The Road to Canterbury

by Kate Heartfield


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Number of Ratings: 3
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Award-winning writing with a design trading autonomy for story, December 25, 2020
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours

The Road to Canterbury was nominated for a prestigious award (the Nebulas, I think) in writing, and it deserves it. I felt it was 'okay' at first but as it went on I found the plot, characters and details to be great. It has extensively-researched details on life at the time of Chaucer, making the setting a delight to explore.

This is a good game, so everything else I'm going to talk about is just personal opinion and about my own tastes.

I felt that the choices in the game often sacrificed autonomy for a predetermined path.

That's not to say there aren't a lot of choices. You can bring a squire and knight together or bring them apart. You can seek to learn more about your brother's death, pursue a romance, fight duels, buy a racehorse (which I strongly recommend), etc. And your biggest choice, to encourage war between France and England or not, has many shades of nuance to select from.

But frequently it felt like the game forced my character into specific plot points, not by external circumstances, but by presupposing my character's motivations and desires.

This feels like it makes the overall storyline better (since there are assured plot beats) but it felt weird. For instance, near the beginning, you begin to overhear snatches of an interesting conversation. Without any choice on your part, your character decides to risk discovery by trying to eavesdrop. You get to pick how to do it, but you can't choose not to do it at all, even if it doesn't fit your character to that point.

Many such situations come up where it's just assumed your character will do something pre-determined.

I also had some issues trying to determine whether choices were based on sanguine (vs melancholic) or excess (vs temperance) or piety or generosity (vs avarice). For instance, if if you save money by drinking water instead of ale when a friend wants you to drink with them, is it melancholic (avoiding a large group), temperate (not drinking), piety (since you're only supposed to drink on feast days), or avarice since you aren't spending money? Sometimes it was clear, but sometimes it was confusing.

So for me personally, on my 5 point grading scale, I'd give it:

+Polish: The game is smooth and works great. Editing is perfect.
-Interactivity: Some of the stats didn't work well for me.
+Descriptiveness: Awesome. No wonder it won an award.
+Would I play again? I think I will.
+Emotional impact: The last few chapters were great emotion-wise. Lots of satisfying conclusions (for the specific threads I was chasing).

- NJ (Ontario), October 5, 2018

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Educational, April 28, 2018
by Sobol (Russia)

I've been waiting for this game for a while. Since the promotional text specifically mentioned the Miller and the Wife of Bath, two of the most larger-than-life Chaucerian characters, I expected The Road to Canterbury to be a light-hearted merry romp through the comical version of Middle Age England - perhaps in the general spirit of Tally Ho and A Midsummer Night's Choice by Kreg Segall (based on Wodehouse and Shakespeare, respectively; Kreg Segall is also one of the beta-testers for The Road to Canterbury).

As it turns out, the game is rather serious, and political, and often reads as an encyclopedia of medieval life and thought. Your character stats, for example, are traditional medieval virtues and the four Hippocratic humors. It isn't particularly light-hearted: some important things are at stake. And while there are some gently amusing moments, the main attraction here are extraordinary many details for those interested in the life and times of Geoffrey Chaucer. Quotes from Virgil, Boethius, etc.; scattered references to the original Canterbury Tales and other Chaucer's works (the Prioress' dog, the name "Blanche", the astrolabe, Saint Christopher's medal, etc.); excursions into the English religious history - and so on.

The story is good and a bit slow-paced, as it fits the source material. The tales pilgrims tell each other are not those from the original book, but condensed versions of other medieval tales (a lay by Marie de France, for instance). Likewise, the characters are new. The Miller, for one, is completely redone and has little in common with Chaucer's Robin; Alyson of Bath, though, is still recognizably Alyson of Bath (and she's romanceable, too!). The most alive of the cast, for me, were two historical figures - Chaucer himself and Philippa.

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