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Choice of Alexandria

by Kevin Gold

Historical
2016

Web Site

(based on 7 ratings)
2 reviews

About the Story

Change the course of history! Can your scientific discoveries save the ancient Library of Alexandria? Will you defend the empire's legacy, or your own?

"Choice of Alexandria" is an interactive novella by Kevin Gold, author of "Choice of Robots." Your choices control the story. It's entirely text-based--90,000 words, without graphics or sound effects--and fueled by the vast, unstoppable power of your imagination.

The year is 245 BCE; you’re a heroic polymath librarian, invited to Alexandria to tutor prince Ptolemy IV. The real Ptolemy IV fell under the sway of his evil advisor Sosibius, and brought the empire to ruin--but perhaps under your tutelage, things will turn out differently.

Or disregard your responsibilities to focus on inventions instead! With the help of Archimedes and Euclid, you can discover the steam engine, the germ theory of disease, or even robotic automata, thousands of years ahead of schedule.

Will you deplete the libraries of other cities to enrich your own? Achieve popularity for your scientific inventions, or protect the legacy of the empire? Will Ptolemy IV grow up hedonistic and selfish, or wise and just? Will you be ransomed by the pirate queen Nefertari, or can you win her over with your silver tongue?

The fate of the city of wonders is in your hands!

• Play as a brilliant inventor, a gifted speaker, or a life-saving doctor
• Make great discoveries while protecting Prince Ptolemy IV from manipulators at court
• Save famed mathematicians Archimedes and Euclid from untimely deaths
• Based on the real life of Eratosthenes, ancient genius who calculated the size of the Earth
• Save the Great Library and invent the steam engine two thousand years early!


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Play a historical Greek scholar advising princes and kings, June 27, 2016
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours

This is one of my favorite Choice of Games games. You play as Eratosthenes (male or female), a real historical figure who estimated the radius of the earth and advised Ptolemy IV.

In this game, you have to deal with snarky advisors and scholars, reign in ambitious kings, work on engineering, romance a variety of people, or study mathematics. I felt a good deal of flexibility.

The writing is good, as is to be expected of the author of Choice of Robots, one the best Choice of Games of all time.

I enjoyed this game, because I'm a mathematician, and the game allowed me to hang out with with a female Euclid and with Archiemedes.

This game will appeal to fans of the Civilization series of games, and fans of math, classics, history, or engineering. The human emotions investigated are universal.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Too-fast historical game in an extremely compelling setting, May 17, 2023
by ccpost (Greensboro, North Carolina)

As a librarian by day, I was extremely excited to dive into this game. I also adore Kevin Gold's other near-future Choice of Games title, Choice of Robots, so the prospect of another choice-based game by Gold—where you play as the librarian of Alexandria no less!—had me in the bag. While I enjoyed the game overall and really appreciated Gold's treatment of the historical setting, the game had some major mechanical hangups that made it difficult for me to get fully invested in the game.

The basic premise of the game is that you play as the incoming librarian of Alexandria (based on the historical figure of Eratosthenes); buoyed by your reputation as a scholar and inventor, Ptolemy III has contracted you to tutor his son, and heir to the throne, Ptolemy IV. Through the game you make decisions about how to best educate a future ruler, contend with rival influences at court, and negotiate complicated cultural tensions with the subjugated Egyptians.

All of this is very compelling, and I love the setup of the game and the various tensions and conflicts driving the major decision points. However, the too-fast pacing of the game keeps the promise of this premise from being fulfilled. The chapters are relatively brief, especially compared to other Choice of Games titles, and there are huge temporal leaps between the chapters. This makes sense to some degree, as the game covers an expansive time span, but the combination of very short episodes and significant gaps between episodes made it feel like I was having very little impact on the story.

The other mechanical flaw (for me) was a far too direct causal relationship between choices and consequences for the narrative. Now, players of choice-based games expect there to be some logic connecting the choices they make and the consequences of their choices as they impact the story, but many decision points in this game just felt especially artless. For instance, (Spoiler - click to show)after killing Sosibius, a rival advisor to Ptolemy IV, the player is presented with a very simplistic decision point: take Sosibius' place as a manipulative influence or advise Ptolemy wisely from now on. Many decision points like this are overly straightforward without any nuance on how they might impact the story and without requiring any insight into non-player character's potential motivations or desires.

There is some payoff at the end of the game. (Spoiler - click to show) Based on the choices you make throughout the game, you arrive at one of seven entirely different endings that illustrate the long-term historical effects of the life you lead. I ended up with a scene of a modern-day 13 year old girl reading a work written by Eratosthenes and pondering its importance. These wildly branching endings is a cool effect, but it seems more like these different endings are the real story. However, this payoff at the end was ultimately not fulfilling, a substitute for having a gameplay experience that more fully rewards your choices in the moment.

I'd still recommend this game—how else are you going to know what it was really like to be the librarian of Alexandria??—but to go in expecting a very brisk romp through this history rather than a fully developed, character-driven story.

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Choice of Alexandria on IFDB

Polls

The following polls include votes for Choice of Alexandria:

Best Choicescript games by MathBrush
I've only played a few choicescript games, but I loved Creatures Such as We, The Race, and Scarlet Sails. What can you recommend?

Historical adventures. by Rovarsson
I love historical novels, no matter what time period they're set in. They do have to be accurate though. Can you suggest IF-games that are also like that? (In short: no magic.)




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