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About the Story
The most important discovery in history. And then, the whole world goes crumbling down. Armed with but a computer and an expired railway ticket, how can one expect to save the day when the doomsday clock has begun ticking...?
17th Place - 17th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2011)
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Number of Reviews: 6
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The original IFComp 2011 incarnation of the ambitious sci-fi adventure Andromeda Awakening attracted a lot of what felt like controversy at the time. It was self-proclaimedly verbose, probably too big for the competition context, definitely not accessible enough in general, too difficult due to that inaccessibility and thus polarising overall. These difficulties were distracting spikes on the outer surface of a game with an extremely developed and immersive mythology, a weird and novel atmosphere to match and a powerful ultimate effect. Andromeda's remarkable qualities didn't go unnoticed, but having to handle a valuable thing is still offputting if that thing is spiky, and a lot of players were put off.
Author Marco Innocenti absorbed the considerable volume of feedback the game generated, generated feedback on the feedback in his expansive way, then revised Andromeda and released the new incarnation as Andromeda Awakening - The Final Cut, neatly using movie director parlance to emphasise the degree of change between the versions of the game most people played during IFComp and this new one.
Your role in the adventure is that of a scientist who has put together a doom-predicting report on the state of the planet Monarch. As you rush by train to deliver it to folks who might be able to do something about the impending disaster, the disaster strikes, leaving you in a crumbling underground of magma and strange technology. Mysteries and revelations lie ahead. The imagery and construction of the underground world is fascinating, and feels very real. Many objects and entities you encounter can be researched on your E-Pad, Andromeda's answer to the Hitchhiker's Guide, and this mechanism allows the game to significantly increase the amount of information it delivers while remaining interactive and also motivating you to investigate that information. The overall atmosphere and behaviour of Andromeda is not unlike some of the explorative stretches in the first-person incarnations of the Metroid games, all cavernous areas, natural features and unexplained alien technology.
As a fan of the original Andromeda Awakening I can say that The Final Cut makes good on its promise to fundamentally smooth out the experience. The original was studded with moments where it was broadly clear what needed to be done but difficult to do it. Tricky implementation, casually mentioned but crucial props and unnecessarily fiddly interactions kept tripping up a great story. In almost every case, these problem props have now been fixed up or clued with infinitely more grace, or just made automatic and removed altogether.
Other improvements include the addition of a quality help menu and a 'go to' command for immediately returning to previously visited locations. Some of the prose's weirder expressions have been excised, though I was glad to find that the 'cyanotic lights' were still present.
There are also a couple of significant structural changes/additions made in the Final Cut. A sequence near the end allows for some new third person perspectives on the game's backstory, and the basic 'leave your house to go on your mission' intro has been replaced with something more dramatic.
Even as a returning player, I still found it difficult to work out what to do with a lot of the alien machinery down in the underground, but at least those puzzles are now challenging for valid reasons, and not attended by the general querulousness that hovered over the original game. Andromeda's effect is not spoiled by heading to the walkthrough now and then; its outcomes feel too big for that. If the game's high quality was originally obscured, The Final Cut makes it much more apparent.
I absolutely loved this, this truly is a masterpiece. Riveting, thrilling, and sentimental at times. Truly great.
You start off as a scientist, determined to publish your findings after your colleague was murdered. I won't give it away, but things go wrong and you're literally fighting for life.
You get to explore underground facilities and caves, and the puzzles were quite nice. I had to use the walkthrough a couple times, and the game could've benefitted from an in-game map, but overall the puzzles were straightforward and on the right difficulty.
The ending touched me, and I was one of those who hadn't linked "The Event" to us, and I left this game somber and sad. But don't let that stop you, the ending is truly moving and it is a magnificent game. Any game that makes you ponder your existence is truly great and deserving of your time. One of the best I've played on here.
Entering into the world of Andromeda Awakening the player's freedom is purposefully overridden by the urgency of the protagonist's mission. This did not feel like railroading by the author, it genuinely felt like the commands that did not move toward the PC's goal entered into his mind as distractions and were then ignored. This was really helpful in alligning my focus with the protagonist's.
Yes, that road into the city looks inviting, but there are more pressing matters to attend to first. These secret documents must be brought to the attention of the Council first.
It's only when a literal trainwreck spoils the protagonist's goal that protagonist and player are set free in a hellish undergound area, left on the edge of a magma-filled chasm. Every few turns short bits of text remind you that the earth is still settling in the aftermath of the earthquake that demolished the train tracks.
Exploring the map is a great joy. There are not that many locations, but the many hidden passages and the sudden open halls make the game feel very spacious. There is a great balance between the rocky, rubble-filled natural caves and the human(?)-made constructions under the half-molten icy planet crust.
Yes, the half-molten ice crust. The worldbuilding in Andromeda Awakening is sketchy but very evocative. To pull you even deeper into this strange planet's geography and history you are provided with a handheld computer to LOOK UP details about many of the strange devices and constructions you encounter.
The story hints at a much greater and older world than you can experience within the boundaries of this game alone. There are ancient devices, a secret scientific research facility, hints of a thousand-year-old civilisation that came before... The writing succeeds very well at painting a big, almost overwhelming picture.
It does lack clarity in the descriptions of the immediate surroundings. I believe this is partly a conscious decision to make the player experience the same confusion as the protagonist when first seeing these otherworldly sights. Indeed, if you LOOK again, many times the room-description is more condensed and it becomes easier to select the nouns that are actually important to the game.
The other part of the unclear descriptions however is due to the fact that the author is not entirely fluent in English. There are many grating sentences that are hard to parse, and many words that seemed to be picked from a dictionary of synonyms without the necessary feel for nuances in meaning.
As a result of this, I found one of the central puzzles ((Spoiler - click to show)copying the cylinder-pattern onto the soap) very hard to visualize. Because of this, I couldn't figure out what commands to direct at which objects, even though I did feel I knew what had to be done (a look at the walkthrough confirmed this).
Despite this, Andromeda Awakening is impressive in its wide, possibly universe-spanning scope. It can be read as an open-ended story in itself, but I am very curious to see where the author takes it in the sequel.
When a science fiction story makes you think of how the movie Prometheus attempted to tie the Human/Alien mythos together, that says a lot about how ambitious it is. Andromeda Awakening fulfills enough of that ambition to be a great, if not fantastic, scifi-game.
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