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(based on 18 ratings)
About the Story
In this game of horror, you play as an old man of a tribal culture. For months, you've been weary of life and kept to your bed. But when you learn that your adult son, Rykhard, has foolishly gone into the cursed cave in the well, you are finally motivated to act. You lost his mother. You will not lose him too.
Language: English (en)
Current Version: 1
Development System: Inform 6
Baf's Guide ID: 2181
A specimen of the horror genre, which, however, rather will entertain you with good puzzles than send a chill down your spine. Very solid, careful implementation, yet it left me with the feeling that something was missing. It resembled an average albeit well-budgeted Hollywood movie: you'd never regret the time and money spent on it, but you hardly would remember it too long, much less go watch it a second time. I'm aware I'm getting pretty subjective, though.
-- Valentine Kopteltsev
All in all, the fact that I'm nitpicking some details of prose and the mechanics of player investment rather than bemoaning poor coding and broken puzzles argues very much in Baluthar's favor. It's got a good opening and some neat ideas, and while it isn't quite great, it's nonetheless a very solid game.
-- Mike Russo
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>INVENTORY - Paul O'Brian writes about interactive fiction
Every author is a rookie once, and only once, and those who can learn from their mistakes and try again will inevitably produce a better game next time out. There are some things about Baluthar that showed promise... I'll be interested to see what sort of improvements occur when and if the author produces another game.
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Number of Reviews: 5
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Baluthar is a fantasy-horror adventure set on a world which has been invaded by the Ivarns, a destructive and technologically advanced race. While this setting informs the events of the game, it does so from quite a distance. The game itself is really about a father following his missing son down the horrible dungeon in the well outside their hut. You play the father, and must first drag yourself out of bed after reading a heavy, non-diegetic quote from the book of Ecclesiastes.
The construction of the sense of the greater world in Baluthar is impressive. The game physically presents just a very specific part of it, but through the ruminations of the character of the father, and through scenic features like paintings and through the anthropology of the game's rather horrible monsters – which are lovingly described – a strange portrait of the whole begins to emerge. I see that the game was criticised upon its release for not letting the player venture out into that whole, but this element didn't bother me. The game's achievement is the grotesque inventory of creatures and weird artefacts it delivers in the space of a single dungeon: a child-ghoul, rooms awash with rivers of fist-sized corpse beetles and a half-alive skull embedded in a laboratory wall amongst them.
Getting around these creatures and overcoming hostile magic are the subjects of the game's puzzles. They aren't too complicated, and there's a completist hint system built in if you get stuck. The writing is vivid, certainly purple at times, overloaded with too-long sentences and prepositions, but given the intensity of the content and the shortish duration of the game, the style does not outstay its welcome for what it's doing. It is also clever in building up the world mythology out of little strokes and asides distributed throughout the prose.
The parser itself is the weak point. It just isn't honed enough to deal with some of the more obvious ambiguities of player intent in relation to the game's content. Baluthar was the author's first game, and programming up the interactions is his obvious site for improvement. But as a fantasy puzzle game with a horror-leaning aesthetic, it is self-contained, imaginative and satisfying.
The game potentially doesn't follow up on the existential weariness expressed in its opening, but I'm not sure. After it was over, I found myself thinking about the way the character of the father had been expressed. Weary at first, single-minded in his quest to find his son, wordless by the end. Perhaps it was the ASK/TELL system, implemented rather feebly in Baluthar for communication between the father and son, that left a querulous feeling on this front.
Baluthar is an interesting mix of a game. The opening makes it feel like an alt-game for depression, which is pretty well done. But then it takes a short detour through epic fantasy into a horror game similar to the Ravenwood setting of DnD. You search a well for your son, and encounter some frankly disturbing material down here. The gore level here is roughly equal to that of One Eye Open or the Walking Dead.
The puzzles are fairly simple at first, with generous nudges in the game. I used one line of one hint near the beginning, then another hint right at the end. The end is a bit harder, as the final puzzle abuses the IF setting a little bit.
The middle of the game is the strongest, while the finale is pretty weak.
Overall, a recommended game. The imagery in the middle is truly excellent.
Baluthar is a dark fantasy adventure about a father searching for his son, who has gone missing down a nearby well that is said to be cursed. The world-building is strong, suggesting a much broader setting than the player will ever encounter directly. The ideas at play are very creative, though the writing itself is merely serviceable (and, at times, a bit clunky). The puzzles are mostly acceptable, though at least one near the end is incredibly unintuitive. This is also the sort of game where you'll need to examine everything in sight to pick up on important details. Baluthar is by no means an essential game, but fans of gloomy fantasy will find something to enjoy in the imaginatively creepy setting.
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