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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful:
An extremely long fanfic-style dark fantasy story , February 2, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: more than 10 hours

Edit: There are several alternative takes on this game available in the comments.

This story is one of the main games displayed on the front page of and has been upheld by some in the community as some of their best work.

ChooseYourStory's corpus was downloaded and used to fuel the original AI Dungeon (although the new version, I think, uses other material), and quite a few on IFDB and intfiction were very interested in AI Dungeon, so I thought it would be interesting to see the source of it.

From the outside, the CYS community is very different from the other writing communities I've been in. For instance, the SCP wiki mods, Choice of Games editors and IFComp voters are obsessed with games being free from typos and errors. So in that sense, it's more like the Wesnoth campaigns and creepypasta sites, where the focus is more on just size of writing and worldbuilding.

Edit: several comments about CYS as whole were removed.

This game is an example of all of these things. In content, it reminds me of nothing more than when I started browsing some fanfiction. The worldbuilding is very detailed, and the content is huge. Reading every branch would easily take over 10 hours.

Structure-wise, it's more like a long chapter-based novel where the next chapter is determined by your choices at the end of each section. Choices are usually binary, unless they are 'reference' choices that give you optional backstory. Out of the binary options, one is usually a death. The graph of this game's choice structure would generally be a tree.

In fact, it's almost like three games in one, since one of the earliest (maybe the very first?) choice lets you pick one of three branches that offer different perspectives on the same story.

Content-wise, this is a dark power fantasy. You are essentially like Darth Vader but in a fantasy world, in the sense that you are a ruthless murderer and assassin in the service of an emperor.

The content is labeled as 'grimdark'. There is content in it that I found offensive, especially (Spoiler - click to show)the main character's penchant for violently raping women before killing them, or the way many women want to be raped, the way that the character helps run a concentration camp to eliminate another race, the character's joy in sexually humiliating or physically defacing others, or acting like King David by sleeping with a married woman then killing her husband discreetly. Interestingly, the only thing that the player regrets is accidentally sleeping with an enemy by mistake when she was disguised as his true love, with him later realizing that it was rape and he feels upset.

I generally just stop playing games in these situations, but in this one, the game was oddly distant from the graphic situations, generally because there wasn't a lot of lead-up. I've been deeply affected by traumatic scenes in stories before, but usually because there was a previous investment in character development to make me care for the people involved and an expectation of normalcy established that made the later broken barriers seem shocking. Like Ethan Frome, for instance, which I hated. Or Vespers, the game, which led me to try actions with awful results with no one else to blame but me for typing them in. In this game, it was more like 'you walk into a room and slit someone's throat to establish dominance'. In any case, I only finished so that I could give an accurate report for my first CYS review (although I did review Briar Rose before).

The author himself seemed to eventually tire of the rape-murder fantasies, leaving much of the second half of the game devoted to political intrigue.

My grading scale is not designed for this type of game, but I'll give it a go anyway:

-Polish: There were numerous typos and other errors.
+Descriptiveness: The worldbuilding was detailed and vivid.
+Interactivity: The game had a lot of real choices, with even dead ends having thousands of words poured into them.
+Emotional impact: Not always ones I wanted, but it was there.
-Would I play again? No, and in the future I'll heed the warnings available on the site for various games.

Edit: It should be added that this game has over 8000 ratings and over 400,000 plays on their website, far outstripping any IFComp game.

EditEdit: I should also say that Champion of the Gods is a game I loved that has a fairly similar concept but without any non-consensual encounters. In that game, it was fun playing a wild barbarian, but the justification for it was much stronger. Also, I played this game with a profanity filter in the browser.

Comments on this review

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Tim, December 9, 2020 - Reply
I have to say, as someone who hails from CYS, You're quite a bit misinformed about how we operate over there.

The first, and probably most egregious error, is the mention of a "school shooter" category. This is just false. We previously had a "school-based" category, for stories set exclusively in schools or other places of learning. Clearly, being so specific in setting, it was the weakest category and subject for deletion, and one of our admins jokingly made a thread prompting us to "Shoot up the school-based category", reviewing the scarcely-played games so that they would either be moved to the "Modern Adventure" Category, or be deleted in accordance with our review score rules. I'm guessing that you glanced at the forum, saw the title of the thread, and just assumed that we had a whole category dedicated to school shootings, an even more specific setting than what was actually there.

Either way, the category is gone and replaced with the "Dark Fantasy" category, which should be filling up soon with the recent contest entries.

Secondly, not every story features rape and incest. I believe that's a minor trait only rarely found outside of Endmaster's stories, which AI Dungeon seemed to mostly be relying on considering the repeated instances of his original characters.

Third, as you probably could already tell, CYS is not all that strict. Not just when it comes to typos and grammer. See, at SCP and COG, things have to appear somewhat professional, being that SCP is supposed to be a psuedo-scientific site and COG is trying to sell your stories. Since CYS is a free, online source of user-made interactive fiction, we don't really care if your story is presentable. You made the story, and every man is entitled to the sweat of his brow, as they say. But it's your job to make us care.

Sure, you COULD create a story with an absurd amount of typos and grammar mistakes, that features rape and incest in poor taste, go on ahead. Nobody's stopping you. But it's probably not going to be reviewed very well by your fellow users, and will most likely be taken down with our aforementioned review score rules. You're free to make whatever story you want, but you must accept the consequences of doing so, including constructive criticism. If it's bad, you'll know where you can improve for next time. If it's good, you'll know what you did right. We don't even have a gender/pronoun system meta, like over at COG. Like, if you want to add that, go ahead, it's your effort put into it. You're free to write about whatever you want.

Finally, like with our stories, the general attitude over there is also pretty free. But, likewise, you're going to have to accept the consequences of everyone else being just as free as you are. You won't be turned away for being gay, transexual, hispanic, etc, but you'd better be ready for someone to call you a fag, tranny, spic, or other offensive words in jest. You just need some thick skin, and not to take things so seriously. Hell, I'm openly asexual, and nobody cares. Just don't expect them to, like over at COG.

That's it for my input, so I'll stop now. As for the story review, I think you were focusing a bit too much on the sexual aspects, since those only make up like 20% at most of the overall story. I think you may be comparing it too much to something you find at COG, which usually is a "branch and bottleneck" type of storytelling as opposed to the usual Endmaster (and most other CYS games)"Time Cave" style. CYS is very much not COG. A lot less cancel culture, in my honest opinion.
MathBrush, December 10, 2020 - Reply
Iíve added a comment in my review to check these comments, and I specifically mentioned how the school shooter part was wrong. I appreciate your feedback, and the next time I write a CYS review I will be more careful.

I should warn you that even among other intfiction people in a super prude. Iím very religious and belong to the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and even some very tame games were too much for me. Yes, sometimes I secretly find stuff exciting but thatís exactly why I donít like it, since it also feels shameful. Anyway, thatís too much info. But next time Iíll review more carefully.
Rovarsson, December 5, 2020 - Reply
Yes, I started reading this one too but quit after the hundred and thirty sixth murder-rape. Until then, I kept wondering when my protagonist would rebel against his upbringing and set his master-scheme for toppling the Dark Lord from within into action. I don't know whether there is a branch that leads there, but by the time I quit the protagonist was already far beyond redemption.

I fully understand the difference you feel between this and a parser game. I cannot imagine coming into a room and having to type the commands for what the protagonist does in Eternal.

(I touched on this subject a bit in my review of Gateway, and Emily Short has several reviews, interviews and essays where she goes into the complicity of the player in parser-IF.)
deathbytroggles, December 4, 2020 - Reply
Yuck. I'd say thank you for playing so we don't have to, but you don't need to martyr yourself.
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