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A dazzling start, September 15, 2022
In fact, dazzling would be an understatement. But before we dive into that let’s start with some background.
Note: This review is about a first chapter demo for a commercial game (hm, now that I think about it Andromeda Acolytes is probably the first commercial Inform game that I have played). As a formality, the review is also based off info on the IFDB listing. Other websites have additional content.
Andromeda Acolytes is part of the Andromeda Series and, based on what I have seen so far, seems to branch off in terms of story depth and gameplay style (such as scuba diving). If I had not known that this game was part of the series, I would not have made the connection, or at least within the demo. The Andromeda Series was created by Marco Innocenti and is certainty worth your time. I was not particularly a fan of Andromeda Awakening - The Final Cut (I must admit, I only played the first half) but was really impressed with Andromeda Apocalypse — Extended Edition which won the 2012 IF Comp (and I played that one several times and recommend it). There are other installments by other authors but those two seem like the "main ones.” Even if Andromeda Acolytes takes the series in a new direction, I have no doubt that it will be valuable addition.
This is a seriously cool game. When I first saw it, I pounced. The demo reminds me of the game Subnautica (non-interactive fiction) and Tangaroa Deep (Twine) composed into vivid Inform piece. For a true effect watch Blue Planet afterwards.
The protagonist’s name is Korhva Vits, but usually referred to as Vits in the game. Vits has been assigned to a submersible mission to clear debris and relocate sea life. The player stays in a dive zone where they manage objects’ weight limits and their own oxygen levels. The game ends once you complete all tasks.
The locations can be overwhelming at first due to the amount of detail (which is also a good thing) but the game makes things user-friendly, especially with character dialog. The “think” command summarizes your tasks which is especially useful. I appreciate how the player’s oxygen levels decrease at steady but slow pace rather than depleting too quickly. Part of the immersive quality is that creatures are swimming around as you explore which gives it a simulation feel. It is the construction of a detail ecosystem that makes it vivid.
The overarching story is that the planet Monarch (actually, I do remember Monarch from the other games) is populated with a modern human civilization that has no knowledge of how humanity came to exist on their world. The demo is too short to really delve into the game’s vast story. If anything, I was expecting a bit more in terms of a synopsis, but the effect only leaves me drooling for more. The game’s description (VR, cities, machines, wild technology, you name it) is vast, and the demo only skims the surface. There is a (Spoiler - click to show) mysterious slab under the boulder in the trench, which was interesting, but otherwise no story developments. But hey, it is a demo, and I think the author balanced story content with gameplay. Andromeda Acolytes paces its worldbuilding.
The gameplay is in first person. There is not a whole lot of information on Korhva Vits, but unlike Innocenti’s first two games in the series the protagonist is female. I thought that this was an interesting change and look forward to learning more about Vits. The game’s description explains that there are three other female protagonists who will appear in the full release, but for the demo it is just Vits.
There are three other characters whom the player hears over the comms: Dion, Hugo, and Eichi, but the player only speaks to Dion since the other two are in different dive zones. The game uses the “talk to” mechanic and characters have detailed responses based on the location whenever the player speaks. Even though the game does not share much about Dion’s character they are still interesting because of their friendly relationship with Vits.
That is correct, there is a few visual elements in this game. There is a map on the right side of the screen and consists of a bright blue gradient background with boxes marking the player's location and the possible exits. This minor but crisp feature evokes an ocean atmosphere with its colour choice. It can also be turned off to save screen space. The author seems to strive to make things user-friendly. Hopefully the full release will continue with built-in maps.
(The cover art is also fantastic, by the way.)
As you can see, the game’s page on IFDB says that the game will be released in 2025 (potentially shorted if you support the author) which is a while, but I think it will be worth the wait. If the demo is any indicator, I have a feeling that it will be immensely popular with players when it is released. The player only gets to dip their toes into the sand with the demo, but it has every sign of being a stellar game.