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About the Story
You have taken a job as receptionist at an old hotel on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, hoping to rekindle your interest in history before the final exam at college. Little do you know that you will get more than you bargained for when you find yourself hopelessly entangled in the legend of the famous pirate LeBeuf, the murder of his young bride and his lost treasure.
61st Place - 24th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2018)
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Number of Reviews: 3
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Anno 1700 is a long parser game written in ADRIFT. Its cover, title, and blurb together combine to make it sound like time travel (backwards, to the past), pirates, and romance will be involved. I was envisioning something like Plundered Hearts meets The Outlander.
This turned out to be only partially correct, though. There's definitely time travel and pirates. However, Anno 1700 features much less romance than the cover art seemed to imply to me.
Anno 1700 is quite ambitious. It's not only long; there are also some complicated puzzle sequences (one in particular in mid-game), as well as an interesting setting and story.
Unfortunately, however, I ran into several implementation issues early in the game. For example,
(Spoiler - click to show)I floundered around for a long time trying to figure out exactly the right phrase to tell Susan that I had arrived for work. TELL SUSAN ABOUT ME, ASK SUSAN ABOUT JOB, ASK SUSAN ABOUT HOTEL, TALK TO SUSAN - none of these worked. Finally I got SAY HELLO to work.
After obtaining my room key from Susan I then went upstairs and had trouble getting the game to let me enter my room. I tried UNLOCK DOOR, UNLOCK DOOR WITH KEY, and UNLOCK ROOM 101 WITH KEY before finally achieving success with UNLOCK DOOR 101 WITH KEY.
Inside my room I successfully managed to take the crack in the closet and carry it around with me.
I wasn't sure what to do next, so I went downstairs to talk to Susan again. SAY HELLO a second time just returned the command prompt.
I went back to my room, and the text said that after entering I dropped my suitcase on the bed and quickly changed into something more comfortable. But I wasn't carrying the suitcase anymore; I had left it in the closet before going downstairs. I had also changed into something more comfortable my first time in my room.
At this point, remembering the blurb's IFComp 2018 estimate of more than two hours, I decided to pull up the walkthrough and just follow it for the rest of the game. Which was kind of a shame, because there are the makings of a really excellent piece of IF here: I enjoyed the story, and the setting is strong. Also, the author has clearly put a lot of work into designing the flow of the plot and constructing some intricate puzzles. But Anno 1700 is unfortunately marred by its implementation, as well as some underclued puzzles. Having another five testers to play all the way through the game, find bugs, and suggest synonyms or better clues would have gone a long way to helping Anno 1700 achieve the potential that I think it has.
Finally, a couple of things I particularly enjoyed about Anno 1700:
(Spoiler - click to show)The graphic of the parchment is really, really well-done. It was quite a pleasant surprise to type EXAMINE PARCHMENT and have that graphic appear. My only suggestion here would be to display it with the READ PARCHMENT command as well; I almost missed it.
Also, I liked being able to find the secret passage behind the closet in the present-day as well as when I've gone back in time. In general, I found the connections between the hotel in the present and the hotel in the past to be thought through well.
Anno 1700 is an ambitious and sprawled-out pirate game involving two timelines, multiple NPCs, and a large map.
As is often the case with Adrift games, the game works well with the walkthrough but has trouble for someone without it. Very specific actions need to be guessed, and actions that seem like they would be easy (such as communicating with your base) cause trouble.
Playing this with the walkthrough, though, was enjoyable.
Edit: Several people pointed out to me that this was written in Adrift, not Quest, and I apologize for the mistake!
Anno 1700 is clearly a labour of love. It is the story of a guy who really loves pirate stories written by someone who, I suspect, really loves pirate stories. It’s a big game –- too big for the competition, really –- of a very classic variety: you’re let loose in a location and have to follow your innate desire for exploration, solving puzzles that lead to hidden tunnels, caves, coves, and so on, while slowly discovering what has happened. It may not be a fashionable genre in IF today, but it’s a classic for a reason. When done well, this type of game can be very satisfying.
Which leads us to the main question: does Anno 1700 do it well? Yes and no. Yes, as I said, it’s clearly a labour of love; and a piece like this, which simply wants us to enjoy the pirate theme, needs that most of all. It needs to clearly show that it was written by someone who is enjoying the pirate theme. This it does.
But there are two reasons the game in it’s current state doesn’t fully succeed. The vaguer and less easily remedied one is the quality of the prose. It’s not bad, but it’s kind of bland; sometime repetitive; sometimes awkward. The opening text is a case in point. It’s quite long, but it nevertheless fails to characterise the protagonist. It contains awkward sentences like this: “You just know within yourself, that you would never have passed the final exam.” The comma is misplaced; the “you just know” phrase is a bit of a cop-out; and one certainly wonder whether it is also possible to know things outside oneself. The text ends up not having much life in it. And this is true in general; the prose is mostly functional, but it doesn’t exude the same zest that the world building does. It’s hard to be much more specific, and hence hard to give very concrete advice to the author.
I can be much more specific about the second reason that the game doesn’t fully succeed: implementation. The game really needs another round of polishing to make play smoother and give the player more confidence in the author. Polishing a parser game is a lot of work, but it’s not hard, not once you see where things can go wrong. So I’m going to give a list of irritations that I made notes about; the aim being not to criticise the author, but to give pointers about how to improve the game.
[The version of the review that I posted in the authors' forum had a list of specific bugs here, but I'm leaving it out of the IFDB version.]
Certainly the most important thing here is to add more synonyms and recognise more actions. This would also help with some of the more obscure puzzles –- I started using the walkthrough after a while, because I sometimes got stuck because of guess-the-verb issues (as with the floorboards), and I’m pretty sure I would never have thought to try (Spoiler - click to show)“braid threads”. Around the time my two hours were up, I also got stuck in the walkthrough: (Spoiler - click to show)“prime wick” returned an error message, and I didn’t how to proceed any further.
All in all, I think this game needs to be improved. A lot of work has already been poured into it, so it would just be a shame to leave it as it is, with a relatively high number of parser issues and other small problems. Once polished a bit more, this could be a very enjoyable pirate romp. Light, but enjoyable.
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