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About the Story
Hello, young adventurer! If you're looking for the finest treasure, monster, and exploration experience around, why not come on down to the TOMBs of Reschette!
21st Place - 21st Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2015)
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Number of Reviews: 3
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TOMBs of Reschette is an approximation of an old-fashioned fantasy RPG, complete with combat, inventory and unconventional stats, in Twine. It feels very much akin to Goodness' previous RPG parody, TWEEZER: it's not a direct sequel, and does not necessarily take place in the same setting, but there are some references to the previous game, and the worldbuilding is a similar mixture of tongue-in-cheek cliché and wild originality.
In many ways, TOMBs of Reschette improves on its predecessor. The plot is more of a driving force, even if it is a bog-standard "explore the tombs and kill the final boss" (almost in so many words). The inventory adds to the retro RPG feel. Twine formatting flourishes feel less intrusive, and remain well handled (changes in the colour scheme contribute greatly to the ambience, for example). Puzzles play a large part and are nicely challenging. Combat is usually resolved in a single move and focus on a puzzle approach (choosing the right weapon) rather than repeated bashing: perhaps less reminiscent of roguelikes, but more appropriate for Twine. There is some very good descriptive writing. Despite the overt derivative nature of the game, a great deal of originality has gone into the monsters inhabiting the dungeon: you're not going to find your average run-of-the-mill skeletons or goblins here.
At the same time, I came away feeling vaguely unsatisfied. TWEEZER was a slight game, and some of its comedy was hit-and-miss, but by and large, I found it a joy to read. TOMBs, though it might be better written, never feels as funny. Some of its comedy relies on a close pastiche of 1980s computer game/gamebook writing, which is well done but not laugh-out-loud funny; some feels aimless; and a couple of stretches of the game hardly seem to be comedic at all (by which I don't mean that they're tragic or grim, simply that they don't aim for comedy). While there are some well-turned lines, the game is missing the main source of TWEEZER's comedy, the individualised narrative voice.
(Spoiler - click to show)As for one of the central conceits, "monsters are living beings who deserve to be left alone" is a subversion of "monsters should just be slaughtered for XP" that has been around long enough (the earliest occurrence I'm aware of is in the Sega game Soleil in 1994) that it's almost become a cliché of its own. This game doesn't take it very seriously; the happy endings where you spare the Wamwhateverit'scalled have an '80s after-school special earnestness to them. It's not badly handled, but neither is it a very interesting concept, in my opinion.
In short, a well-written, well coded tribute/friendly send-up of old dungeon crawls, well worth a playthrough if you like puzzles, Twine with complex world modelling, or simply want to revel in a retro fantasy atmosphere for a while. However... oh, maybe TWEEZER just primed me to expect something other than what I've got. TOMBs, despite its parodic nature, isn't laugh-out-loud funny most of the time, and perhaps it isn't trying to be. That's okay. It's got other strengths.
It's been a while, but the author requested that people not spoil things, if they figured out what was going on in TOMBs. I still won't, explicitly, but I'm caught between not writing a review at all and explaining why I liked what was going on. And years later, I sort of forgot, and I sort of remembered. Did I only like TOMBs for the novelty value at the time? Most text-adventure RPGs I'd read were a bit too earnest, which helped it stand out. But when I poked through, I was able to enjoy it again and notice the snarky bits that gave me pleasure.
It's sort of a relief, in IFComp, to have something where you can just kill a bunch of monsters for a bit. Sadly, a lot of these entries have little more to offer. But I knew the author knew what he was doing, so I had a Trizbort map ready to go for a nice big dungeon. I would kill everything. I would go in for level-grinding. I didn't particularly want to empathize with anybody, or anything. I'd get to those entries later. In TOMBS, I would do some hack-and-slashing.
But of course I wanted to make sure I didn't miss any secrets! I got the feeling I would need a few, to beat the big bad beast. Reading the book in the library was the first inkling that there was more to adventure than the usual. I remembered the monsters I'd disposed of. I became curious what the ?'s were for. And I enjoyed having "limerence" as a stat, because it's a great word people don't know too much about. You may, but if you don't, it's the concept of being in love with love instead of, well, with people. And it's not an especially good stat for surviving in an RPG. So it sort of clues us into how things aren't quite right. Here we’re in love with the idea of nobility, etc., or improving ourselves through fights, but if we are just sitting grinding at some game, are we really improving?
So the second time through I managed to do more than just kill everything, and I used the previously ???'ed options. Some irony here: I didn't go face the beast for so long because I figured "that would just kill you, right? I'm not strong enough, and besides, I've been doing nice things, so I don't want my fate." So in a way I was paying for my bloodthirsty mentality even when I intellectually knew what to do.
The game made me feel trapped in level grinding, too, not hopelessly trapped but enough to get me the feeling there should be more. It was small enough, though, I was able to reload and see if there really was something else and say, okay, I’m not doing this. So many games are built to get players to keep playing even when it’s not fun, and ToR turns that notion on its head. We need more of this.
As for the final message? Well, it’s one we’ve heard before, but it's been too mushy or melodramatic other places. And it puts your earlier defeats of the beast, and the text from that, in perspective. Looking back, stuff like the chest guarded by bats also clued me, if I’d been paying attention.
So there are a lot of fun lessons in this game we don't realize are lessons til they’re done. And I think that’s very, very good. It's a case of having a bunch of independent jokes that have a 5-10% chance of working or making the light go off, but because there are twenty of them, it will happen eventually.
ToR is not the first subversion of RPGs, but it's one that doesn't shove the observational humor or retread fourth-wall observations in your face. As you explore, evidence piles up that something's wrong, and you can have a good laugh at what you've missed. You may even miss stuff even knowing it's a subversion, as I did on replay. I suspect many people may have missed this and downgraded ToR as just a collection of jokey shticks and feel superior to it and say, ok, maybe the next game will be a REAL game. But it looks like enough people, indeed, got it.
This is an IFComp 2015 game. Many people seem to have played this for a couple of minutes, grinded a few enemies or beaten the boss, and quit, giving it a bad review. The game is so much more than that.
It is a retro-style RPG game, in the vein of old DnD adventures. It's stated purpose is to be a game about killing monsters. But as you go about the dungeon, things change. The rest is in spoilers:
(Spoiler - click to show)You begin to learn more about the monsters in the dungeon and their pasts. You can befriend many of them; you can heal them; the game in the ultimate ending proclaims that it is about love.
I recommend this game to everyone; but if you play it, play it for a while to see what lies beneath.
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Average member rating: (9 ratings)
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