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With more polish, a fun pirate romp, March 28, 2021
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.