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About the Story
You ran from the Z-Mules but they caught you. Took what little you had. Now you're their prisoner. At some point you have to log off. But maybe not quite yet. You'll see.
28th Place - 21st Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2015)
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Number of Reviews: 2
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I first played this game during IFComp 2015, and recently just re-played it. I think it holds up pretty well, especially when seen as a part of Anya DeNiro's greater body of work.
Compared to the author's other works, I feel like this story is more straightforward, less literary for the sake of being literary. And that's really saying something, because this story is plenty complicated, at least at first. It starts out taking place within a (Spoiler - click to show)VR video game, a survival game kind of reminiscent of Rust. And then things gradually get weirder. Your identity is called into question. Until it ends with a scene explaining the entirety of the premise.
People have said that the game has very limited interactivity, and that's basically accurate. But compared to DeNiro's previous stories, this story has greater agency in terms of embodying the player character. Solarium and We Are the Firewall are basically hypertext fiction, with no player-embodiment agency to speak of, but they seem more interactive because there are more links, more bells and whistles on the page to play with. This game follows more of an adventure format. For most of the story, the player character is deliberately disempowered; they don't have much control over their own life or actions due to outside forces and being placed in an unknown situation. This at least gives some justification for the lack of choice.
I really enjoyed the writing. Some of its cyberpunk-esque story elements are kind of reminiscent of We Are the Firewall, but here they're presented in a much more straightforward way. There's a meditation on personal identity and even some nods to trans-ness.
At the end, a character basically tells the entire backstory to the player (on ending 2). I'm not sure if this was the right decision, as I would have preferred for some sense of mystery to be preserved, or to have the chance to figure out the mystery on my own (which is part of what I loved about Solarium and Firewall).
Unbeknown is one of those games that is hard to discuss without spoiling it. It is mostly a sci-fi game, mid-length, with two significant endings. It was created for IFComp 2015.
Alan De Niro has produced some incredible writing before, with Solarium and Deadline Enchanter being my favorites. So I entered into this game with high hopes.
However, it draws most of its imagery and setting from a place that I don't really identify with:(Spoiler - click to show)an MMORPG, a genre I tried one summer, but didn't really get into. This impacts my experience, but will probably enhance the game for those with more familiarity with that area.
The game offered a couple of choices that were especially interesting, and which were the highlights of the game to me: (Spoiler - click to show)the choice of name was especially significant to me; I chose the love interest's name once, and I let Able name me once, too. The other big choice is whether the past keeps up with you or not.
Overall, something didn't click for me, keeping this game from being perfect. But it is a good game, and I still recommend it to everyone.
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For Your Consideration - XYZZY-eligible settings of 2015 by verityvirtue
This is for suggesting settings from games released 2015 which you think might be worth considering for Best Setting in the XYZZY awards. This is not a zeroth-round nomination. The category will still be text-entry, and games not...