Prized Possession

by Kathleen M. Fischer

Historical, Romance

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Number of Reviews: 2
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
Flawed but worth a look, February 1, 2009
by Rose (New Zealand)

Prized Possession is a reasonably entertaining and beautifully written story. I'm just not sure it works well as IF.

You play a young female landowner in 1192 AD, presumably in England (although I don't think the actual location is ever stated). What begins as a journey in response to a royal summons turns into a desperate fight to survive as you become caught up in a whirl of intrigue.

What I say about the story in the plot summary above is actually about all I can make out about the narrative. It took me three playthroughs to sort out the plot at all. My impression is that, in an attempt to avoid too much exposition, Ms. Fischer erred on the side of too little. Our PC knows the situation and characters; but evidently doesn't feel the need to inform us. I found myself confused through much of the story. Once I received an unfavourable ending when I couldn't quite see what relevance what happened in the ending had to my choices. A little (okay, a lot) more plot information would be nice.

The game's structure consisted of a sequence of chapters, some short, some long. Instead of progressing towards a larger goal, most of the time you are hunting for the magic command or series of commands that will allow you to view the next cutscene and progress. Interactivity is minimal.

There are hardly any puzzles; getting through most sections of the game requires stumbling upon an unobvious action or performing an action at precisely the right moment. In many cases, progressing onto the next section involves picking the right conversation topic; but, as mentioned above, it is often not clear what the right conversation topic is due to the lack of plot exposition. Guess-the-command is common.

The non-player characters, however, are fairly impressive. There are only three NPCs that I would call well-defined, but those three, if slightly cliché, are well-written and interesting. I often wanted more information about an NPC, however. (Spoiler - click to show)What had Ranulf's father done, for instance?

Worth mentioning at this point is the conversation system. You type >TALK and are presented with a list of relevant options, one of which you type. It is quite similar to the more recent TADS 3 conversation system; interesting since the game was released in 2001. In theory, I quite like this system. Where it falls down is the vagueness of the responses presented. (Spoiler - click to show)At one point I was given the option to tell the truth or lie. The problem was that I didn't know what either would mean in this situation. Luckily, both lead to the same result in the end, but it was somewhat daunting.

I love the prose. The writing is vivid, engaging and elegant; perfectly conveying a medieval setting. The beauty of the writing made me forgive a lot about the game; I continued to play regardless of bugs simply because I wanted to read more. When played from a walkthrough, Prized Possession reads like a short story; in this respect it is quite similar to the author's earlier work, Masquerade. (I loved the writing in that game as well.)

I finished this game with mixed feelings. The prose was beautiful; and I think I would have liked the story had I understood it. The linear structure was sometimes mimesis-breaking, which didn't help. I would have loved it had I been able to stick around in some of the scenes and grill NPCs so I could get more background information. I would recommend Prized Possession, but you may want to keep the walkthrough at the ready. Three stars.

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