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Enveloping Darkness

by John Muhlhauser, Helen Pluta, and Othniel Aryee


Web Site

(based on 13 ratings)
6 reviews

About the Story

Your brother is dead. Well, thatís what everyone tells you. He was taken by orcs when you were eleven, and since then, youíve been living on your own.

Game Details


65th place - 27th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2021)


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Number of Reviews: 6
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Most Helpful Member Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
A somewhat linear fantasy story about helping your family, October 7, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: 15-30 minutes

This is a Squiffy game in a generic fantasy setting. Your town is raided by orcs that are mind controlled by white worms, and your brother and father are taken.

The rest of the story is mostly a bunch of standard fantasy sequences glued together and hurried over. For instance, you can go request aid from a king, visit an enemy city, make friends with a half-orc.

You generally have two choices at a time, sometimes more, but the branches converge again quickly. Sometimes the author forgot important information in one branch (like not telling you a beggar is following you).

There are major plot holes near the end. Overall, this story seems like if a very talented teenager spent a few weeks making a game in Squiffy, or someone older getting into writing IF for the first time. Either way, getting more practice will help and I expect future games would be significant improvements.

For now, though, my rating is:
-Emotional impact
-Would I play again?

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Logical but unemotinal narrative of rescuing your brother, November 30, 2021
by Andrew Schultz (Chicago)
Related reviews: IFComp 2021

This is a short choice-based game with a relatively linear structure--you can try radically different things, but most of the time, they loop back to the main narrative. It opens up a lot of possibilities it never really acts on, and by the end, I'm not sure why it took the title it did. Yes, there's a war going on, but I never really encountered a darkness or overarching evil. That said, there's enough to do that I played through it twice to flesh the world out a bit more.

Enveloping Darkness takes you quickly through your younger brother getting captured by orcs. Then you grow up and ask to go on a quest to rescue your brother. You usually will. I only found one possibility that kills you. Trying to avoid your fate doesn't work. You can insult your king or neglect your half-orc ally who wants to help you get to the palace. You can even act sore at your brother. The choices are all plausible for an adventure-seeking adolescent.

The mechanics of the storytelling are good. It's well-organized. But there's not much to be emotionally invested in, which is a pity, because having a half-orc ally in enemy territory presents so many possibilities. The game makes good use of a few rather quickly, but it felt emotionally wanting. Sometimes the game seemed to steer deliberately away from any emotional revelations or depths. For instance, when you rescue your brother:

(Spoiler - click to show)First things first. You ask, "Where's dad?"

Shazia says, "Hello to you too.

This is a bit cold, especially from someone who begged to go on the quest in the first place! I've had this unintentional misdirection where I walked away from a story mid-idea and come back, where I've worked out the technical bits and forgotten about the emotional or readability side. The authors have kept track of things abstractly--there are some running tabs on how willing you were to let Troy, the half-orc, join you. But none of this is put into the narrative as you'd expect, when two very different teenagers have to rely on each other for survival as they flee Something Bad. It doesn't have to be heart-wringing. But here it buries the lede or jumps off a track for a bit. The story opens up possibilities--for instance, ditching Troy or expressing displeasure with him--but it's all tamped down too quickly, and all this avoidance of overwrought prose turns out to take away from the story's full believability in its own way.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
An adventure that could use more detail, November 3, 2023

This fantasy adventure is light on details -- the protagonist's brother feels like less of a family member and more of a placeholder to provide motivation for the journey.

I did appreciate the number of choices that Enveloping Darkness offers. The passages are short, and the reader is presented with something to do at the end of each one.

However, it would have been helpful if choices hinted at possible outcomes. I got killed early while trying to rescue an innocent victim, and at one point I spent two inexplicable months in a boat on the lake. It was a complete surprise when the story ended and I was praised for saving the realm.

Enveloping Darkness also includes several fantasy creatures that donít feel connected to the narrative. Like the orcs used as generic outsiders: some are helpful, some are violent, and some are infested with parasitic brain worms. You could replace them with Canadians, and the narrative would be completely unchanged.

Overall, it could have used some developmental edits.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Meat and potatoes fantasy adventure, November 22, 2021
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2021

(This is a lightly-edited version of a review posted to the IntFict forums during the 2021 IFComp. My son Henry was born right before the Comp, meaning I was fairly sleep-deprived and loopy while I played and reviewed many of the games, so in addition to a highlight and lowlight, the review includes an explanation of how new fatherhood has led me to betray the hard work the author put into their piece)

Enveloping Darkness is a straightforward fantasy story, requiring a ten-minute series of binary choices to navigate. Thereís nothing here anybody hasnít seen before Ė there are raiding orcs, a desperate quest to find a kidnapped brother, picking up weapons and armor at the main city, and negotiating with potential allies. And the narrative feels like itís on rails, with few choices mattering except to avoid an instant death midway through Ė in fact I just went back to check on this, and yeah, this is pretty much the case. In particular, while youíve got a number of opportunities to talk to a particular beggar or walk by, or how much to engage with him while youíre talking, no matter what I picked he still wound up tagging along on my journey.

Thereís nothing wrong with a straightforward premise and disguised linearity in my book, but if a game is forgoing those opportunities for engagement, ideally thereíd be some other aspect of the game thatís grabby Ė an interesting prose style, well-drawn characters, good jokes... Enveloping Darkness does okay but not great on this score. Thereís not much that jumps out as distinctive.

On the other hand, the execution is solid. The writing is generally clean and typo-free, with an understated voice that can occasionally be funny. Thereís only one other character worth noting Ė the aforementioned beggar, who turns out to be a half-orc who acts as your sidekick Ė but I enjoyed him, especially once I realized he actually winds up doing most of the work. I canít say the game will stick with me, but itís a fun enough way to while away a few minutes, which I think is most of what itís trying to do.

Highlight: I liked the sequence where your character, who works as a miner before deciding to go on their quest of rescue, just walks up to the king and asks for stuff to help on their mission. And it works!

Lowlight: This is a game that ends pretty abruptly once you complete your mission. Authors, once youíve done so much work to set up a story, it takes so little additional work to make the ending a satisfying victory lap or opportunity to reflect on whatís happened Ė donít neglect the denouement!

How I failed the author: about midway through the game, I faced a moral dilemma as I came across a golem about to harm a baby, and I had the choice of saving the kid or trying to fight the monster directly. Given my current day-to-day I of course opted for the former choice Ė which was 100% the wrong answer as it led to death and a restart (I guess this is more me failing myself than failing the author).

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Would you like to be praised for saving the realm?, November 13, 2021

Here is a game that is quick and easy to play. It is choice based, usually offering two links at the end of short passages. It is a little underwritten; some things get skipped over, some things get minimal descriptions. One thing that bothered me is that dialog was not separated into paragraphs. A sentence from one speaker would be followed in the same line of text by another sentence from a different speaker. However, I don't think these things keep you from understanding what is going on. If you want to visit a fantasy realm for a brief adventure, "Enveloping Darkness" gets you in and out with great economy.

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