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The Master of the Land

by Pseudavid profile


Web Site

(based on 22 ratings)
3 reviews

About the Story

> An interactive fiction intrigue in an immersive and dynamic world.

A world that changes with every action. Freedom to explore. Radically different playthroughs. Lots of dancing. People wearing skulls.

> A rich story with multiple plots

A historical fantasy set in the early 19th century Mediterranean, The Master of the Land deals with power and paranoia in an age of counter-revolutionary reaction: the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars. During a carnival, dancers dance, politicians conspire and a crying ghost haunts the whole place. The protagonist, Irene, is fascinated and appalled at the same time by everything happening around her.

> A narrative experiment with a dynamic setting

Text is mixed and combined to show a changing place, with many characters moving around, weather, different events -balls, dinners, ceremonies- and interlocking storylines. With more than 80 thousand words and more than ten major plots, each playthrough shows only a fraction of the possibilities.

> The game is not intended to be won

Game Details


Nominee, Best Implementation - 2018 XYZZY Awards

6th Place - 24th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2018)

Editorial Reviews

McT's Interactive Fiction Reviews

Iíve never seen anything quite like this. It really takes choice based implementations to that next level. It creates a seemingly dynamic world, gives the player complete agency within that world and then says Ďgoí. It is an important game, this.
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Heterogeneous Tasks

This is an odd and audacious thing. There is a great deal going on here; itís a story about the personal and the political, about the failures of liberal politics. I like a lot of the things itís aiming for, and sometimes it hits them.
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The Breakfast Review
Rather intriguingly, the game is set up with a freely explorable map and a choice interface. With so much going on, we never go far before finding something to catch our interest as we explore. It's really quite fascinating and immersive.
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The player has much more freedom than in most choice-based games, and the world is more believable as a result; playing the game truly feels like interacting with an environment, rather than walking along a decision tree. The options at a given location depend on the characterís quests, the in-game time, and the characters around the ball. The game is filled with meaningful interactivity, yet the choices available are always clear and well-defined.
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Number of Reviews: 3
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
A masterful fantasy game with a unique interaction style, December 13, 2018
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

Twine games often fall into two traps: branching too much (so that playthroughs are short and miss almost all content) or branching too little (so that players feel frustrated, as if their choices don't matter). Games with strong writing can make up for this (like Myriad or Polish the Glass), but it's definitely a big problem for this system.

Pseudavid sidesteps this problem neatly by using a unique form of interaction. The player is put into a physical space and allowed to navigate while multiple storylines unfold simultaneously.

The game, then, becomes about being in the right place at the right time. It gives you a real sense of a bigger world, of life and vitality.

I suggest playing this game multiple times to see the different storylines.

The one thing that I had trouble with was, even when I knew exactly what I wanted to do and had some ideas about how to do it, I had trouble carrying it out.

(Note: I helped beta test this game.)

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A rich, varied, and open-ended choice-based game, February 18, 2019

The Master of the Land is a long, choice-based game set in a small, imaginary European country on the Mediterranean Coast in 1834. You play as Lady Irene, the daughter of a prominent nobleman and politician, although your penchant for spending time in forests studying plants is considered decidedly unladylike for this time and place. The events of the game unfold over the course of several hours at a party and festival at the Palace.

The presentation is top-notch, with attractive images accompanying the text for most choices, as well as a sidebar containing a list of the rooms you can access from the one you're currently in. There's also a map of the palace where the game takes place, as well as a link to "reminders" for what your goals are so far and information you've uncovered.

Gameplay entails selecting from a list of options in the room you're in or moving to an adjacent room. Each selection gives you (usually) a few paragraphs of text. There are lots of scheduled events at the party; you can choose to attend some, all, or none of those. You can pursue another goal related to your botanical interests. Alternatively, there are several additional storylines that you can uncover by being in the right place and the right time and making the right choices. And many events are on timers: For example, dinner is at ten, and if you're not in the dining room on time, the doors close, and you have to find some other way to spend the next half-hour or so.

All of this means that there is a lot going on. If you're a completist (and I have some of those tendencies), you should be warned that there is no way you can do everything in this game in one (or probably even a few) playthroughs. There are just too many intertwined events on timers. In fact, if you pause for just one enticing choice in a room as you're trying to get to another room for a particular event or catch up with a certain person you may miss that event or person entirely. This happened in both of my playthroughs, in fact.

(Spoiler - click to show)On the first one, the young poet Octavio told me to listen for the crying man in the dining room. I paused for just one moment on my way to the dining room to ask the servants about the whereabouts of some other men I was trying to find, and I reached the outside of the dining room just as the doors were being closed!

On the second playthrough, I was trying to identify the woman in the mask with all the keys. I finally figured out who she was, and I saw her entering a certain room. I paused for just one choice to pursue another goal (I forget which one), and when I followed the woman into the room, she was gone! I never did find her again.

It all combines to create a rich, varied experience.

A lot of times when I play choice-based games it's clear the author has designed the game to anticipate every possible set of choices I could make and has written text to account for that. Or, at most, the author tracks a few stats to affect gameplay. But, for the most part, playing a choice-based game has me feeling like my choices are still within a small set of outcomes the author has already planned out for the game. You just don't get the feeling of sheer open-endedness in terms of the events of the story that a good parser game can give. This is not to say that parser games aren't constrained in their own ways, or that choice-based games can't achieve other important artistic goals besides providing an open-ended experience. But The Master of the Land, with its location-based events, time-based events, and various goals to pursue, feels more open-ended than any choice-based game I can remember playing right now. And, since it's a choice-based game, it doesn't suffer from the problems open-ended parser-based games usually have: guess-the-verb issues, many of your actions resulting in default or error messages, or wandering around all over the map with nothing interesting happening.

It must have been an incredible undertaking to code this game and get all the potential plot events coordinated.

All in all, I really enjoyed The Master of the Land.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Something is always happening somewhere, April 28, 2022

Truly feels like being at a festival - the overheard gossip, the dancing with strangers, the drama and fights you might witness, and the social anxiety that bubbles through once the conversation goes silent - with the added tension of hints of "something big" brewing in the background.

As you explore the map and make your choices, the festival progresses. The people you talk to do not stay in one place, and you may miss some events that occur elsewhere on the estate. Rarely do you get a repeated entry when re-entering an area. No click is ever boring, even when you're not even trying to solve the mystery, because there is always someone to talk to, something to witness - and if there is nothing big happening where you are, then it is happening somewhere else.

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The Master of the Land on IFDB

Recommended Lists

The Master of the Land appears in the following Recommended Lists:

Best fantasy games by MathBrush
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The following polls include votes for The Master of the Land:

Persuasion by Adam Myers
There are many games in which the player convinces someone to do something. This may be by undertaking to perform a quest or exchange an item, by making a threat, or in still other ways; but almost invariably, it will be by giving them a...

For your consideration: XYZZY-eligible Best Setting of 2018 by MathBrush
This is for suggesting games released in 2018 which you think might be worth considering for Best Setting in the XYZZY awards. This is not a zeroth-round nomination.This is not an official list. The point of poll is partly to suggest...

For your consideration: XYZZY-eligible Best Story of 2018 by MathBrush
This is for suggesting games released in 2018 which you think might be worth considering for Best Story in the XYZZY awards. This is not a zeroth-round nomination.This is not an official list. The point of poll is partly to suggest games...

See all polls with votes for this game

This is version 13 of this page, edited by Pseudavid on 16 July 2019 at 6:45pm. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item - Delete This Page