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About the Story
A fatalistic Twine story about scars.
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Number of Reviews: 2
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The Cursed Sword of Shagganuthor is a short, CYOA-style sword & sorcery tale about a small band of villagers who attempt to protect their land and family from the endless hordes of the evil sorcerer-king. Once the artifact from the title appears, bad news gets worse, and some gruesome horror scenes are to be expected.
According to her website, Laura Michet works as a professional game writer. Unsurprisingly, then, the writing is fine on the surface level. However, at the deeper level of theme, things are less satisfactory. (Spoiler - click to show)Scars that grows tongues and teeth and devour or scar others is of course a great literalisation of the idea that being hurt makes people, paradoxically, hurt others, including the others they love. Used to say something about the human condition, this horrific metaphor could have been at the core of a memorable fantasy tale. But "The Cursed Sword of Shagganuthor" remains at the most literal level and eschews the opportunity to explore the theme of emotional scars in any depth.
What is truly a missed opportunity, though, and what explains my low rating of the game, is that absolutely nothing has been done that justifies this piece being published as interactive rather than static fiction. Your choices do not matter at all; they at most change the descriptions of the immediately following scene slightly. Any two playthroughs of the game, even one where you choose to be as honourable and brave as possible and one where you choose to be a moral and physical coward, will be virtually indistinguishable. So why not just write a short story? Perhaps I am too harsh, but interactive fiction that lacks interactivity, and that lacks a damn good reason to be non-interactive, just seems lazy and ill-designed to me. So without wishing to imply that this story is badly written, I still cannot give it more than two stars.
The Cursed Sword of Shagganuthor is a dark Twine short story casting you in the role of a villager participating in an uprising against an evil sorcerer-king.
The writing is extremely fine, and the central horror conceit is original and memorable. Chances are, it will stay with you for a while.
As for downsides, I will refer to Gijsbers' review: the story is so linear, it barely merits the interactive format. For much of the plot, I found it justifiable as an expression of the fatalism mentioned in the game blurb: the protagonist is swept along by events outside of his control, first in the battle, then by the effects of the curse. Even so, I found the linearity too overbearing: there are events that the protagonist should realistically be able to influence, but the story won't let you.
Also, while I've mentioned that I found the conceit original, the larger storyline of the curse is less so. Perhaps it's just that I read a lot of horror, but I still found the overall story predictable. Sometimes, predictability can add to horror: the inevitability of classical tragedy. In this case, however, I didn't experience that effect. That said, I wasn't expecting (Spoiler - click to show)the protagonist to infect his wife and father-in-law, rather than killing them.
A bit where the storytelling felt unclear: (Spoiler - click to show)when the protagonist proceeds to his father-in-law's house, I assumed that he would kill his father-in-law, and thus the man showing up alive later confused me a bit.
In short: brilliantly written, with some gruesomely original imagery, and well worth a read if you're a fan of body horror and dark fantasy. It just feels like it could have gone deeper.