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Supernatural investigative mystery, August 30, 2021
Sordwin is one of the deepest and broadest Hosted Games that I've played. It is a mystery game with one central mystery and many smaller mysteries, all connected together in a tangled web of relationships, lies, and secrets that the player will have to unravel. I enjoyed playing this game a great deal, and I've played it many times to see more of the possibilities.
The game is a sequel to the earlier Evertree Inn, and copies and expands on its predecessor's mechanics. There is a time-based mechanic, where within certain blocks of time, the player has a great deal of freedom to investigate various locations and leads, in a hub-and-spoke design (there's a time limit that restricts how much investigation can be done). It's a much more freeform structure than is typical with choicescript games, which encourages replayability and is just fun to play with. There are also "scripted events" at certain times, emergencies that move the plot forward. The mystery itself is very well designed in my opinion. While there is a clue system that keeps track of many of the events, ultimately the deduction has to be done by the player; even getting all of the clues will not directly give up the answer to the central mystery.
Sordwin is set in the same world as Evertree Inn, which is loaded with typical Western fantasy tropes - elves, dwarves, wizards, and all that. But within these confines, the worldbuilding is pretty interesting - the mysteries of the island of Sordwin itself are quite involved. I enjoyed the writing and characters; the inhabitants of the island are all more complex than they seem at first. This isn't a romance game, but if that were pursued in the first game, then the romanced character carries over and plays a major role here. It's incredible to me how well the author has managed the possibility for combinatorial explosion, given all the options present between the two games, which becomes even more of an issue in the third game in this series.
Like the mechanics, the game's stat system is copied over from Evertree Inn, and the character build from Evertree Inn is basically fixed, without opportunities to radically change. I don't think the game is heavily stats-driven, in that basically any character build is valid, but playing with different builds unlocks different possibilities.