Valley of Steel

by The Custodian profile

Science Fiction

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Satisfying puzzles, engaging story, long but somewhat sparsely implemented, March 9, 2014
by Doug Orleans (Somerville, MA, USA)

Caveat: I still haven't finished this game... Right now I am close to being stuck, but I have not yet looked at the hints.

The setting is somewhat hackneyed but appealing to me: a dystopian future surveillance state, where the PC is part of a secret rebellion and receives instructions to help him escape. The world is pretty detailed, though there's not much backstory that I've noticed so far.

The puzzles are mostly technological, involving microchips and soldering irons and radio transmitters and microwave ovens... Many of the puzzles have involved some satisfying aha!-moments, and so far they've all been pretty fair, but it's possible that I may change my mind after reading hints for stuff I'm stuck on.

There are a few NPCs, though interaction with them is fairly limited (as far as I've seen). They are mostly one-dimensional, though not particularly stereotyped.

The writing is nothing extraordinary, but it paints a solid picture of life in this world, with some snarky references to issues in our current time (typical for these sorts of stories). There are also several links to various pieces of fiction on the web that the author has written; those have generally been somewhat interesting but not really my thing, but they're also not at all required to solve the game (again, as far as I've seen...).

The implementation and description is rather sparse, though it's quite a large game so it's not that surprising; if the author is interested in releasing new editions, I would recommend a few more passes at filling in some of the gaps, and also perhaps reducing the size of the map: there seems to be a few too many rooms that don't contain anything interesting. In particular, it can be a bit tedious to get from one end of the map to the other (especially when that involves having to take the train), which seems to be required a number of times in order to collect items to solve puzzles in the necessary order. Maybe just some shortcut commands would help there, though.

Overall, I've enjoyed playing Valley of Steel, and I am curious to find out both how to solve the puzzles I'm stuck on and how the story continues. The sparseness is the main thing keeping me from giving this 5 stars.

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The Custodian, March 25, 2014 - Reply
Many thanks for playing VoS! I'm working on release 3 right now, taking these and some other points from IFMud folks to heart - trimming the map, fixing some guess-the-verb things, adding a bit of functionality and etc.

The fiction links don't go to my stories (Hm, actually, maybe a couple are mine) but to stories from E2 authors.

Doug Orleans, March 31, 2014 - Reply
Cool, thanks! I will try out the new version.

The game has a Forgiveness Rating of "Cruel" here-- is that accurate? Is it possible to get into a unwinnable state without knowing it?
The Custodian, April 1, 2014 - Reply
Yes, it is, I had to be honest. There are a few edge cases that make the game unwinnable (mostly around one-use items or irreversible actions). I'm trying to weed out those cases so that they at least warn you, but I don't think I'm 100% there. Nearly all of them apply to later parts of the game, though - the 'starting area puzzle' is pretty forgiving, and in any case it's obvious if you haven't solved it. Happy to discuss via email to avoid spoilers if you have specific questions. My contact info is <my pseudonym,no spaces>
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