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About the Story
For centuries the Empire has been ruled by successive clone daughters of its founder with a mix of military might, political manipulation and a total monopoly on faster-than-light travel. That control has now faltered, systems are in open rebellion and the Imperatrix is fighting for her throne.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun
Not that I havenít immensely enjoyed the game, mind you. Itís just that its setting is rather dark. Then again, it also is very well written and I really do love very well written stuff where only a few words can paint the atmosphere and imply complex, alien and contradictory societies. Odd ethics and unexpected logics.
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After a long period of peace, the United Empire of Imperatrix Emera is experiencing unrest. Riots have broken out on several planets of the outer star systems and the fleet is spread thin to contain the disturbances.
The disappearance of a rare FTL communications and surveillance drone in a system rather closer to the centre of the Empire is suspicious enough to send you on an investigation to the system where it was last deployed. You take control of the newly commissioned FTL ship "Resplendent".
The Voyage of the Resplendent stands out with its picture of a far-future interstellar empire. This is in itself not very original, but there are many details that make it noticeable.
There are hints of a forgotten past civilization of which only the poorly understood FTL technology and an even more foggy religion are remnants.
The political structure is reminiscent of ancient Rome, with the central Imperial star system dictating the overall order and monopolizing economics, while guaranteeing some measure of political sovereignty to the planets under its control.
A medieval nobility hierarchy ensures further complication of the relations of power in the Empire.
In my personal life, I would not agree with the loyal, dutybound servant of the Imperial monarchy that is the protagonist. The story does not provide many options to push against the adherence to hierarchy and orders apart from paying lip service to "trying to understand the disgruntled mobs", and choosing diplomacy over lethal force on a handful of occasions.
However, it speaks volumes to the quality of writing that I could get under the skin of my character quite easily. Once I had understood and accepted the priorities of the protagonist, I was on board to fulfill the mission to the best of my abilities.
The quality of characterization extends to the other characters as well. One important choice early in the game lets you assemble your team of officers. Throughout the game, you talk to them separately on several occasions in different circumstances. Without agreeing with them on every turn, I did feel I could relate to them as realistic people.
On the whole, I got the impression that most of the links where there primarily to give more exposition to the characters' backgrounds during the space-voyage than to have a defining impact on the narrative. Toward the endgame the choices gave the impression of having greater consequences to the outcome. I must say that is the impression I got after a grand total of one playthrough, so I may have missed substantial branching. I don't really believe so though, given that you are returned to the same choice menu after picking an option. For example: if you choose to talk to the Head of Investigations, after the conversation you are returned to the screen where you can still choose to talk to all three other Officers. The story does not continue with your first choice to the exclusion of the other possibilities.
However well-written the story is, it could use a last and thorough once-over. There are quite a few misspelling remaining. Worse, I encountered one dead end where there simply was no link back to the story, forcing me to go back to a saved game and avoid that path on my playthrough.
There are many open questions and loose threads remaining after the game's finale, leading me to suspect that this was meant to be the first installment of a series that didn't make it past the pilot. I would gladly read any sequels, and even without them, this story is well worth the time on its own.
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