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About the StoryPoet or Assassin? Lover or Spy? Choose your fate in Fallen London, a gothic metropolis a mile beneath the surface of the earth.
An epic adventure where you live a sometimes horrific, often curious, but always polite life next door to the Underground Echo Bazaar and down the road from Hell. Escape from a prison housed entirely in a stalactite and make your way as you choose among the denizens in a dark but cheerful city which is part steampunk, two parts Lovecraft, and a good dash of intricate Victorian melodrama based on qualities that can be sought out or bought at the Bazaar.
Fallen London requires actions to play, which are slowly replenished over time, so the adventure becomes a story played over weeks and months in small doses for those who are fans of its intricate world and lore.
Rock Paper Shotgun
Impressions: Fallen London
The strangeness of the world is the main reward for play. Itís dripping with lore, obscure and refreshingly odd, and the writing is the equal of the inventive setting. While the stop-start nature of the interactions may irritate some, it hasnít bothered me in the slightest. In fact, itís probably the only thing thatís prevented me from tearing through all the content in a few hours, although that said there are apparently 400,000 words to be read. And how ace is that? Not 100 locations, sixteen levels or 20 enemy types. Itís a game measured in words and they are words to be savoured.
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Number of Reviews: 8
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There is -- of course -- another way in which you can replenish your turns, which is by paying real money. You can restore 20 actions by paying $2.50. Tempting you to spend real money on replenishing turns is in fact the only reason that Fallen London uses a real-time limited number of turns; for the rest it is just a frustration-creating device that has no advantages for the player.
Of course, getting people to pay real money for more turns almost requires an in-game economy where turns can be exchanged for in-game benefits. In order to supply this, Fallen London sets up a core game system that revolves entirely around grinding. You'll have to increase four main stats, dozens of story stats, and dozens of ingredients in order to unlock new stories... and of course in order to improve your ability to grind and increase your main stats, story stats and ingredients, which can then be used to ... well, you know how this works.
Many of the game's grinding loops are based on trading time for security. You might, for instance, decide to become a great writer. You'll need to increase your "Potential" to do that, which you do by writing stories. If you try to write an easy story, you'll have a high chance of success, but your Potential will increase only a little. If you write a hard story, you have a low probability of success, but the potential reward is great. You can, however, increase your probability of success by writing more pages of draft material. This costs turns. So you will be spending dozens of turns clicking just the same few links again and again in order to create draft material, always wondering whether the time has already come to hazard your investment on the roll of the dice, or whether you should spend a few more turns in order to increase the chance of success.
This design is not just terrible, it is detestable. Fallen London wants to seduce you into logging in again and again, every couple of hours, or even every ten minutes, so you can engage in meaningless grinding that will allow you to improve some numbers on the screen, the prime use of which is that they'll help you in grinding more to improve them even further. While it may not quite be the interactive fiction equivalent of World of Warcraft, it certainly tries to get close. If you value your time and have even the slightest tendency to lose yourself to addicting game mechanics, you'll want to stay as far away from Fallen London as possible.
So why do people spend time with this game, and why do they even enjoy it? This has much to do with the game's primary strength, which is its writing and atmosphere. A Gothic, Victorian, subterranean London may sound trite, but Failbetter Games manages to make Fallen London feel fresh and engaging by taking the material in all kinds of weird and mysterious directions. The player is thrown into the deep, and is left to construct a coherent vision of the world from the many tiny fragments that he or she is given. Combined with the generally very good prose, this makes Fallen London a world that one is eager to explore and learn more about.
What is ultimately disappointing, though, is the quality of the story that arises. Fallen London feeds you many "storylets", but they rarely come together to form a "story", a greater narrative in which your character develops, acts, and changes the world. Two phenomena that show this problem vividly are the infinite repeatability of storylets -- you can just go to the same person again and again and play through the same story involving them again and again -- and the utter abstraction of most of what happens. For instance: you follow someone through town, and as a result you get... 10 whispered secrets. Not 10 actual secrets, with actual content, but the value "10" next to a piece of in-game currency called "whispered secrets". Or you spend dozens of your turns writing a literary tale, and when it is finished... the game doesn't even tell you what the tale is about. Of course, limitless grinding requires repeatability and abstraction, but it is here in particular that we see how the basic game design of Fallen London, while it might lead to money being made, is incompatible with achieving excellence in what ought to really matter to a story game, namely, story. The game continually promises to give you a great narrative, and it consistently fails to deliver.
Fallen London is a game on which a lot of creativity and obvious talent has been spent and, I'm afraid, wasted. Reactions to the game vary wildly, though, so you might want to try it out for yourself -- if, that is, you think you can resist the lure of a game that always wants to tempt you into wasting your time grinding to increase meaningless numbers.
When I eventually sat down to play it, I definitely was captivated by the setting, the lore, and the general writing. There was certainly no shortage of things to explore or do. The game doesnít really tell you what your goal is, but I didnít mind that since I figured finding your own path was part of the game. With as much stuff is packed in the game, I probably would have spent a lot more time on it, however two major things stopped me from enjoying it as much as I would have.
The first one being you only get a limited amount of turns to do stuff and then you have to with wait until your turns fill up again or pay to play. Yep, not going that route. I can be convinced of buying a game with a one time expensive price. Hell, I can even be convinced to shell out another twenty or so for sizable DLC for a game that probably should have came with it in the first place. What Iím not doing though is paying real money for more play time.
Okay so Iíll have to wait. Thatís not ideal, but Iíve certainly played games with that sort of system before, and played them for a few years in my rare dabbling of online games. This makes grinding a lot more unfun since not only do you have to do it (Staple of a lot of online games) but you canít even do it consistently to maybe get it out of the way to achieve whatever goal you were going for.
Okay, well I can sort of deal with that aspect to some degree too. But then the final nail in the coffin is in order to advance in some of the storylines, you have to actually interact with other people on some level and when Iím playing something with IF trappings, Iím just not looking for that aspect.
So yeah, with all those things working against it, the game just wasnít for me, even if I found the setting very interesting. I donít see myself ever going back to it, but I was glad to at least give it a few plays.
See All 8 Member Reviews
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