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The Empress' Shadow

by Emily Short profile and Failbetter Games

Part of Fallen London
Historical / Fantasy
2016

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Number of Reviews: 1
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Education, political intrigue and strange romance, February 19, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
Surface stories generally aren't my favorite in Fallen London. To me, it feels like being in a dark room telling ghost stories at a sleepover, then going out into the brightly-lit kitchen to say hi to your parents and grab some snacks before going back in.

That said, the player agency in this story is impressive, and mechanically it is one of the best stories, and has poignant moments of writing, especially the drawn-out ending. Reading this made me feel that Failbetter made an excellent choice hiring Short as their creative director; the grasp of the world of Fallen London as a whole and the creative mechanics are exactly what I'd hope a creative director would bring.

In this game, the oldest daughter of Queen Victoria, called the Empress's Shadow, is the only normal child she has left, and is coming down to the Neath to visit for unknown reasons. She is the empress dowager of Prussia, just like in real history.

You want to get close to her. It turns out that she desires a revolving suite of new servants to keep from getting too close to anyone or revealing too many secrets. So, for you to get her secrets, you become a teacher at Sinning Jenny's finishing school, training your own set of spies (chosen from 6-8 of the factions already in Fallen London), and using them to find out more about her.

Her motives include both romance and power, which is interesting, and the game gives you a permanent carousel that can result in a favor (although I failed the 50% luck check all 3-4 times I tried, which is just what luck is).

The only drawbacks to me personally are the lack of engagement I felt with the surface-based story. Otherwise, it is very well-done and was interesting to play.