Number of Reviews: 5
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Well-executed medieval fantasy, January 17, 2023
I can't remember a medieval-fantasy IFComp entry executed as well as PoV. Often people write one just to try their hand at fiction, and it falls flat. And it may be the most entertaining game in IFComp 2022. Lost Coastlines borders on the surreal, and Only Possible Prom Dress has its share of wild puzzles where you will probably laugh at a few of them. But PoV reads like a fantasy novel, down to listing the chapter you're on, where you get to make choices and even fail. You get five lives, but with save/restore, you don't need them. It feels mainstream, which makes it a rarity for IFComp. It has no mind-blowing plot twists, but it has plenty of decisions to make and people to make and also has a neat ending where, the more friends you made, the more ways you have to win.
This is a winning formula for a lot of people, me included. You, as Princess Imelda, find your brother Prince Alexander has been poisoned. How, and why? Is it foreign intrigue or something magic?
A lot of the elements in here pop up in fantasy books: princess uses disguise to escape, princess is impeded by allies and enemies, princess befriends or works with someone initially hostile, princess is nice to poor person and gets unexpected aid, princess realized her royal family is potentially awful in ways she hadn't suspected. They're all combined for a fast-paced experience. You have choices whether to learn magic and when to use it, with a strong "it's the friends you make along the way" undercurrent. It reminded me a lot of the Lloyd Alexander books I read in my youth, except with graver risk.
Given that it's pretty easy to ditch certain companions (including your main one, whom I liked a lot. There's a very neat bit about him coloring his hair for disguise,) it might be fun to try and run through with them not around. It seems like complex work to decide which game-winning scenarios are allowable, and I'm quite curious if there's a way to lock yourself out of a win in the final chapter through sheer pigheadedness. There seems like an opportunity for pathos there, but it might be too cruel to the reader who's worked through so much. The final fight has several paths to victory depending on whom you take along, which is a neat touch. You don't have to be Ms. Super-Good.
I don't really have any huge criticisms. The introduction brushed me back a bit, since there's so much to establish. A lot of scrolling screens that set up the fantasy land history. And the end seems like an opportunity missed, as well. I never really understood what luck in the stats was for, as i only lost it once. A lot of actions in the final combat are repetitive and involve waiting for the right moment, and on getting your brother cured, you get a brief biography of your reign, and it's static, but below it are stats and attributes. This was largely noticeable because the middle breezed by so wonderfully, and I really enjoyed it. (Also: the music box puzzle others mentioned? I wasn't fully a fan, either, but I was glad for the walkthrough and explanation.)