety and the power of the tone shift between the two pathes. The narrator’s tone switches almost instantly, becoming both harsher, and more personally involved. While in Ebay Escapist the narrator is simply telling the Escapist’s story, here the narrator is directly judgemental, laughing at the Addict, and providing personal commentary.
-The grammatical horror of the phrase “AN HERO” really hammers the point in.
-The Addict branch seems to have a lot in common with Trash, both in narrational tone, and a lot of the plotlines.
-“Yiff in hell”, lol
-The use of the narrator’s name (Brian) in the Addict branch is clever. You don’t learn Brian’s name until he’s decided to pull himself out of his anime addiction and developed a bit more of a personality. Meanwhile, you never learn the Ebay Escapist’s name (due to the short random naature of the branch), and you learn Suzy’s name immediately (due to the more involved character-driven nature of her story).
-I can already tell the good girl branch is going to be the most complex, as we’ve got an actual cast of named characters. This does a good job of differentiating this branch right off the bat.
-Oh somebody’s getting those ashes dumped on them.
-Ben should just get a job building people bunkers (and killing Chulocks) since he seems to be really good at it.
-In the Good Girl branch, there’s been yet another narrational shift. This branch is probably the closest to EndMaster’s usualy writing style; a more traditional unbiased narrator who doesn’t directly comment on the action.
-“You would’ve wrote it in already” lol
-Somebody got the ashes dumped on them but it was not how I expected
Mastery of Language:
I didn’t notice any sentence structure issues, and I thought the change in the narrator’s voice from branch to branch was a particularly clever way of showing the difference between the stories.
Quite excellent. Each major branch has literally dozens of different outcomes, with a wide variety of different ways the protagonist’s life can end up.
Player Options/fair choice:
Not great, but since this game has many lol random elements, that’s sort of the point and it’s not an issue.
In Ebay Escapsit I got the ending where you die fighting the kudzu. In Anime Addict I got the ending where you leave the house and immediately get beat up. In Good Girl I got the ending where you’re killed by Chulocks.
CONCLUSION: Another original installment by EndMaster in the CYS landscape.
General Recommendation: Honestly I don’t think there’s any way to tell in advance whether or not you’ll like this game. The warnings are NOT exaggerating, but it’s got a surprising amount of humor and character mixed in with the debauchery. Consult with your doctor prior to reading if you have any heart conditions.
Preview: Can you make your anniversary with your sister extra special?
Huh. Well, I enjoyed this more than I expected.
I was expecting something a bit like the more extreme parts of Trash or Basement Dwellers, but this story has a very different tone. It’s tough to say what exactly is different. I think it has to do with the perspective mostly. Rather than being narrated by a pathetic unmotivated character who gets beaten down, it’s narrated by a character who is pathetic in completely different ways and beats others down. This shifts the tone of the humor in a subtle, but important way.
I think the short length of this game really helps, it’s a simple concept, and trying to turn it into something longer would probably just result in it overstaying its welcome. As it is, the reader is quickly and violently thrust into an extreme situation, and thrust out of it just as quickly, before they really have a chance to orient themselves or decide how to feel about it. There’s no wallowing, no drawing out of the action. It’s all presented very quickly and neatly.
Gower put it best when he said this story is an experiment poking at the boundaries of what is acceptable. Just how many different forms of violence and degeneracy can be fit into a single game? Apparently, quite a lot.
Speaking of Gower’s comment, I also want to reiterate his assertion that this game can be seen as a CYS tolerance test. If you can read this game and laugh it off, then you’ve got the right attitude to prosper at CYS. This meta aspect of the game boosts its rating for me, since it feels like it’s got a wider purpose than simple shock.
This game does exactly what it set out to do, and it does it very efficiently. Like many of EndMaster’s games, I find this story stands alone, almost as its own unique genre. Any attempt to replicate it would be futile and pointless, as it perfectly occupies its own special niche on the site, and the world of storygames at large.
-Well, as far as first lines go, this one’s certainly a grabber.
-“What rhymes with disembowel” lol
-Lol, “I thought you guys were against assisted suicide?” “That’s catholics!”
-Lol, “What? You think I do this for fun?”
-“Extrapolate” rhymes with “decapitate”.
Mastery of Language:
Eh, could be better.
There’s a lot of different choices the player can make, but they all end up pretty much the same way.
Player Options/fair choice:
Each actions represents accurately its outcome. That said, there’s not a lot of variety.
I usually don’t like stories that exist for the violence and nothing else, but this one had a lot of additional humor thrown in, which made it an enjoyable read.
CONCLUSION: I really don’t know WHAT to conclude. Readers will have to make up their own minds about where this game fits into the world of storygames.
General Recommendation: I highly recommend this game, particularly for those looking to see the branching cave of time format used in its full power.
Preview: Honestly, I think the less you know what to expect when starting this game, the better. Just jump right in. However: I strongly recommend that you read the other EndMaster games listed in the game’s description before reading this one, as there are a lot of callbacks.
The thing that really jumps out to me about this game is just how truly original all the concepts are. I say this primarily about this game, but as I’ve been reading and re-reading EndMaster’s games, it’s been true of all of them. Many games, books, and TV shows often can be fit into a specific story type; like fantasy quest, space adventures, apocalyptic, etc. EndMaster’s games, however, create their own niche. I can’t name a single other work of fiction that is comprable in plot and tone to his games Geek, Repression, A Very Special Choose Your Story, Trash, Tales from the Basement, and so on. A good author can take any oft-done concept and make an original work (as EndMaster does with games like Paradise Violated and Ground Zero), but I’m particularly struck by the originality of the ideas behind his shorter works.
Suzy’s Strange Saga takes this originality and drives it up to the max. It’s a game that absolutely refuses to be classified. Many staples of common genres are there (‘zombies’, dimensional travel, cult politics, etc.), but these elements all have a twist on them making them defy categorization, and the existence of these elements in the same game creates a total narrative that’s nearly impossible to define. It would be very easy for this variety to become a random kind of gimick and prevent a coherent narrative from forming, but EndMaster masterfully ties all the elements together so that each branch is both coherent, and genuinely adds on to total narrative.
One way I noticed this was done is through all the connections between the branches. Though this is a straight cave-of-time story, you run into the same characters and events across multiple different branches. (For example: the confrontation between the carnies and trailer park happens regardless of which side you’re on.) These events play out in a logical way depending on your choices up until this point, and characters act consistent with their personality in different contexts. Of all of EndMaster’s works, I would say this game takes the best advantage of the branching format to create a truly unique and connected world.
These connectedness extends to the amount of references to EndMaster’s other games. This game follows up on the stories of many of EndMaster’s other games. These references are never allowed to overpower Suzy, it’s her story after all, but it’s a lot of fun to see all the characters and events followed up on from previous games, and learn which endings are canon. This really contributes to the immersive feel of the game. The universe here feels very expansive and complex, there’s the sense that there’s a complete world to be explored no matter which direction you turn in. The existence of 16 complete epilogues certainly helps.
The character of Suzy herself is also handled quite well. Suzy has her own distinct personality, but her personality is allowed to change and grow in different ways depending on the choices the player makes. This makes the player feel like their decisions really matter, as they affect more than just what happens externally. At the same time, the facets of her personality that do remain consistent tie together the different branches of the game.
Finally, I’d like to note how the game’s originality makes it hard to figure out what’s going to happen next while still respecting narrative structure. As someone who reads/watches a lot of fiction, I can usually predict many of the future plot events in stories. I can’t do that in this game; the story never takes an easy obvious way of resolving a situation. Yet it’s clear this game isn’t going out of it’s way to mislead the reader (as some works do, to their detriment). Events are appropriately foreshadowed, this unpredictability is just emerging naturally from its setting and characters. This game is guaranteed to be a fresh and different read, even to those who have difficulty finding media that can still surprise them.
-The recap of how Suzy’s situation has changed since TFTB is presented in a quick way, which prevents it from being an infodump.
-I’m amused that the serial killer ending with Bobby is the canon one for TFTB.
-I’m not liking any of the options on the first page. Getting help from Peter sounds like a good way to get a part in his next movie. Moving in with Donna and Julie seems like it would not be condusive to getting a job. Relying on Bobby for help flits too close to the possibility of being ritually sacrificed. I guess I’m going to go with Donna and Julie as this option seems to have the least health hazards, but I’m not happy about it.
-I’m curious to see what effect (if any) the GZ references will have on the plot.
-Lol. “Who would be vaccuming?” “Donna?” “Nah.”
-Distracted the national guard by pretending (“pretending”) to be lesbian. Can’t believe that worked. Do people really get aroused that easily?
-For a story that doesn’t set itself up as a zombie apocalypse story, it somehow manages to be one of the better zombie apocalypse stories on the site. I think the mistake most zombie games make is they focus on the mechanics, while ignoring the emotional tension and stakes that are actually at the heart of the genre. This game focuses on those aspects, making it feel more like a true “zombie” story than many similar games.
-Lol Mel is in this. I find it amusing that he’s the leader of one of the surviving factions.
-With EndMaster’s two other giant stories (Rogues and eternal) covering decades of a character’s life, it’s interesting to see a story that just covers a single crazy week. It allows the plot and characters to be more detailed, and allows them to have a wider variety of possible outcomes (this story has 16 victory epilogues, which I believe is EndMaster’s record.)
-Julie is the kind of character who could very easily have become annoying, as she’s not as competent as Suzy, but she’s written in a way that prevents her from becoming dead weight and allows her to remain sympathetic.
-Johnny’s annoying even when he’s not murdering people. His initial holier-than-thou attitude towards the other partiers is a good signal for his future/alternate behavior while not immediately being a major danger sign.
-I like the contrast between Suzy’s competence in the arcs with Julie and Johnny. In the Julie arc, Suzy becomes strong and action-taking, making decisions and standing up for herself. In the Johnny arc, Suzy allows her life to be pulled out from under her by a stranger, and reacts to danger with fear rather than action. Additionally, her reaction to Peter’s phone call shows how unraveled she’s become.
-One thing I really like about this story is the consistensy across the branches. Many storygames have events that change depending on unrelated actions the player takes, or the branches are just so disconnected from each other that consistensy doesn’t matter. But in this game, events remain consistent, and you’re allowed to come across the same situation in a variety of different contexts.
-“Property of the Ground Zero Corporation”? Was Ben working with Ground Zero? Heck, they might even have been the government agents he was worried about seizing his stuff.
-Oh, is Johnny supposed to be the kid from repression? That would explain the mother/sister references, as well as the incest kink. I wonder which ending is the canon one for repression.
-The wide variety of different plotlines in this game fleshes out not just the characters, but the setting. As the branches weave around each other, you really get a full view of the town’s geography and nature.
-I like Mel’s inclusion in the arc with Donna. A familiar face makes his character and the trailer park setting automatically more rounded, and it’s fun to see him taking actions in a different context. I didn’t enjoy Trash as much as EndMaster’s other stories largely because Mel couldn’t seem to get up off his ass in any meaningful way, but in this game he’s taking initiative and controlling the situation, which makes him more likeable and more fun to read.
-The repeated refrain of GZS commercials is a nice way of tying the days and branches together.
-All of the references in this story are excellently done. Often times, references can go overboard if writers get too excited about them, but EndMaster refrains from hitting the reader over the head with these references, instead allowing them to fit in naturally with the story he’s constructing.
-I like the snapshot scene used for the Bandit Blondie epilogue. It does an excellent job of illustrating Suzy’s new situation, and the changes in her character.
-The pathes where you leave the trailer park do a good job at showing Suzy’s personality and morals changing slowly rather than all at once.
-I like that you’re able to have a positive relationship with Donna in one of the endings. That’s another strength of this game; Suzy is allowed to have very different relationships with all the characters depending on which branch you’re on. It allows these side characters to be fleshed out in ways they never could in a linear story, and adds weight to the player’s decisions.
-Bobby, practitioner of cult worship and human sacrifice, gets defensive about being compared to a mormon.
-I like that even though Bobby is a cultist, he’s self aware, and can raise legitimate poitns about Suzy’s odd standards.
-Hang on, are Leslie and Lillith supposed to be the couple from love sick? If so, that would explain a lot about the GZS shelters.
-I like that the chaos god is Tiamat, most readers will have a basic familiarity with who she is.
-Too bad Aiden’s spelled with an e, otherwise aidan and nadia would be the names reversed.
-Suzy and Helen are bonding. “It’s okay, everyone thinks about killing people sometimes.”
-The cult dynamics and debates over what is the best way to serve Tiamat are interesting. The arc I’m currently on doesn’t go into too much detail, so I hope to have more involvement in them in later arcs.
-Like Bobby, Bobby’s grandmother can call Suzy out on some of her strange priorities.
-The epilogue with Enki is oddly touching; Suzy has grown past her basement-dwelling tendencies, and is now trying to instill the lessons she’s learned in a new generation. Albiet she’s grown from a basement dweller into a cult member, but the point still stands.
-“Tiamat’s chaos can be as kind as it can be cruel” is a nice take on the cult.
-I like that Helen can be an antagonist or an ally depending on the arc. It fits with what we know of her personality, since she’s so easily dominated by whichever strong personality is around her. I also like that she’s more intelligent than Diana when it comes to plotting to kill Suzy.
-I like that the cult’s relationship with the trailer park is different depending on which epilogue you get.
-On the path to epilogue 13 (Matriarch of Madness) I thought the chocies got a little repetitive, the final 4-5 choices essentially amount to trust/don’t trust Helen.
-Well whaddaya know, the Ebay Escapist has a name.
-There’s a lot of J names in this game. Julie, Johnny, Jake, Jack.
-I like the inclusion of Jack’s character on this arc. He’s not being a jerk (yet), and is adding elements of mystery and unpredictability to the story.
-I’m not sure why there’s a detour where you leave Jack and then return; all it seems to do is provide two more opportunities to die.
-The adventure in the gray building so far is fun.
-I keep thinking this is Rask. EDIT: Oh, it IS Rask.
-If Suzy is the mother, that explains a damn lot.
-I’m quite intrigued by the parallel universe plotline.
-Gay alternate universe Suzy. Lol Suzy just needs to admit she’s bi at this point. On that point, I think Suzy’s sexuality has been handled pretty well. It never becomes too important, or pushed aside at times when it should be important, and the two possible gay relationships in this game are healthy (Julie) or at least no more messed up than other comprable male ones (Helen).
-Lol: “You’re a writer. Makes sense actually. You certainly procrastinate enough.”
-After seeing so many parallel universe plotlines where the protagonists are sent to a version of reality that is slightly worse than their own, it’s fun to visit one where the protagonist and world at large are actually better off. Makes me wonder if this timeline is closer to the “real life” timeline.
-I like the implication that the other arcs in this story are books written by Epilogue 15 Suzy.
-The mother character is used quite effectively. Though we never actually meet Suzy’s mother in other branches, from what Suzy has said of her to others, we know she loved her a lot and she had a big influence on her life. Having her play a major role in this branch works because of the details we already know about her, and it adds depth to the other branches, where Suzy’s mother never shows up in person, but her influence still drives many of her decisions.
-I’m torn on how to feel about Suzy’s mother knowing her identity. On the one hand, it makes for a good scene between the two, and is more realistic than Suzy successfully fooling everyone. On the other, it’s hard to believe that Suzy’s mother could overlook her daughter being replaced by a stranger.
-Every now and then, it feels like the narrator is talking directly to you. It’s intriguing, in a story like this it makes me wonder whether there’s something else going on.
-Ahh yes, Lillith, the GZS employee, and quite possibly incestuous serial killer. Maybe this is the branch where we’ll learn what’s causing the crazy cannibalism. EDIT: Yes, it is.
-Claiming to be sick to avoid Jed and Hugo is quite clever here.
-Occasionally while playing these games, I’ll make a choice as a matter of principle, despite fully expecting it to kill me. Choosing not to go to the shelter with Lillith and Leslie was such a decision, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that my gut instinct was correct.
-I find it amusing that in a numebr of the endings, you’re having sex when the bomb goes off.
-I’m surprised that Suzy and Bobby get back together in Epilogue 14, but I think it works well. Suzy didn’t want to marry him because she didn’t want to risk throwing herself into his power on his terms. Her adventures during the story allowed her to develop her own power and ability to take care of herself, allowing them to have a much more equal relationship.
-I like how the cannibalism thing was built up slowly over the course of the story, with plenty of foreshadowing surrounding the meat and Suzy’s capacity for violence, but never so much that it hit the reader over the head with it. This allows the epilogue to be logical without seeming obvious, and avoids it seeming like it’s just going for a shock factor.
-I find it amusing that the geek was too drunk to remember the details of his own plotline. I also like that he eventually ran the circus.
-I like that Roger appears in multiple branches, as alt Suzy’s husband, and as a national guard.
-The extent of the lust/hate Suzy is drawing from the male and female members of the carnival seems oddly high, I wouldn’t think people would react in such an extreme and unified way to a new face.
-I like that you can end up on both sides of the confrontation between the trailer park and the carnival, and that it is optimally resolved in an aggressive or peaceful way depending which side you’re on. The contrast shows well the difference between the two groups, and the differences in Suzy’s character on each of those pathes.
-I also like that while the clowns were clearly the main villains of Geek, they have a more heroic role in this story.
-It’s fitting that Suzy ends up with Shrimpy in two of the epilogues. He always seemed to respect her most as a human being, and they had a genuine friendship beyond his attraction.
-Lol, “Right, like arriving at a door with a group of clowns isn’t straight out of a horror movie.”
-I think the New Security ending is important for the balance of the story, in this ending, though Suzy survives, she never really grows past her basement-dwelling mentality. It serves well as a contrast to the other endings where she grows in power. It also serves as a more wholesome contrast to some of the darker endings. Interestingly, Suzy’s comptence and morality seem to be inversely proportional.
-I like how the Rogue and Zalmora have a fairly equal relationship. Both can hold their own against the other when need be, but are still willing to compromise.
Mastery of Language:
There are sentence structure issues, notably a lack of commas. I noticed a typo here and there, though not many, considering the length of the story. A couple dialogue issues.
Quite good. For a story of this length to have sixteen unique epilogues is impressive.
Player Options/fair choice:
Eh. Not great. For a more story-oriented game like this one, it’s pretty much unavoidable, but many actions have consequences that could not possibly have been forseen by the player. Most notably, chosing not to have sex with Bobby in your living room means you later give him a blowjob while driving and cause a car accident.
The only real confusion I have with this game is that sex is extremely important to everyone in a way that seems unrealistic. It’s well-written, it just seems odd that nearly every character views Suzy in some sort of sexual way. Granted, this could accurate and I just haven’t been exposed to the places where this behavior is frequent.
Got epilogue 7 on my first run (the bunker lesbians one), I think I did alright as far as not dying goes, though dying a few times is pretty much inevitable in EndMaster’s games.
After finishing the game, I think this is probably the best ending. Suzy develops skills and confidence, but she never turns evil, and ends up having a fairly good life. The other endings all have drawbacks to them. (Endings 1, 3 and 8-10 are a bit meh, 5 and 6 both suck, 11-13 are alright but involve being a human-sacrificng cult leader, for 2, 14, and 15 you have to make really unethical choices to get there, 16 you end up losing your entire family and world, coolness factor aside. 4 is probably second best as far as Suzy’s situation goes, with 10 being not too far behind.)
Amusingly, I found ending 1 last.
CONCLUSION: An impressively expansive, immersive, and original game that stands as one of the site’s most unique games, as well as one of its best explorations of the branching cave of time format.
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.
General Recommendation: I recommend this game. It’s a very engaging story, and the mystery is realistic and clever. It has appeal for both puzzle-solving players, and those who prefer more traditional narratives
Preview: You are tasked with finding out who murdered Father Leofwine, a priest and friend of King Alfred. You play as two characters, one the official court investigator of the murder, and an unofficial investigator with less resources and more difficult methods.
Basic Plot & Coherence:
The plot shines here. A lot of mystery stories (interactive or otherwise) seem to throw in suspects and twists just to confuse the reader into missing the true guilty party, but in this story, each development of the plot was logical, and made perfect sense in retrospect. Even the surprises made sense in the context of the characters and world the author had developed. The idea of having two seperate and unrelated guilty parties is a clever plot device, it complicates the story without sacrificing continuity. This historical context also adds a lot.
Characters & Development:
Cynehelm and Wulf work well as a duo, and bring a sense of scope the story that might be hard to replicate with just one narrator. Cynehelm is experienced in the king’s court and bureaucratic matters, while Wulf is both more experienced in the real world and far more jaded. Each brings their own unique take on the story.
The side characters, even the ones who had only a few scenes, all showed their character and personality. I liked the dynamic between the members of the king’s court. It’s clear during any of the scenes where they interact that nobody trusts anybody, and several of them have their own private plans.
I also particularly liked the queen’s role in the story. Her being the murderer was both satisfying and surprising.
I saw no mistakes.
Mastery of Language:
I was impressed with how the language was adjusted to fit the tone of the work. It’s really believeable that these characters are living in medieval europe based on how they talk and act.
This story is fairly linear, but that’s not really a problem in the context of an investigation. I take off a point because the choies about trusting wulf seems to have little impact on the story, and that could have been an interesting branch.
Player Options/fair choice:
No problems here, I thought many of the insta-death paths were unusually well foreshadowed for save-or-die choices.
I enjoyed my playthrough a lot. Though I died a lot, I did figure out the queen was guilty of the muder about halfway through. I wasn’t sure of Alrdic though until the end.
CONCLUSION: A fun and engaging game with a compelling mystery.
General Recommendation: I definitely recommend this game, especially if you’re fond of discovery-based puzzle games.
Preview: You go around the tower in an open map, coming up with solutions to various problems that will let you get the treasures. Much of the game is exploring the tower, and fiddling with different objects and activities as you search for the treasures.
Basic Plot & Coherence:
As an open map exploration game, this game doesn’t really need a nuanced plot. The plot that does exist works perfectly, and provides an intriguing and engaging frame for the exploration of the tower. Rowena’s tower was filled with a number of fascinating details that fleshed out the feel of exploration and discovery. Even after finding all 17 treasures, I was left with the lingering feeling that there was more to explore, which is exactly the mood a really good puzzle game evokes. Kudos to the author!
Characters & Development:
Again, as a puzzle game, the characters don’t really need a personality, yet though character was by no means the focus of the game, I thought the author did a good job fleshing out the thief’s character. I really got a sense of the main character’s personality through the narration and the phrasing of the choices.
No problems here.
Mastery of Language:
I quite liked the use of language here. Though there was nothing special about it, the narration in this game brought just the right humorous and lighthearted mood to it.
Mechanics & Coding:
The coding allows for an open-map exploration game, and all the items are coded excellently. The bag of holding mechanic allows the player to easily review their progress.
This isn’t a traditional story, and doesn’t have branching.
Player Options/fair choice:
All of the puzzles had fair, and retrospectively logical solutions. The player always had options for things to do and places to search, and there were no obvious solutions that you weren’t allowed to try. I really felt like I could do anything I wanted in this game, which I don’t usually get from storygames.
Nitpicks: Were we supposed to be able to find a way to free the prince? I never found a way to do that.
I found all 17 treasures. I thought the mechanic for getting to the roof was particularly clever. I kept falling off the tower and dying because I thought my strength potion would let me climb better. I particularly liked the way the log was used to solve both the first and last puzzle of the game.
CONCLUSION: A fun and approachable puzzle game with a lot of character.
DETECTIVE ONE: BLACKSEA ISLAND: 88
General Recommendation: I definitely recommend this game, especially if you like trying to solve the crime yourself while reading mystery books and watching mystery shows.
Preview: You travel around the island investigating different locales and asking questions of the suspects. As you uncover different pieces of evidence, you can work out who committed the crime, and how and why it was done, and confront the killer.
Basic Plot & Coherence:
A well-formed tight murder mystery story. The killer has clear means, motive, and opportunity, and it’s up to the player to figure them out. The crime itself is relatively simple (and the killer’s motivations aren’t extremely logical), but the act of discovering them is what makes this game really worth it.
I liked the way the island’s history was integrated into the story. This background knowledge gave the fictional events a lot of depth, making the island seem like a very expansive place. The island like a place that could really exist, not just some place the author invented for the sole purpose of writing a mystery story. The history, while providing essential clues to the murder, also provided some nice red herrings. At the end, I was surprised to learn the extent to which the histories were true.
Characters & Development:
Each of the characters serve their purpose well, with each providing a slice of important information needed to solve the crime. The characters are all fairly two-dimensional, but this is understandable, given the nature of the story.
I suppose I didn’t think the killer’s motivations made a lot of sense. Also, they kind of just confess at the end, without have any real reason to do so. This is all pretty forgiveable however, as it gives the story a cinematic conclusion, allowing the player to win through the knowledge of the island they’ve gathered during their investigations.
No typos here!
Mastery of Language:
The language was direct and functional, which works well in a game like this, as it doesn’t unnecessarily distract the player. The opening scenes were more descriptive than the rest of the game, which was good, as it set the tone and did not distract from the mystery.
Mechanics & Coding:
I certainly didn’t notice any bugs.
On the one hand, I hate the time mechanic, on the other hand, I think it really contributed to the overall atmosphere of the work. I played this game with a sense of urgency, working in every way I could to limit the amount of time I spent walking around. I’ll grudgingly admit that the time mechanic served its purpose perfectly, and added to the game. Hmph. Interestingly, I think that even though the player has plenty of time to visit everywhere they need to, the time mechanic is more narratively useful in the mood it imposes on the game, rather than in actually limiting the player’s options. The time mechanic was a good way to allow the player open-map exploration while also limiting just how much sleuthing they can do.
None, obviously, as this is essentially a murder mystery told in a nonlinear format.
Player Options/fair choice:
Pretty good. I felt like I had the options I wanted. The dialogue options were somewhat limited, but I felt like this added to the story rather than took away from it, as it left the player to do most of the thinking themselves, and removed unnecessary distractions.
Olivia Powell’s habit of wearing a kevlar vest under her clothes should have been foreshadowed. :)
I guessed correctly who the killer was very early in the story, but I’m the first to admit this guess was pure speculation and had no basis in fact. It wasn’t until later, after discovering more evidence, that I figured out the how and the why of the crime.
CONCLUSION: Lots of fun! I’ll definately be playing the sequel!
General Recommendation: I recommend this game, it’s an entertaining read.
Preview: You play as a disillusioned and disaffected, but powerful, gunslinger, searching for direction in a frontier setting on the brink of disaster.
Basic Plot & Coherence:
Nothing like an execution to pull the reader into the story!
The story’s plot covers a couple of the possible reactions to an impending demon invasion, and how that invasion plays out with respect to the main character. Consistent with the dark tone of the story, it turns out there’s very little you can do to actually stop the invasion. In the only ending in which something close to this is achieved, it requires the sacrifice of your soul. The entire story seems like an intriguing exercise in futility, exploring the various ways the main character can fail to find direction. Oddly, I found this especially apparent in the “Death at midnight” ending, an ending with a relatively smaller scope than the others. The tight focus of the gunsligner’s conflict with the pair of natives shows all the more clearly how futile his efforts are.
Though the story contains plenty of action, it is much more introspective than anything else. The action serves more as a backdrop for the main character’s reflections than as an actual driver of the plot or character change.
One other thing I enjoyed about this story was the depth of the worldbuilding, even for the elements that were not fully explored. The system of magic in the world seems very interesting, both with how the main character is actually seen using it (such as for summoning his horse), and the musings the characters and narration have on it, such as Thomas’s recollection of magic being tamer in the east. The hints about elements like Goldwater and the setting’s dominant religion game the game a sense of depth, despite covering a period of relatively small scope.
Characters & Development:
The main character’s voice was what really jumped out to me from the start. In the beginning of the story, the narrator passively watches the destruction of Redshire after barely avoiding execution, and muses over the history of the town and the natives. While this could easily be a straight info dump, the unique tone of narrator’s reflections keep it interesting, and reveal important information about the character’s outlook. This internal monologue remains consistent throughout the work, tying the different events together through the gunslinger’s perspective.
The side characters showed plenty of depth as well, illustrated both through the consistency of their actions, and the gunslinger’s thoughts about them.
I didn’t notice any errors.
Mastery of Language:
Excellent. I would say the use of language is the biggest strength of this game. The gunslinger’s narration is full of clever phrasing and metaphors that both set the mood and are a pleasure to read. The beginning immediately hooks the reader into a world with a specific tone, and keeps it up throughout the story.
There’s plenty of branching. The player’s choices are meaningful and affect the course of the game. There is a wide variety of ways the story can end up spread throughout the 7 endings.
Player Options/fair choice:
The consequences of the player’s actions are well foreshadowed, and there are no “gotcha!” deaths.
I definitely enjoyed this game, which is a testament to the skill of the writing, as I don’t usually enjoy games where the main character’s actions are so futile. Here, however, I felt that the gunslinger’s lack of direction added to the overall tone of the story rather than detracting from it.
CONCLUSION: A fun game with a unique western take on the grimdark genre.