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A steampunk game in pseudo-historic Australia with metal magic, February 3, 2016
Full disclosure: I'm a big fan of Banks' games, and I received an advance copy of this game when I told her I wanted to review it.
Clockwork Army is a Choicescript game set in historic Australia, with bits in Britain. The game uses a magic system that the author has developed for some time, including in her gamebook 'It Started When the Flag Fell'. This system is a metal system, a bit reminiscent of the Mistborn system. Different metals have different properties; lead enhances emotions, while the ultra-rare aluminum enhances agility.
The setting is in colonial Australia, with the Australians building up to a revolt against the redcoats. However, this Australia is heavily mechanized in a steampunk fashion. Metal corsets that grant abilities, hybrid animal-machines, and even cloud harvesters abound.
The story revolves around a family that has been scattered across the earth, who are trying to get back together. Like most Choicescript games, you have a choice of gender, name/ethnicity, and romantic interests.
The only other review I've seen of the game so far is on an app store and says it's the worst choice of games game they've ever seen. I suspect that they've only tried the first two (free) chapters, because these mostly consist of setting up the backstory and the magic system. The convolutedness of the magic system ends up requiring a lot of 'As you know...' exposition at the beginning.
But the later chapters are where things really take off. Having just finished The Shadow in The Cathedral by Jon Ingold and Ian Finley, I was hungry for more steampunk/clockwork creatures, and I wasn't disappointed. (Actually, thinking about it now, this game has the same kind of story that I was hoping for in the never-finished sequel to that game).
Anyways, things get heated, and the clockwork creations grow more and more complicated. I think it's impossible to really lose (in the sense of not getting a complete ending), but I did not achieve my character's original goals.
That was one area that I had trouble with: roleplaying the character. I had a sort of pacifist in mind that would always prefer thinking and spying over direct combat, but I found that the game penalized this behavior a few times. Also, my preferred love interest turned out to be taken, but I quickly mended my broken heart and moved on.
The last thing I should mention is that this game and Banks' gamebook contain a great deal of detail about historic Australia. Some people are turned off by this, but I enjoyed it.
Anyways, if you want to get a feel for the game before buying, try the first two chapters, but also see her gamebook I mentioned above to get more of a taste of this setting and magic system.