The Cursed Sword of Shagganuthor

by Laura Michet profile


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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Missed opportunities, July 9, 2013
by Victor Gijsbers (The Netherlands)
Related reviews: CYOA, fantasy

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.

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Anya Johanna DeNiro, July 9, 2013 - Reply
I might be reading too much into the design choices but what I took away from it is the inevitability of the protagonist's fate; no matter what the choice, he was still going to end up in the same juncture. I agree with you that more could have been done with it (and cued a bit more) but it worked for me on a structural level at least, as horror and a story about "fatalism" (as it's self-described).
Victor Gijsbers, July 9, 2013 - Reply
Yeah, well, I've seen "fatalism" and "inevitability" and "determinism" and so on far too often as excuses for non-interactivity. I only buy that if the game actually has something to say about these themes, if it plays with the structure to reinforce the message. I can't see that happening here.

Of course, Laura Michet might not know that linearity has been done to death, and might thus innocently believe that it is still an interesting design choice; I'm not criticising the author per se; but I cannot help but review the game from the point of view of someone who has seen far too much of this. :-)
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