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Good Execution, But Excellent Idea, December 6, 2020
The Eidolonís Escape is a nice, solid choice-based game that puts the player in the role of an incorporeal entity seeking to escape confinement.
The protagonist itself is one of the main draws of the game. Everything is seen and interpreted through the (figurative) eyes of the somewhat misanthropic Eidolon, and itís written convincingly. The protagonist has an idiosyncratic way of viewing the world, taking a non-humanís view toward human behavior that varies between analytical/opportunistic and judgmental/repulsed. Its unique perspective is palpable at every turn, lending a strong and distinctive narrative flavor throughout.
The design of the choices and branching is, for me, a mixed bag. There are many choices that look like theyíre calling for the player to make an inductive leap, levering the Eidolonís limited insights on human psychology to choose the most effective way to manipulate other characters. And that works very well and feels quite satisfying - as long as the illusion is preserved. But on repeated playthroughs, I found that most of these choices donít have any importance to the direction of the story, actually serving only to punctuate events and change some flavor text. In many cases, if you select the ďwrongĒ choice, the game will just correct it for you (i.e. that didnít work, so now youíre doing the other thing instead), the exception being a few landmines where the wrong choice leads to an immediate game-over.
By creating the illusion of important choices to engage the player through at least the first playthrough, the author probably made a judicious use of time and effort, and thatís cool. But I feel that the whole thing would have been more powerful, especially on repeated playthroughs, if there were more choices with actual gameplay consequences other than the occasional possibility of insta-loss.
There are a handful of more-important choices stacked at the end of the game, leaving us with a branching structure thatís less of a tree and more of a spork.
One of the endings makes clear the conceptual underpinnings of the action: (Spoiler - click to show)that the Mage is holding the Eidolon against its will because it is a metaphysical remnant of the Mageís dead loved one, and the Mage desperately wants the Eidolon to identify with this person even though the Eidolon does not. This is an outstanding concept which intrigues me immensely. It has huge emotional gravity and lots of potential to be interpreted in a metaphorical light.
But I wish that the game had done more to explore and develop this awesome concept. As is, itís all explicated in a few short paragraphs right at an ending, where the player no longer has any ability to respond in-character. Thereís a bit of foreshadowing near the start (which can be easily missed), but thatís about it. I feel that, had this weighty relationship been developed in richer detail and been more present throughout the experience, it would have taken the story from good to excellent.