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About the Story
You're standing in the silent graveyard, by the entrance to the crypt Wil pulled you out of when she rescued you. The sky grows brighter and brighter behind you; soon, it'll be too light outside for you to stand it. You're terrified, and excited, to go back in.
43rd Place - 24th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2018)
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Number of Reviews: 3
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We’re in vampire territory here, and it’s the “living in a sewer and keeping herds of thralls and human cattle” kind of vampire. Clan Nosferatu, maybe, if we’re thinking in terms of Vampire: the Masquerade, which the author is probably not. There’s some in-game indication that not all vampires live this way, since both the protagonist and their rescuer are or can be animated by much less selfish desires. Indeed, the game starts out by giving us a choice of goal: freeing the other thralls, avenging ourselves on the elder vampire, or obtaining an amulet that will allow us to withstand the light of the sun. The game might have been more interesting if we had actually been forced to choose between these three goals – as it is, we can simply do all of them. It’s not so much a choice as a list of goals, then, although we can decide to murder the thralls if we so prefer.
The caverns that we traverse are a curious combination of good and not-so-good world building. The dungeon is especially effective, conjuring up images of horror without descending into gory details. But there are also numerous points of the “you’re at an intersection and can go in these and these directions”-type. I did enjoy traversing the catacombs, but it seems there was a lot more potential here for atmosphere and memorability.
There did seem to be a bit of a mismatch between the way the game tells us that the elder vampire is really scary and powerful, and the incredible ease with which one can depose of him. How did this guy ever earn his fearsome reputation if a newly freed thrall can kill him with no trouble at all? I certainly didn’t dislike the ending, but I again felt that there was untapped potential here. (What if you could only become strong enough to defeat the enemy if you first sucked every last drop of blood from the two human prisoners? Okay, I realise that that is the kind of game design that takes us squarely into the realm of my own obsessions, and the current author might not be interested in it at all. Still, it’s one way to make victory feel more costly and more consequential.)
I ran into a couple of bugs – a game-ending one if you tried to avoid the pit trap for the second time, and a bug where you can repeat the fight with the elder vampire as if it had never happened before – but those can easily be fixed.
All in all, enjoyable, with some strong moments, but more could have been achieved.
This game has all the hallmarks of a D&D or Vampire: the Masquerade boxed adventure. A short backstory about why you’re seeking revenge, a quest giver, a maze-like dungeon, NPCs for battling and talking with, a vampire boss, traps, treasure and magical items.
This isn’t typical of most IFComp games, but it’s what I played around with a lot growing up, so I had a nostalgia factor while playing this.
Going back to the same parts over and over again was a bit frustrating, and it can be difficult to strategize. Death and failure are easy, while success is not.
Overall, I see this as a successful game.
Into the Lair is a choice-based story in which you play as a vampire. Out for revenge against another vampire, you must enter his lair and perform your choice of three tasks. These are not mutually exclusive, though: On my playthrough I completed two of those tasks and partially completed the third.
Playing this game brought back some of the same feelings I had reading the better of those old Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books as a kid. Something like "You're walking down a corridor deep underground. There's a sound coming from the side tunnel to the left. Up ahead the main tunnel appears to fork. One branch features well-set stone, and the other has a dirt floor. Which do you choose?"
It's atmospheric and it pulls you in. I found myself hesitating before making each decision because the game led me to feel like my choices actually mattered.
However, I eventually discovered that this turns out not to be entirely the case. The story repeatedly lets you backtrack during your trek through the lair. I liked that from a playability standpoint, although it did take away some of my feeling of agency. (To be fair, this is also something that many of those old CYOA books allowed you to do.)
My major criticism of the game is that it felt too abrupt at the end - anticlimactic, even. But I enjoyed it overall.
Into the Lair is horror-themed, and it does feature vampires, but I wouldn't have trouble recommending it to ten-year-olds who like adventure stories. Adults can enjoy it, too, of course.
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