Superluminal Vagrant Twin

by C.E.J. Pacian profile

Science Fiction

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Number of Reviews: 10
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1-8 of 8

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
Jump to Conclusion, July 29, 2018
by Victor Gijsbers (The Netherlands)

In Superluminal Vagrant Twin, you explore the galaxy as you attempt to collect enough cash to rescue your twin. The game's main selling point is the sheer size of the galaxy: by the end of the game, I had visited no fewer than 44 planets, and I think I may have missed out on a few, since I didn't seem to have the necessary objects to complete absolutely every side quest. In order to make this size manageable, the planets are implemented very lightly: there's just a few things you can interact with, and those interactions are mostly restricted to "talk", "take", "buy", and "sell". Even the "examine" verb has been disabled. This gives the game its strange feel of being both extremely limited (at any location you can just do a few things) and extremely expansive (from each planet, you can jump to every single planet you have discovered, and you keep discovering more).

We have, then, a game that is sharply focused on a few activities, but gives us a lot of freedom in when and whether we engage in them. First, we explore. Exploration is simple -- you just "jump" to a planet, although you'll have to learn the name of the planet first. Or you have to guess the name, something that is by no means impossible and got me to quite a number of planets I would not otherwise have encountered. (A nice reward for out-of-the-box thinking that the game's restricted verb list otherwise cannot provide for. Unfortunately, you cannot "jump to Conclusion", although the game does acknowledge the command.) At those planets, you buy or sell exotic goods, upgrade yourself and your ship, restock on fuel, arrest some criminals, deliver some packages, and perhaps learn about one or two other planets. As you proceed, you get a good understanding of the universe around you, although the complicated social and political arrangements never become entirely clear. Great fun; and I suspect the game has the exact right length to maintain a sense of wonder without becoming tedious.

The game this reminded me of most is Sunless Sea, which also features journeys from port to port and very limited, text-based interactions when you arrive. But Superluminal Vagrant Twin is smaller, faster, less impenetrable, and a lot friendlier. Highly recommended.

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Great atmosphere, breezy play, April 11, 2017

Loved the game, which had excellent writing and world-building, as well as a refreshingly different focus on which commands propel it forwards. Not examining objects and merely talking rather than talking about things with NPCs ensures a nice and breezy pace, though it should be said that the player doesn't have much control about how the plot of the game will unfold. But player autonomy isn't really the point of the fast-paced, low-difficulty research management sim that is Superluminal Vagrant Twin, anyway, and that's not a bad thing - rather, the focus is on exploration and discovery. The true strength of this game is its fresh and creative setting. I had a wonderful time navigating its strange, surprising galaxy, having been tossed in media res into the aftermath of a war that is never fully explained and whose factions don't even begin to map onto our current human modes of being. Marvelous!

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
A True Space Captain, February 14, 2017
by streever (America)

"So I've made a reasonably large (broad but shallow is how I'd put it) parser game set in space."

This expectation-lowering premise introduction kicks off one of the best RPG-style works of Interactive Fiction I've ever read. The author uses the term "shallow", but I'd say minimalist; dozens of characters, locations, and alien races are described in terse, pared-back prose. These well-written and plotted scenes are engaging and evocative, pulling the reader into a richly imaginative world.

The UI/UX can sometimes be clunky if only because the reader expects more--more commands, more fiddly-bits, more fussing--but the work on the whole is much stronger for paring back the parser functions to the bare minimum. This would be an incredible introductory work to bring a mainstream gamer into Interactive Fiction.

I love the dialogue, the settings, the environment, and the atmosphere. I love the way the game sets the tone and personality of the protagonist by placing you squarely in such a difficult situation. The missions, quests, and interactions all reinforce this central narrative of a scrappy and plucky pilot about to turn their luck around.

Don't stress too much about perfect completion: the game lets you continue when you finish the main story, to accomplish the side quests and achievements. I highly recommend this genre-crossing experimental work to anyone, with no caveats or warnings. It's really excellent.

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Fast-paced space adventure, February 14, 2017

While there are obvious parallels to Space trading RPGs such as Sundog: Frozen Legacy and Elite, this game reminded me most of Captain Blood on the Atari ST. Which was a space adventure in which, like in this game, the focus is fly around the galaxy, talk to various aliens and that way discover new destinations while furthering the plot.

The trading part consists of speaking with characters and figuring out who will buy what. There is no time at which it is necessary to get an Excel sheet out to find where your cargo of pan-galactic pork bellies will sell for marginally more. I'm glad of that, as I don't have the patience for that anymore.

I enjoyed this game a lot, I was skeptical in the beginning but this works very well as an IF game: no need to eXamine everything - everything you need to know is in descriptions, or discovered by talking, no need to walk in compass directions - just tell your ship where to go. Though I normally enjoy longer descriptions, the short and business-like dialog fits with the atmosphere.

All in all this is a great game, I hope there will be a sequel.

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Great Evocative Writing, January 12, 2017

Superluminal Vagrant Twin stands out for its unusual format for IF and for its understated, evocative writing that makes the world feel complex and immersive without facing the player with a wall of text. Its mechanics feel quite different from standard IF and work well with the feel. I feel it's main weakness is the lack of a satisfying climax: you gradually figure out more about the world and how to use the mechanics effectively, and then you do that and win without surprises or twists. While there are multiple options, it didn't feel like it mattered which one you picked, and I kept waiting for moral choices or other elaborations on the formula. That said, it was well worth playing and a lot of fun.

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
A space trader parser game with a nice layout and smooth gameplay, April 30, 2016
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours

This is one of Pacian's best games, which is saying a lot. It is intricate but casual, and lasts 1-2 hours for the main storyline.

You play as a ship captain whose twin brother has been taken and frozen due to your unpaid loans. You must travel to a variety of worlds and systems to get enough cash to free your brother.

The world model is purposely simple. Each world and its orbit constitute a single location. Each location has 1-5 npcs and 0-2 other nouns. The only interaction available with most NPCs is TALK TO, although some can BUY and SELL, and a few other interactions pop up later.

You can't examine anything, and there's no searching or any such thing. You just travel from world to world, building up money until you're done. There's no climactic finale, but it's still rewarding.

This game is one of the best science fiction games I have played.

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
The joy of discovery, April 10, 2016
by Sobol (Russia)

Currently the biggest, most complex and most polished game by the author, Superluminal Vagrant Twin is a space trading simulator - an old and noble genre including such classics as Elite, but tragically underrepresented in IF until now. There's a huge universe waiting for you to explore with lots of different planets to visit, people to meet, goods to buy and sell, side quests to complete.

You can rush through the main plot fairly quickly, but there are many other things to discover (even after getting all the achievements) - which I naturally won't spoil here. And, of course, rushing through this game would be completely missing the point, because the best part of it is not making the money but savoring the wonderful descriptions - terse and colorful, poetic without being pretentious; closing your eyes and trying to visualize all the various worlds you travel to (Spoiler - click to show) (there were 53 of them in the beta version I played).

My favorite character was the deep space explorer on Splinter. I instantly imagined Ursula K. Le Guin.

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
Space is the Place, March 30, 2016

First impressions are of a text-based Elite, but it's only a superficial resemblance. Sure, you're travelling from planet to planet buying and selling, but there is no economy to speak of, only fetch quests - which is perfectly fitting, given the text adventure format, fetch quests being the atomic unit of adventure game puzzles.

Money is used as a gating mechanism, your limited resources only granting access to a few planets and low-paid activities at first, you will need to use your ingenuity and wits to gain the big bucks - opening up more and more untold vistas for your delectation.

The writing is ultra-sparse but extremely evocative. A whole galaxy of strangeness. There is humour, creepiness, sadness, awe, sometimes all at once. It touches on themes of humanism and racism whilst delivering a rollicking science-fantasy adventure. Brilliant stuff. I recommend the hell out of this game.

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