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About the Story
“Azathoth is a cosmic horror; a force outside of known physics, Higgins.” Doctor Coffey explains, “It is the embodiment of chaos and destruction and now Dennison has found a way to bring this nightmare to earth; to destroy everything we know and plummet the human race into chaos.”
Entrant - Spring Thing 2014
|Average Rating: |
Number of Reviews: 3
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Right away I thought, this game is for me. The bookstore, the proprieter, the cat. I felt like I was really the protagonist. Yes, a nice big, juicy, literary game. I walked all over the store getting ready to dive into something big, exploring everything, looking for stuff to pick up, petting the cat, trying to read books, or anticipate the direction the game would take.
However, none of this yielded any result (except petting the cat.) It turns out that almost none of the locations or objects in the game are necessary. I got tired walking through the unimplemented rooms, and felt frustrated by the feeling of constantly following a red herring. All that the player must do is following directions given you by an NPC (go upstairs and look for this, go downstairs and bring me that.)
Conclusion: Great setting, no puzzles. For a game called Bibliophile, there is astonishingly little to do with anything literary. On the contrary, as another reviewer mentioned, I was truly thrown off by the bad language of the librarian - not only unwelcome but contextually inappropriate. For me this game was exhausting but not rewarding. As it turns out, the best part happened in the first two minutes: naming the cat.
Bibliophile is a long, ambitious game, full of characters, locations, and lots of walking. The premise is a familiar one for readers of interactive fiction; a Lovecraftian horror is being summoned to Earth, and you are the only one who can stop it. The game genuinely shines in a few places, but could use some extra polish and love in many others.
You will need to manually walk through many locations that don’t feel necessary and which serve purely as window dressing. Error messages suggest that certain locations will later be relevant, but they remain unavailable for the entire game. As the game progressed and I realized just how linear it was, I felt frustrated by the arbitrary local flavor, which made me walk extensively around the map. A game this linear would really benefit from using a simple go-to mechanism.
In such a large setting, I’d typically expect to spend time exploring and uncovering various nooks and crannies, but that was missing here.
Compass directions to your destination were good and helpful; however, they also contributed to the overall sense of linear gameplay without player agency. At times, this felt like a series of RPG fetch quests. Clear directions lead me to my goals, which really just required showing up, and didn’t require much creativity.
The tone of the writing is humorous and used to good effect to establish incidental characters. However, it felt too glib at times, and lacked characterization. One of the principal characters, an elderly librarian, tells me to go into a basement and find something because ‘I’m too old to go all down there and rummage. But you’re into that shit,[...]’
Young, hip, and slightly snarky; it felt more like the omniscient narrator than a member of the world around me, and when I get down to the basement, the description text tells me no one has been down here in sometime but the librarian.
Proper names are sometimes are only mentioned once in introductory text, and you have to scroll back to read them again; the opening of the game has you visited by special agents who are checking to see if you have a specific book, but they only refer to it by a pronoun after their initial greeting. If you don’t remember the actual name, you can’t look up the book in your electronic catalog. If you can’t scroll up to re-read it, you’ll need to start a second run of the game & get the name.
Experiences like this made the game feel a bit on-rails, which clashed with the realistic locations and open areas that I was enjoying exploring. In general, the descriptive writing was strong, and made objects feel real; there were nice touches, like the dinosaur sticker adorning my laptop. These little bits gave my character a concrete identity outside of the parser response to actions, and gave me a quick sense of who I am and what I’m about.
I don’t mean to bash this game. In the end, I enjoyed it, and thought it was impressively ambitious. I’ve played a few other games by Tenner, and think that this shows progression from earlier attempts, but coming slightly short of the initial promise and suggestion of a larger, more open game experience.
I recommend this game for anyone who enjoys this type of theme, and just be aware that the game is a bit crueler than the rating may suggest; I suspect it is a bug, but there are a few places and areas that make the game impossible to finish with no acknowledgement by the game.
If you’re worried about falling into this, read the following very minor spoiler.
(Spoiler - click to show)Pick up the letter opener in the Librarian’s townhouse when you see it.
I've omitted my rating. While the current experience is a 2 star in my book (enjoyable thematic game with some serious bugs/poor implementations), it's not a bad game, and I don't want to hurt the average rating. I suspect people who enjoy mysterious Lovecraftian games will appreciate this game regardless of the quibbles I've listed above.
If the game is updated, I'll play it again, & revise my star rating.
Ready for another Lovecraftian tale?
As the author says, this one is set in Baltimore. He created an explorable environment, including some monuments and academic places; I am not familiar with real Baltimore, so can't judge how faithful such reconstruction is, although some places, like (Spoiler - click to show)the African bazaar, feel added for plot reasons.
Speaking of the plot, the main character is a librarian who finds a mysterious book in his shop; such book is needed for a rite which, unsurprisingly, would bring Really Ugly things on Earth.
It would be too easy to ignore everything, or better yet to just destroy the book, right? The author knows better, and soon we are forced to try and fight someone powerful who is looking for the book. It is not a hopeless battle, though: during our investigations we will slowly acquire some magic spells, which will prove to be really useful. Just to give an idea, the first spell we will learn may mend any wounds we will receive.
The plot may be simplified in a series of fights intermixed with investigations; the latter are not just a filler, tough: thanks to them we will not just acquire our spells, as said, but also do something even more interesting: (Spoiler - click to show)rescue a few students who have been kidnapped by the Bad Guy, who needs them for the cited rite.
The battle system is "punch/kick/attack foe"-like. Every time a blow is successful, one hit point (HP) will be deducted from the initial amount (two) of the target. When HP reaches zero, death comes. Luckily, any spell may be used in battle.
There are some puzzles; they are not hard, except, maybe, one or two near the end.
Overall, this IF is a typical Lovecraftian tale of a man who fights overwhelming forces who want to destroy humanity and/or Earth; the accent is more on plot and fights, as opposed to puzzles; the execution is good: I found no bugs in the released version, and the spell system gives an interesting twist.
Disclaimer: I betatested the game.
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