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Lost Coastlines

by William Dooling profile

Fantasy RPG

Web Site

(based on 11 ratings)
6 reviews

About the Story

> SHARE all your stories

> RECORD all your secrets

> ANSWER all your questions

> RENOUNCE all your possessions

> WAKE UP...

(For a *slightly* less surreal mapping experience, improved fonts, and a manual, download the game)

Content warning: Nightmares, Bedbugs, Clowns, and Spiders...Sadness, Madness, Fury, and Worry

Open World Role-Playing Game

Game Details


28th Place - tie - 28th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2022)

Winner, Outstanding Adrift Game of 2022 - Player’s Choice; Winner, Outstanding Adrift Game of 2022 - Author’s Choice - The 2022 IFDB Awards


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Number of Reviews: 6
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Most Helpful Member Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
It’s time for a nap, November 8, 2022

This game looks at what could happen when you fall asleep and dream.

I want to keep myself from going on a tangent of Lost Coastlines vs. Skybreak! since this review is ultimately about Lost Coastlines, but that is probably inevitable. Both are excellent games. They are also the only ADRIFT games that I have committed to playing because I always run into lag issues (not the authors’ fault) that make me hesitant about long, epic pieces. These two are definitely worth it.

I must confess, Skybreak! wins me over a little more, probably because I am into science fiction. Sentient-computer-adventure-friend/narrator is tough to beat. But Lost Coastlines has a lot of great features not found in Skybreak! Ultimately, they both bring something new to the table while retaining similar structural framework. If you have previously played Skybreak! which came out a few years ago, you most likely will say to yourself, “this seems familiar” when you launch into Lost Coastlines. Same goes for the other way around. William Dooling has a distinct and creative style.

Lost Coastlines begins with character creation. You choose factors like where you fall asleep or what type of person you are in the day which then determines your skillsets and some of the gameplay content. I thought this was clever because it makes the gameplay more personalized to what interests you the most. You then decide who you want to be in the game, such as a Scientist or Mystic, which also sculpts your adventures. Lots of possibilities. I highly encourage you to use the author’s nifty guidebook for this portion.

A key mechanic in the game is with stat related encounters where the game lists your options along with the skill used in each choice and the probability of success. It is also colour-coded! I thought that this was a consistent structure. It is easy to keep track of your stats for these encounters and I did not experience burnout after several hours of this. One of my favorite features was how you can wear individual clothing items to improve your stats.

The part that took me the longest to manage is the currency system. Believe it or not, gold and coins are not the standard. Emotions take center focus instead.

Pleasance:15| Sadness:5| Madness:42| Fury:36| Worry:218|

Emotions are generated through different encounters and can be used to make transactions or initiate opportunities. Some are easier to accumulate, for better or for worse, but it appears that they all have an application somewhere. The problem is that it can feel as if you always have the least amount of the emotion you need. There was a bit of a learning curve for me.

A complaint that some people had with Skybreak! is how the player can decide on everything except their destinations. Travel was random. Spaceships never used compass directions. But Lost Coastlines does. When you want to leave, you get back into your boat, pick a direction, and set sail. You have much more wiggle room with navigation. Many locations only allow you to perform one action, but it is easier to return to them because you can correlate their location relative to other areas. The in-game map is especially helpful. While travel is not always smooth sailing, the randomness is reduced. I think players will like that.

Story + Characters
As I already mention, gameplay content is molded by character customization choices. There is not an overarching story in the game’s world, just the player’s role-oriented objectives. You can find bite-sized story content in places you visit. Populated areas have legends or rumors that span across multiple regions. But the dreamlike quality of the gameplay means that there will be something to engage you.

Despite what the (lovely) cover art shows, I am pretty sure that the player is not puttering around in a little rowboat. Your vessel has a crew, a relatively anonymous and replaceable one that does everything automatically. You never truly interact with them, although I would not be surprised if you can recruit individual NPCs. If so, I never reached that point. You still have the chance to mingle with NPCs at destinations, particularly harbors, taverns, and markets.

My first playthrough
I will just stick this “dream” under one spoiler tag in case you want to know about my experience.
(Spoiler - click to show)
Character customization: (I decided to stick to a science-oriented theme for these choices, as was the case when I first played Skybreak!)

1. I fell asleep in class
2. Brought an old telescope with me
3. Intellectual
4. Scientist

Let's see... Highlights:
-I saw Natalie Portman in a bar (she was the bartender).
-Spent three years with a talking cat to learn about the magical arts.
-Found the Pendant of Fire (is that a big deal?)
-Crew supposedly came this close to eating me.
-Dueled it out with Schenckloth. Did not go as planned.

Challenge: At one point, my crew and I were stuck on a 3x3 grid of rooms consisting of eight jungle locations and one beach location, and I had no idea of how to leave. I tried "SET SAIL," "LEAVE," "LEAVE BEACH," but nothing. I spent the better part of an hour puttering around, studying insects, plundering ruins, and hunting for meat, but there was never any opportunity of leaving.

I wondered if I should have left it at that, but there was another issue. When you read the in-game help section it says, "As an open world game, there is no final goal or overarching story: do whatever you want! You can end the game at any time by typing WAKE UP." But if I try to do this, I get this response:

You are not asleep!

What does it mean I am not asleep? It is one big dream! I should be snoozing away here. Waking up was supposed to end the game and give me a final score, but I suppose not. Sadly, I had to end my first playthrough there. I wanted to keep playing but you can only search the same area for insects for so many times. That did not, however, stop me from replaying the game to sample the different character creation options. While I did not devote as much time to my other playthroughs of this game, I had fun experimenting with the gameplay. There is a lot to do.

Final thoughts
Lost Coastlines is a beautifully descriptive game. Calming with an edge of danger. The best part of this game is the open world format. Go. Explore. I love it when games capture that notion. You have your boat and go wherever you want, assuming you can weather the challenges.

Ideally, play this game when you have several hours of time available for a leisurely playthrough. Don’t try to cram it into your lunch break because it takes a while to accumulate items and stats that allow you to pursue some of the more daring opportunities. Then it becomes really fun.

Before you go: Maybe I am wrong, but isn't (Spoiler - click to show) Schenckloth, the Lord of Nightmares in Skybreak! as well?

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
IF by Avalon Hill, December 9, 2022
by JJ McC
Related reviews: IFComp 2022

Adapted from an IFCOMP22 Review

In a bout of review Deja’ Vu (Deja reView?), I said this about Lost at the Market:

"Dreams are certainly useful settings in IF. When used effectively, it can explain and justify any of the inherent limitations of the medium or even lean into the limitations as features."

Kinda wished I’d saved that gem for this review, it’s much more relevant here. This is a procedurally generated dreamscape, and boy does it ever “lean into limitations as features.” Freed from demands of terrestrial geology, ecosystems and logic Lost Coastlines goes bananas with strange, whimsical, fantastical, nightmarish and just plain clever map nodes, butting up against each other without rhyme or reason in a deeply complicated map. Evolutionary scholars and tectonic plate experts would die of apoplexy. The scope of the different encounters in the first hour was dizzying – one minute you’re plundering ships on the high seas, the next you are desperate NOT to look under a clown’s mask, right before you collaborate on an undersea steampunk engine. The breadth and scope was giddy, you really did feel anything at all could show up next, and were kind of drawn to see what that would be. It’s realized ambitions were super high.

But I was not Engaged, and it is some combination of gameplay design and bugs that I was fighting the entire time. Let me preface by saying I have no insight into the code, I am describing in pseudo code how I modeled the game in my head. Every location you find has one or two of these states: IDLE and IN_ENCOUNTER. Most of the time you enter a location into IDLE, where you can look around, examine things, or enter one or more encounters by typing site-specific phrases helpfully capitalized for you. Or you can just exit to the next location. Some locations put you directly into IN_ENCOUNTER state. If you engage an encounter you have to see it to its conclusion before you can leave, and then cannot engage any others. This is made frustrating because verbs and nouns that work in one state are infrequently recognized in the other - same location, mind – and the text doesn’t do a great job of hinting why or what state you are in. I spent a lot of time getting “not recognized” on capitalized words the game supported but I didn’t know I was in the wrong state to exercise. It was exacerbated by a finicky parser. If met with the prompt “FRAMISTAT THE WHOSIDINGIE” sometimes the parser recognized just FRAMISTAT or WHOSIDINGIE. Sometimes you could omit the THE, and other times you needed the whole phrase, and every failure was greeted with “I don’t recognise…”. I mean, you told me to FRAMISTAT just LET ME DADGUM FRAMISTAT!!!

Ahem. This is also an RPG of sorts, with stats and equipment that need to be managed through gameplay - maximize good stuff, try not to accumulate and/or get rid of bad stuff. Because you are wandering through a randomly generated world though, there is no guarantee you can find what you need when you need it and boy do you accumulate that bad stuff. Character creation is light, dreamlike and clever. One particularly nice feature is depending on what role you choose you have a special power. However, mine did not work consistently. At first I thought it was a bug, then I theorized maybe there was an invisible state limitation I didn’t understand, then came back around to “pretty sure its a bug.” (Spoiler - click to show)Several times my Pirate ability to bypass storms/sea monsters/pirates flat didn’t work, but I got ‘charged’ for using it every time. Either that or the action feedback didn’t educate me about its use.

For the first hour, there was an equilibrium where I fought through the parser to enjoy the majesty of that tangled, tangled map and its delightful patchwork universe. Then the randomizer caught up with me, and some of the least interesting settings started repeating. A lot. Fighting the parser became a lot less rewarding, and the unavoidable encounters I had no chance of winning became less amusing.

In the end, I found myself preoccupied with my mental model to the exclusion of the dream-logic narrative of the game. I thought of it like an ameritrash boardgame where : move pawn to adjacent space, draw 1-N encounter cards, choose one of them with limited insight into potential results, roll dice, add/subtract appropriate scores to resolve, move to next space. Rule - you cannot return to previous spaces within X turns.

I gave up at the 1.5hr mark, still begrudgingly admiring the majesty of the randomizer and the tapestry it weaved for me. So many individual encounters were Sparks of Joy (more in their description and variety than gameplay). Notably buggy implementation for sure, but I can’t help but give it a bonus point for epic dreamscape sweep. There were some cool characteristic-tradeoff rules to work towards for the endgame, but that was down the road, way beyond my exit ramp.

Played: 10/28/22
Playtime: 1.5hr; 28 pleasance, 40 knowledge, gobs and gobs of Worry and Fury, and a good amount of Madness. Like real life!
Artistic/Technical rankings: Sparks of Joy/Notable
Would Play Again? No, experience seems complete

Artistic scale: Bouncy, Mechanical, Sparks of Joy, Engaging, Transcendent
Technical scale: Unplayable, Intrusive, Notable (Bugginess), Mostly Seamless, Seamless

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
So many things unexplored, like a dream half-remembered in a good way, December 26, 2022
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)
Related reviews: IFComp 2022

LC is way too big for two-hour IFComp's judging frame, but it still belonged there. It's a work of pure imagination and love, and its dreamworld is as interesting as people hope they are when they tell you about the dream they had last night. The map is big, at 17x17, not including the north pole. There's a Prime Meridian which sort of lets you get your bearing. I cursed it occasionally for being so big. The main takeaway is that I knew mapping would be a chore, and I knew ADRIFT allowed UNDO to make things easier, but I was involved enough not to want to. My last act for the two-hour judging period was naming an isle that had no name yet. I cursed myself for not properly curating my own list of weird names from my notes. It was the perfect chance to pick off something I always wanted to use but that couldn't fit into a creative work.

And that's a side effect of LC's dream-world! There are a lot of interesting parts, but so many reminded me of my own weird dreams, waking or sleeping, that I got distracted. Also, it is an investment to get started! You do have to read the instructions to have an idea what to do without extensive trial and error. They're quite good. You may be a bit lost without them, because there's so much you have to decide at once. And the character selection is amusing, well beyond basic dice-rolling stuff. Before entering the dreamworld, you're asked how you fell asleep, what odd item you're carrying, and what class/special talent you have. I restarted after 20 minutes once I had some data on what stats seemed to matter. And the procedural text changed. Bill Clinton, my old bartender, was replaced with Halle Berry. The old map is, well, like a forgotten dream now. I tried to wrap my head around the different currencies. There are several. But at some point it's just best to dive in.

Which is very rewarding. It took me a while to realize that death simply bumps you back to the center, and boy did I spend a lot of time avoiding death. The game has accomodations, though. The documentation, I mentioned. There's an automap, too, and while it's useful for getting started, once the map gets big, it starts to interfere with the text window on the left, so you have to close it. I wound up using Trizbort. I was able to annotate places with interesting or odd stuff. There's a certain sense of frustration combined with wonder as you know the odd place you stumbled on must be useful linked up with somewhere else, but you have no clue, yet.

It's a bit intimidating to guess what to do at first, but the game does put your actions for a particular location in all caps, so guess-the-verb is not a thing. A twist here is that you can perform one such action, but if you try to come back and perform it again, it may destabilize the dream world. Actions include fishing, finding diamonds, visiting shrines, or visiting markets. I had a bit of trouble at first making profit in the markets, because I needed to feed my crew while I was sailing, and I didn't realize that death was relatively harmless, because this was a dream world, after all.

So I sailed in search of, well, I wasn't sure. But that's part of the fun. There was definitely enough to keep me going, through weirdly named locations. I found Las Vegas. There is no shortage of silly humor in Lost Coastlines, and I think it's sort of needed, and it doesn't go overboard, and I'm pretty sure some is specific to the path you chose. Something like finding a friend in your dream, and if you talk to him, he will explain stuff you missed because you fell asleep in class (that's what I chose at the start, for when and where I fell asleep.) This helps break up some of the worries about chance encounters and pretty clearly indicates, yes, there's more fun stuff to look for.

It's not all arbitrary, and LC does a good job of balancing how you come in blank with general guidelines on how successful choices will be. You can't know what's good and what's not, although you're pretty sure, because when you have a choice of actions to perform, the game rates them impossible, difficult, or easy, also helpfully color-coded. I enjoyed looking ahead to when certain choices would no longer be impossible.

For instance, if you walk into a swungle on the first isle (a neat portmanteau, that, much better than jomp,) you can CUT the vegetation or TURN back, and you're told the odds of each succeeding. This isn't a high-risk choice, but as you sail farther, you hit impossible quests, ones you need to build yourself up for. The result of a bad encounter is that you can increase your worry, fury, madness or sadness. These are negative currencies, but you can also accumulate, for instance, knowledge. There are other currencies, and some, you can swap. This is a neat twist on trade routes. Others seem to offer--well, something else. For instance, you can't solve a certain mystery until you have fifty shards of knowledge, and that gets you an important (and cool) sounding special item. On the other hand, too much of any bad-mood stuff is pretty much a virtual death, and you're kicked back to the central port city where you started, which gives you sadness. I'm not fully sure how the moods interact, but I enjoyed having the negative stuff I had to balance, as well as the postiive. Too often in games you wind up getting too much gold and don't have much else to do, or you're worried about super-low hit points. Being stuck with negative stats adds a lot of color.

My fear of game death prevented me from exploring at first, even though I had a save game, and I eventually discovered a small base of merchant isles I could poke around. However, I got a bit frustrated in the Prime Meridian, where it seemed that the map got non-reciprocal. Which, given how big the map was, caused me to put Lost Coastlines aside for a bit. Granted, the Meridian should be weird, as it's marked as significant. I even found a hidden location there based on the nonreciprocal directions! But it took a lot out of me. The scrolling did help with mapping, though, as I wasn't pinned into a corner. But if you're forewarned, this probably won't be so bad.

I still don't really have a handle on Lost Coastlines after two hours. I understand the basic choices and where to stop off and what works, but I still haven't quite tried all options, and I didn't improve my character that much. I'm sad about this, yet hopeful. I suspect once I really nail down a trade route, or some way to keep moving between two locations that boost my stats, things
will get easier. In the meantime, thinking back to it feels like a dream state. One day I'll get the pieces of knowledge to unlock a quest! Or I'll figure a way to make a certain fight beatable. There's so much to do and no clear way to win, which is frustrating if you only have two hours to judge something. So I'll sit back and just remember the oddly-named places I visited, both those useful to my quest and not. I'll remember the thrill of finally mapping that weird central bit, of underpasses on my map (think: a square of islands, with only the kitty-corner ones connected diagonally) and the realizations I had when, oh, these two islands far apart link up!)

LC feels like one of those games you miss a lot but you worry it won't live up to the hype when you get back to it. And I'm frustrated by that, because I did want to play it more. I've seen entries that forced me in to care about a social issue or something. Perhaps it was an issue I already cared about or didn't care about enough, and I felt obliged to go back to it. Whether or not I did, I felt like a bum. But here I'd like to explore the author's dreams and remember my own. I think it's the best ADRIFT game I've played, and it uses ADRIFT's features (the auto map) well enough to reel you in. It's a definite positive advertisement for the author's other work, and given its size, I can see why it took four years to make, and the author was right to follow their vision. I enjoy seeing theirs--but unfortunately, when I'm in the best mood for that, I generally take time and energy to push my own forward. So LC may lose out for my attention, but it was a great reminder to, literally, follow my dreams. The author followed his, and I enjoyed doing so, too. The breaks were mainly to remind me of stuff I'd thought or dreamt. It's definitely exhausting in a whole stretch, but part of me wishes I would, say, make thirty minutes for it per day to see out one big whole dream--and it feels sacrilegious and intrusive to try to disassemble it too soon, but on the other hand, I want to see all the neat stuff the author dropped in there! I think, at the very least, the next time I reconsider playing an old favorite RPG, I will give serious thought as to whether LC might be a more valuable use of my gaming time, because there is so much to explore.

The other option is to stumble on a community of people putting stuff together for a finished general guide, or to notice things you couldn't on your own. The author has expressed a desire to find this or cultivate this. I'd definitely stop by. One can and should dream.

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Lost Coastlines on IFDB

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This is version 6 of this page, edited by Denk on 16 February 2023 at 3:13pm. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item - Delete This Page