The Theft of the Anathema of Vorus

by Audrey Higgins


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An well written short fantasy, marred by strange 'rules'., January 27, 2017
by J. J. Guest (London, England)

This is an interesting, short Twine game in a fantasy setting, in which one plays a thief hired to steal a gem.

I found the beginning of the game frustrating. Every 'optional' choice I made took me straight back to the 'Rules' page and I had to start all over again. In terms of immersion it threw me out of the game, quite literally, and slammed the door in my face. I wondered what I had done wrong. I can't help feeling that this could have been handled better, perhaps by having a separate page for the rules and for the first paragraph of the game.

The 'rules' themselves had a peculiar effect on the way I played the game. Choices fall into three categories; rogue, dissident and diplomat. We are advised "choose carefully" because "If you choose inconsistently between two category choices, you can often lose points that you've earned from a prior choice. To pass speech checks and earn the best endings, it is ideal to have 0s in the categories that you aren't choosing".

This injunction transformed my experience of the game, and not in a good way. Suddenly, I found I was no longer exploring the story world and making choices at will, instead I was skimming the body text and carefully scrutinising the choices in order to ensure that the ones I chose were consistent. Instead of being a game of "can you steal the Gem of Vorus?" it became a game of "can you tell the difference between a dissident choice and a rogue choice?" Judging by the number of times I got this wrong, the answer is a clear 'no'. I was frustrated by my inability to stay on the straight and narrow, knowing that it would result in my not seeing 'best' endings.

All of which is not to say that this isn't an enjoyable game. It was nicely balanced between action scenes and world building, and contains some very nice writing and characterisation. I'll definitely look out for whatever the author comes up with next. The author clearly knows how to tell a story, but for me the game was marred by the 'rules' which made the game more about second-guessing the author's intent than about taking part in the narrative.

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