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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
28th Place - tie - 28th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2022)
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Number of Reviews: 3
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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
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:
➢ WAKE UP
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.
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?
This author's game Skybreak! is one of the most popular games from 2019, even getting nominated for a Best Game XYZZY Award. I really enjoyed the game myself; it was procedurally generated, bouncing from planet to planet trying to complete various success criteria.
This game is a fantasy version of that (kind of like how Agnieszka Trzaska first made 4x4 Galaxy then 4x4 Archipelago). You are a dreamer exploring a vast ocean of procedurally generated towns and cities. You generally pick choices by typing capitalized words or selecting from a menu by typing a number. Some choices are always available to type, like STATUS.
What this game does well is replayability and freshness. Procedural generation here has dramatic effects on the story, and includes nice chunks of unique content. The setting is compelling, and there are many approaches to the game and customization of the character.
Where it's worse for me is in difficulty and polish. The game has you start with goods and food, and it's really hard to consistently replenish these. Very few locations sell both or either, and usually you can only do one action at a port. You can do pretty well without either, though, at least for a while. Getting injured in some way is very common.
Polish-wise there are occasional typos, once there was a popup error when starting a new character (something like (Spoiler - click to show)first dreamer has been removed), and there was a reoccurring bug where exits were listed that didn't actually exist (possibly if you try a wrong direction the game includes it in the list of exits? I'm not sure).
I ended with a score of 150, mostly made from Recording my secrets (as mentioned in the manual). I died (or won?) by repeatedly ignoring directions in a cool Fallen London style (specifically by (Spoiler - click to show)returning to a tower every night when told not to). This was a satisfying ending.
I'm sure there's tons more content, but for now I've seen enough for a (positive) review.
(This review is based on the IFComp 2022 version)
I’ve been on a most adventurous journey through Dream World. I visited enchanting islands and got lost in a murky swamp. I mined the mountains for rare crystals and had some dealings with a shady Thief. I visited a town where the dead are buried under the floors of the living. A city full of lights of all colours mesmerized me.
Lost Coastlines is a procedurally generated sandbox RPG implemented in Adrift. It eschews the normal parser commands in favour of a choice-based approach. This means that the granularity of actions is far coarser than in your usual parser game, instead focusing on higher level commands to choose, for example, PLUNDER THIS SEA STRAIT, or MINE FOR CRYSTALS. The results of your choices are calculated based on your strengths and weaknesses. In turn, they affect those stats, giving you better skills or lower tolerance for your next adventures.
I cannot begin to fathom the switches, buttons and dials that this game juggles under the hood, the amount of variables that work in concert to make this a smooth exploration experience, but they work.
There are still minor issues, capitalization of place-names and the odd typo being the most noticeable, but as a whole, the game runs smoothly without any major glitches I could notice.
The writing is fit for such a large scale enterprise, giving grand visions of lost continents and sparkling fantasy cities, and introducing intruiging characters in a few pointed sentences.
I enjoyed it best by playing in shortish sessions of fifteen to twenty minutes at a time, as the gameplay of “visit an island, perform one action, maybe have a meaningful encounter, and then repeat the cycle” can become repetitive. Even then, the game sucked me in and had me mumbling “Just one more turn before I quit…” more than once.
I feel I’ll be returning to this game many times long after the Comp. I’ll also study the PDF manual ànd the in-game help more closely, so I can make better sense of the character information viewed by the STATUS command. This way, I’m hoping to set up a more focused long term expedition with self-imposed quest-objectives.
A large-scale journey of discovery in a vast enchanting world.
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