Number of Reviews: 2
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Paradise Violated, March 14, 2022
General Recommendation: This is definitely one of EndMaster’s most underrated games. I strongly recommend it, particularly for those looking for a more traditionally branching cave-of-time experience.
Preview: As the captain of a unit in the human empire, how you react to the possibility of discovering ancient alien technology will affect your future, and possibly that of the entire galaxy.
Plot & character notes:
-Salo and LaFleur are characterized quickly and effectively with their opening paragraphs. Their informational links certainly help, but we learn a lot about them just from their initial description, which is good economy of storytelling.
-I’m not a big fan of extra informational links, but I know that many people do prefer them, and this story certainly utilizes them well. It provides the necessary background information without going overboard, and the information is conveyed in an entertaining way.
-The selection of names for the various races is also excellent. Each name perfectly captures the intended nature of each race, particularly the Xont and Elojin.
-“Elojin are cowardly and run at the first sign of danger.” “You mean like now?” Lol.
-Trying to show that the narrator is steadily falling under alien influence is tough to do in a show-don’t-tell way (particularly in an interactive format where players don’t like being told how to feel) but EndMaster pulls if off in a way that feels natural. The “Feeling different” device seems built to help with this, but it doesn’t really work, the necessary information is already conveyed through the writing itself in a neater way.
-Ah, too bad the Elojin had to be killed. I like trying to play nice in these games, but in a work of this tone, allowing the Elojin to survive would only undermine the narrative. As it is, the inevitability of his death contributes to the building theme.
-Alyssa is well characterized, and stays consistent throughout the various branches. It’s interesting to see the different directions her character can go in depending on the narrator’s actions. Her presence as a genuinely likeable side character helps too, especially in a game like this where so many of the side characters are just untrustworthy, or obstacles, or both.
-I like the Gequek hologram, he’s a fun and intriguing character, and in the mechanical sense, a good interactive way to deliver the necessary plot exposition in an entertaining way.
-The idea of the loyalty-inducing germ weapon is also intriguing, and a good explanation for the Xont’s disappearance. Can’t imagine what could go wrong in designing a weapon that increases xenophobic tendencies. On an unrelated note, one could theorize that some mutated form of the virus is actually prevalent in the galaxy at large; all four major nations are xenophobic and expansionist, so an outbreak of Xont germ might explain this inclination.
-The game’s longest path has a surprisingly hopeful and optimistic ending, which makes the entire work feel a little more significant. In a world as bleak as the one presented here, the possibility of future improvement for the galaxy is quite unexpected and meaningful.
-This story does a perfect job balancing political intrigue with adventure. Obviously the planet itself serves the adventure factor; dealing with natives, rival conquerors, and exploring ancient ruins. Meanwhile, your team members, especially Indoctrinator Salo, serve as a microcosm for the political tensions throughout the empire. At the end of the main path, the broadening of the scope to larger political consequence feels both natural and expansive; it works well due to the political groundwork laid early in the story, and expands the scope of the story to a larger view.
-I like that the player is allowed to turn off the main path and end the story prematurely without immediately dying. This is a realistic outcome of the player’s actions. The wide variety of mundane endings that are neither victorious nor deadly makes the positive victory endings feel more special and earned. This is also true of the endings that mostly focus on your relationship with Alyssa, this story allows the narrator victory and failure on both a personal and galactic scale.
-The path where you shoot Alyssa fall further under Xont influence is handled equally well, and forms a nice narrative parrallel to the path in which you let her shoot Salo.
-The ending where you conquor the galaxy was handled well. Often endings like this either emphasize the positives of galactic rule too much, or try to scold the player for being bad. This one does neither; instead presenting the facts of the situation and the narrator’s new outlook, and allowing the player to decide for themselves how they feel about their choices.
-I like that we get to see what the Elojin do with Xont technology, it makes them a legitimate threat rather than just a plot device.
-The plot where you fall under the influence of Xont technology and try to “seize your destiny” shows the dangers of Xont influence, in contrast to other pathes, in which is is possibly to use Xont technology for positive ends.
-I found the open nature of the ending where the narrator says “Who’s with me?” compelling, despite ending abruptly, the story feels neatly finished and a natural narrative conclusion to the events told.
-Dealing with the Mazatt commander who has also fallen under Xont influence is an interesting turn, and it contrasts well with the narrator’s own arc. This arc ends predictably and fittingly. It reminded me a bit of apocalypse now (good movie). Actually, there’s a lot in this story that reminds me of apocalypse now. EDIT: Heh, after reading further, that line seems like it’s a direct reference to apocalypose now.
-It’s weirdly gratifying to see the ending where LaFleur gets his desk job. Poor guy just wanted to push paper in peace.
-The path with the Krik isn’t as fleshed out, but that makes sense, the main story here is about the Xont. Nevertheless, the mission with the Krik does a good job illustrating what a “typical” empire scouting assignment might be like.
-It’s nice that change can be made to the empire’s policies in a variety of ways, such as through Alyssa’s personal success.
Grammar & Mastery of Language
The grammar is fine. The technical aspects of the writing could be better, there are many misued words and grammatical issues that could be fixed with a single editing round. The repeat clauses especially jumped out.
This game’s conversational tone strikes a delicate balance of sympathizing with the reader while not coming on too strong, but after the first few pages, the game settles into a consistent voice that works well with the plot.
A oft-undervalued aspect of setting the tone of a setting comes down the writing style. This story does an excellent job in this respect. The narrator’s bitter, cautious, and disillusioned attitude towards his own life and empire frames the dangerous and frustrating nature of the challenges he will face on the planet itself.
Particularly good. Most of EndMaster’s games follow the format of having pivotal plot choices at key moments, interspersed with save-or-die choices. In this game, there’s a wide variety of different endings that can be achieved, even when the player strays from the main branch. This storygame has one of the best distributions of width and depth I’ve read. Though EndMaster’s usual strategy allows his later games to dive much deeper into the arcs the story does follow, it’s nice to see this level of attention devoted to player agency and choice.
Player Options/fair choice
Pretty good. There are a few deaths that seem random, but for the most part, actions have logical consequences.
-The death link on the first page seems completely random and weird. It does make sense, given what we learn later of the other character’s movements, but it would be smoother just to cut out that pointless first choice and get on with the story.
Endings: This story has an unusually wide variety of endings that can be considered “official”. Games on this site usually tend to follow a couple specific pathes, so it’s nice every now and then to run into a game like this with a broader approach.
PERSONAL EXPERIENCE: I played this game first a few years ago, before I had an account. After dying a few times, I got the ending where you use the hologram to change the empire’s policies.
CONCLUSION: An excellent game!