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Evocative glimpses of cities worldwide, but less enticing up close , October 24, 2015
You are on a pilgrimage. Where to? It is uncertain.
I had mixed feelings about this game. On a micro scale, there is enough to make it infuriating, things which shouldn’t be there. On a macro scale, though, Pilgrimage is about the search for home and making things right again.
What I liked about this game was that the scale of travel in this game suggests sea voyages every time you go in a compass direction, painting the game’s geography in broad sweeps instead of tiny intricate detail. This was fitting, as the PC travels across the world, so giving a general, though evocative, impression of different countries worked better than focusing on tiny details.
Pilgrimage is structured in small scenes, typically set in a particular country. By solving a puzzle or doing the ‘right’ action, you get to the next scene, and so on and so forth. The challenge, then, is figuring out what the action is; this was not always intuitive.
When travelling, the people you meet for such a short time sometimes seem themselves to be temporary while you are the only permanent thing you know; so it is with Pilgrimage. The NPCs in this game are little more than tools to solve a puzzle- was this a good thing or bad thing? I’m not sure. (Spoiler - click to show)This got mighty weird with the gallant knight, though - he's clearly besotted with you, and for you he's just an automated sword? In the context of a prolonged pilgrimage, it made sense that the PC never formed any long-term relations with anyone.
In the end, I relied on the walkthrough to bring me through the game, and I have to say that not worrying about getting lost or putting the game in an unwinnable state let me focus more on the writing - location descriptions is definitely one of the author’s strengths.
There were small niggles which would have infuriated me if I had not had the walkthrough: it has several implementation slips characteristic to parser IF. There is some confusion between definite and indefinite nouns when taking inventory and when you manipulate objects (Spoiler - click to show)(“In boat is sailor.”), which made the prose read weirdly. The synonyms the game accepted (for objects) could be more extensive. Messages when I take objects are triggered whenever I take it again (Spoiler - click to show)(such as the longsword, instead of only when I take it the first time - which produces quite amusing messages without context. For a normal release, this would not have left a good impression. As an IFComp entry, even less so - but Pilgrimage is redeemed by its broad arc and quite lovely writing.