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About the Story
Adventures In The World Of Alaric Blackmoon - Episode 4
You are Magor, court sorcerer to King Kelson Haldane, the young king of the kingdom of Hecate. You are in your chambers, having just had a herald bring the news that the king and Duke Alaric Blackmoon have arrived back from their journey to the Great Sand Sea to investigate reports of Xixon lizardmen being seen down there.
The herald also told you, most unusually, that Kelson & Alaric will be coming to see YOU instead of you having to go to the king's audience chamber and that the visit will be informal, so no bowing will be required. You wonder what tales they will have to tell you?
"Fancy that," you think to yourself. "The king coming to see me!"....
64th Place - 29th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2023)
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Magor is an Italian cheese made up of alternating layers of Mascarpone and Gorgonzola. (The name, which is an obvious portmanteau of the names of the two constituting cheeses, is apparently mostly used in the Netherlands.) It's what you buy when the strong taste of Gorgonzola seems a bit too much, and you want something smoother, less adventurous. Of course, when you're eating it, the enjoyment is somewhat tinged by regret. Why didn't you get the straight Gorgonzola?
Magor is also an old magician in Larry Horsfield's extensive Alaric Blackmoon series, of which this is the first game I've played. He's more the goofy Merlin from Disney's The Sword in the Stone than a serious Gandalf type, prone as he is to losing his spectacles, and given as he is to using most of his magical talents for the production of whisky. But Magor is pretty effective when he wants to be. When the king and duke Blackmoon come to you and ask you to find out what their family connection is, you quickly solve a sequence of problems (all there for you in the Tasks list) and give them the answer they crave.
I've had less-than-optimal experiences with Adrift games in the past, having fought the parser much more than I'd like to. But Magor Investigates... is truly one of the smoothest parser experiences ever. Whether we should thank Adrift 5 for that, or whether Larry is just a really good implementer and had really good testers, I don't know, but it's something for which the game must be applauded. Larry is certainly responsible for the detailed implementation of objects, the quality of life features, the useful messages when you're doing things not quite right, and all the other little touches that make the game feel helpful and interested in your success.
I'm less sold on the aesthetics of the game. Like many Adrift games, it has the look and feel of a 1996 website hosted on GeoCities, with sans serif fonts in multiple colours on a black background. The only thing that's missing are animated gifs that make fun of Bill Gates! At one point, the game even seemed to switch to Comic Sans... but that must have been an illusion. It must have been. Of course none of this really impacts one's enjoyment of the game, but I don't understand why the Adrift Runner doesn't look a little bit more professional. (I should try Frankendrift to see if that's better.)
On to the substance of the game. As Magor, you have to solve a sequence of 'puzzles' in order to get the information the king and the duke wants. I've put 'puzzles' between scare quotes not because the puzzles are especially scary, but because they're not scary at all; they're so not scary that one wonders whether they are really puzzles, or simply tasks one has to perform. Not that I minded. I liked pottering about, relaxing, enjoying the descriptions, which are pretty enjoyable in a low-key, relaxed way. It's a no stress 'adventure'. I've put 'adventure' between scare quotes not because... well, I guess you get the idea.
Indeed, although my play experience had been extremely smooth and quite enjoyable, I nevertheless wondered why all of it had been *this* low-key. The central stakes of the game are so incredibly tame. The king and duke already know that they are related, and now they want to know exactly where in their vast lineage this link happened... well, turns out it was six generations ago. Not very exciting, but they immediately start a huge party! I think it would have been way more surprising if two nobles had not been related to each other in the sixth generation, and it also got me thinking that the Axe of Kolt, which can only be used by those with the blood of... I forgot his name... must be usable by, oh, I don't know, but after so many generations, it must be usable by almost everyone in the kingdom, right? Anyway... I suppose I was eager for a little more adventure. It was really nice to play this game, but next time, I'd prefer to leave out the Mascarpone and go for the straight Gorgonzola.
I beta tested this game.
The Alaric Blackmoon games have a long and storied history going back I think decades.
Most of the ones that I have played have been written in Adrift. They are written in traditional fantasy style; as books, they would have fit fine as a TSR series along with Forgotten Realms or Dragonlance.
The games are usually quite long, often with action sequences, and several of them use similar set pieces (like the castle in this game, which features in several other games).
This one is a stripped down and smaller version. There is just a simple goal: to explore the genealogy of the main characters.
Iíve seen others saying this game felt a little too small; I could see that, but I feel like itís more polished than a lot of the other Blackmoon games. The only issue I found was with some leaves, where I had some both in my hand and in a cup, but thatís not necessarily bad, as I could have taken only part of it out.
Genealogy is a requirement in my religion and one I enjoy, so I liked this lower-stakes storyline. It can be very fun to track down an ancestor and find distant cousins.
Overall, this is a nice introduction to the series, and can get people use to the style of the other games (like magic, the way the Axe works, etc.)
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