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16th Place - 11th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2005)
Nominee, Best NPCs; Nominee, Best Individual NPC - 2005 XYZZY Awards
The lack of motivation or direction makes it very difficult to figure out what to do in this game, and the PC's special powers only add to the problem. I really like the premise, and the author has good writing skills, but it will take a lot more to make this a good game.
-- DJ Hastings
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Number of Reviews: 3
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RenFaire medieval with an anime flavour; textdumps abound, there's rather flat humour and a great deal of bishounen faerie mages kissing. The world is full of sparkles and flowers and pretty details. Even if this isn't really your thing, it's an unusual style for IF; the world feels oversaturated as a Technicolor musical. What starts out looking like a standard-issue D&D quest turns into a grand struggle between high-powered mages... or, well, that's the idea.
Gilded is mainly of interest because of its horribly overpowered magic system. The player can shapechange at will, but this is the easiest aspect of its design: you can also magically create and summon objects. This would suggest a creative, simulationist approach to puzzles, but... well, imagine Scribblenauts with a plot, an antagonist and an expansive setting, but without clear, limited objectives. Now imagine it as implemented by a single author of moderate ability. You can create or summon virtually any object, but the game almost never understands the implications of this. Your antagonist is digging a hole; you summon his spade, and he keeps right on digging. You can summon the pants off NPCs and they carry on regardless. And sometimes the system just fails entirely. You're faced with an impossibly vast array of options, almost none of which do anything significant.
This is compounded by writing that doesn't always successfuly convey what's going on with the plot. The result is something that relies on read-the-author's-mind, that's near-unplayable without a walkthrough and difficult even then. Gilded isn't exactly a work of mad genius; its core mechanics are all old ideas, just hugely overextended. But it has a strange charm, and its design is a useful cautionary tale.
(This is a repost of a review originally posted on the IF newsgroups immediately after the 2005 IF Comp)
Gilded is one of the more ambitious games in this year's field; unfortunately, it's also one of the least polished. It's got an interesting premise, and the prose is fluid and distinctive, but the player isn't given enough direction, and sloppy implementation further confuses things. There's plenty of creativity on offer, but lack of guidance and bugs suck away most of the enjoyment, and I found myself floundering and using the provided hints and walkthrough as a lifeline.
The set-up for Gilded—a fairy-tale in reverse—is initially compelling, and after reading over the introduction and ABOUT text, I was looking forward to leading the adventurers on a merry chase. The descriptions and especially the dialogue were amusing, but almost immediately the fun of using my powers to play pranks on the poor mortals gave way to a life-and-death struggle. Instead of proactively coming up with clever mischief, the player is himself forced to react to a series of threatening situations, which increases the feeling of being off-balance, as the player doesn't have the leisure to experiment and explore. While there's nothing wrong with such an evolution towards reactive gameplay, it happens far too suddenly, and feels too much like the rug being pulled out from under the player. The opening sets up a lighthearted scenario where the player will be in control - and then midway through the second location, this control is history. A more gradual transition would allow the player more time to master the fey's powers, and flesh out the characters more fully. Indeed, the rivalry/flirtation with Val is one of the most enjoyable elements of the game, but again, it isn't given much space to develop—you chat for a while outside the tavern, and then are off solving puzzles and trying to escape him. Most of the world is open from the very beginning, and while there's quite a lot which isn't directly related to your struggle with Val, its relevance is rarely clear.
Puzzles based on magic and allusion are always difficult to pull off; when they work, they work beautifully (see the Moonlit Tower, for example), but it's often hard to communicate the operant logic to the player. This difficulty is compounded in Gilded; not only do the player's abilities work on metaphor, so too do those of the primary antagonist—when Val begins plastering papers etched with sutras all over the forest, it's difficult to know what the appropriate course of action is. The endgame, by way of contrast, seems to vary wildly in tone, and brute force comes to the fore; while I'm sure there are cleverer ways out than simply fighting, I wasn't able to come up with any, and as a result, the ending was very anticlimactic. Still, the writing as a whole is a pleasure to read, and there's plenty of visual creativity on display—the sutra-plastered forest might be somewhat obscure as a puzzle element, but it's a beautiful image.
Contributing to the sense of disorientation is the feeling that the game isn't quite finished. There are only hints for two areas of the game, and I got stuck in the help menus at some point, unable to return to the root menu. I encountered a number of disambiguation problems, and in one play-through, the conversation in the tavern would display no matter how far away I traveled.
Overall, I found Gilded to be a frustrating experience; the writing is good, and the scenario should present fertile opportunities for enjoyment, but the lack of guidance and lack of polish makes it more frustrating than it should be. A post-comp release with some better clueing and some of the quirks ironed out could really improve the game; it's deep and interesting, but doesn't quite cohere as-is.
In this game, you play a tall, slim, handsome man (who is truly a fairy), hanging out with other attractive men and women adventurers with the attempt to keep them from your treasure.
The game is vast, and only the things the author thought up themselves are implemented (i.e. if you don't do exactly what they want, then nothing happens). You can 'summon' or 'create' just about anything, and shapechange.
There are a lot of NPCs, and extensive conversations/textdumps, but the game is buggy.
Fun to play around with, but not fun to try to beat.
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