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About the Story
Fight on the front lines of the war between humanity and the hideous Blobs. (Not that anyone has actually seen a Blob up close, but everyone knows they have tentacles. Surely they’re hideous!) Go on stealth missions, run alien blockades, and investigate mysterious planets, “aided” by Lloyd, your insufferably obnoxious shipboard computer.
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You know, I've found a pattern with Choice of Games titles. On quite a few of them, the first chapter or two is pretty dismal, almost to the point where I don't really want to play any more. But they've always paid off in the long run.
As someone who's written one of these games myself, I think I know what's going on. I had never written longform fiction before, only parser games. But the standard in non-interactive publishing and Choice of Games is to write the first chapter first and keep going, getting paid as you hit milestones.
For me, that meant I approached Chapter 1 as inexperience and untalented as possible. By my final chapter, I had 2 years of writing experience and study under my belt. My first chapter is, frankly, hideous.
When I write parser games, on the other hand, I write the whole game at once, starting with a skeleton and expanding it. The opening scene is often something I add at the very end when I realize it needs 'something more' to kick it off.
That might explain why this game, Choice of the Ninja and others have such flat openings that don't connect with the rest of the game. On the other hand, experienced Choicescript writers like Hannah Powell-Smith or experienced fiction writers like Natalia Theodoridou have strong opening chapters.
I bring this up because the opening of this game stinks. I only had one choice that affected my main stats (I think you can affect more stats if you play it right, but it was odd), the computer was a real jerk and it felt flat overall. The humor seemed fairly dumb, intentionally.
As I played longer, I got to go on interesting missions, I got caught up in the storyline, it was fun modding my ship, and the humor improved. All of the annoying parts of the beginning turned out to be important plot points in the end.
This isn't the strongest game in the Choicescript lineup, but as an entire game, it was actually fairly satisfying. It kept me guessing right up till the end and had good plot twists. I still don't really like the idea 'jerky computer companion', though, but I think some people will like that. And it feels longer than other games from its time period.
I received a review copy of this game.
Edit: The point where I started enjoying the game was when it let me fulfill my desire: I always wanted to be the element xenon.
Ex Materia, by Juhana Leinonen
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