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About the Story
You play as a young villager who is attempting warn the king about an imminent attack at nightfall. The castle guards, not believing your tale, have imprisoned you in the castle's wine cellar. You must escape and get to the king!
13th Place - 9th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2003)
This is a fairly standard and fairly short old-school type game set in a castle with dining halls, secret passages, a bearded old wizard, and a king who's in trouble. That sort of thing. You start out in a locked room, and figuring out how to get out of there was, to me, the most troublesome puzzle of the game. I went to the hints fairly quickly, and all they did was suggest that something else was hidden in the room with me. Given the extremely limited set of things to interact with, I eventually found it, but it was a total read-the-author's-mind type of situation.
-- J. Robinson Wheeler
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>INVENTORY - Paul O'Brian writes about interactive fiction
It's all about the testing. Get at least three testers for your game, with a sufficient variety of approaches between them. Then, watch for the things they try. If they get close to the answer, your game should provide some appropriately encouraging feedback.
This is especially important in a game like Sardoria, where many of the puzzles are one kind of combination lock or another, most of whose combinations verge on the totally arbitrary. This is a subject that deserves a more detailed treatment, but I'm unable to do that in a spoiler-free review, so all I can say is that designers must anticipate the majority of player responses and handle them appropriately. It's a lot of work, yeah, but it can be the difference between exciting and exasperating for puzzly IF.
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Number of Reviews: 3
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Anssi Raisanen has written several Alan games over the years with a certain sort of puzzly style, and I've grown to enjoy them.
This game has you escaping from a wine cellar in a castle, finding and helping a wizard, and rescuing a king.
Anssi's games have a very consistent style, so if you like one, you'll like them all. The Chasing is another good one.
What is up with Alan anyway? First APUS has really odd behaviour when I try to restart, and now Sardoria does too, but it's not the same behaviour.
When I type 'restart' in a game, and the game then asks "Are you sure (RETURN confirms) ?", I expect that typing 'y' or 'yes' and enter would cause the game to restart. But no, you have to just hit enter. If you dare respond to the question, the game will not restart.
The initial location seemed decent in terms of the way the location was described. The steps are described as going up to the west, and in a nice touch, both 'w' and 'u' take you there.
After struggling around searching in the basement for some time, I finally resorted to the hints, which didn't help. I had already placed the bottle on the steps, and I was struggling to find some way of attracting someone's attention so that they would unlock the door and come in, thus springing the trap. Knocking on the door, bashing it, screaming, shouting, all to no avail.
Even placing the bottle on the steps is a pain; the game doesn't understand 'put bottle on step', as 'step' is not a recognised word. 'Steps' is, but I envisioned it as putting the bottle on one step, not multiple ones. Oh well.
I finally managed to find the key, after 'search ceiling', and at that point, unlocked the door and was able to get out and have the game progress.
I persevered through a number of puzzles whose solutions seemed arbitrary, or poorly clued. Pushing the tiles in particular was frustrating, as the objects and tiles were all so similar and open to wide interpretation. The lack of varied feedback from pushing the tiles also contributed to this frustration.
I struggled through to the gate on the stairs, where a bug ended up leaving me stranded (details in scoring section below).
Thank you for not starting in a bedroom!
The writing in Sardoria is quite decent, serviceable to the story. I'm continually shamed at these competently written games from non-native English speakers. It makes me flush with embarrassment over some of the things produced by people who've grown up speaking the language.
Better cluing of the puzzles would help. I would especially encourage you to provide responses for things the player is likely to try that aren't the solution. A good example would be when the player tries to get the ham, only to be told "You can't reach the ham." This kind of dismissive answer sounds like a "Don't worry about this item" kind of response, and had me looking elsewhere for a solution to exiting the kitchen. It might be better to indicate that the ham is out of reach, but not by much, thus possibly pushing the player in the right direction of trying a pot.
Writing is competent, in terms of lack of spelling mistakes, proper grammar. Story itself is unclear, PC motivation is unknown (though I found out, post-comp, that 'x me' provides a little more detail--though it makes me wonder why the game didn't begin with that blurb).
This game was not terribly appealing. Lack of PC motivation resulting in lack of player motivation. May also suffer from being played after Sophie, Curse of Manorland and Apus. I'm tired of games with poor implementation, completely unclued puzzles and items of interest buried in the scenery.
There were a few parser quirks, lots of guessing the verb required. One major bug found that rendered the game unfinishable.
After opening the golden box, I messed with a few of the items (taking a couple of them) before figuring out the right thing to do to open the gate. The gate swung open, so I decided to continue up. The game responded with "You return the jewels into the box and ascend the staircase." This continued happening, and I was unable to move on. I also tried 'enter gate', which resulted in "You return the jewels into the box and pass through the gate."
I was never able to get past this point, even after trying to reclose the box, replace the items, verify that I was empty-handed and so on. As I also couldn't go back down, and the game provides no undo, I was very neatly snookered.
Puzzles make little or no sense to me. Again, it's hard to figure out what items in the environment should be interacted with, objects are buried in scenery, etc. In extreme cases, you don't even see certain items until you examine other items. For example, examining the bed reveals that there is a nightstand beside it.
If you try to go 's' from the kitchen, you get a warning message not to do so. Who's to know that, once you're holding the lid, you are allowed to proceed in that direction? Puzzles should be better clued, e.g. looking at the ham hanging from the ceiling should give a clue that it could be used as an offensive weapon, e.g. "The ham looms overhead, large and dangerous. You feel a little apprehensive standing underneath it."
WABE score: 4
Sardoria is a rather standard (although rather clicheed) fantasy adventure. You're a villager who must warn the king of an upcoming attack. However, the guard's don't believe you. Therefore, you get thrown into the cellar. It wouldn't hurt to include some sort of introductory text, but all you get is a welcome message. The characters (most of them) seem more like cardboard cutouts. The ending is a little abrupt; Who's the strange wizard? What happens afterwords? Most puzzles only have one solution, and none of them provide any feedback (you usually just get a "nothing happens" sort of message). It's a bit too short for my liking; I would've liked the game to be a little larger. Maybe I'm just nitpicking. Overall, however, I thurroughly enjoyed this game.
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