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Ambitious story, modest implementation, March 17, 2014
Into the Open Sky tells a big sweeping story: after many generations, an interstellar empire is brought down by internal betrayal, the great starships that defended the Empress turn against one another, and access to the Imperial time vortex, the Palace of Mirrors, is lost. There are many additional pieces of lore: love stories, myths, bits of imperial history, and hints of the protagonist's own complicated and storied past. Many of these stories and pieces of information are presented through database entries and diaries that can be unlocked, in a way faintly reminiscent of (but less disciplined than) Christine Love's Analogue: A Hate Story.
The gameplay aspects of the piece are not up to the scale of the narrative conception, however. There are a few key scenes of present-day dialogue or combat, but these are delivered as cut scenes; when it comes to the aspects under the player's control, they involve tasks like swapping out power couplings and giving predefined commands at particular starship consoles. There are a number of minor polish issues, as well -- for instance, descriptions that describe a particular object being a particular place even though the player may have already picked that item up.
The structure of the game also gives somewhat the impression that the author significantly scaled back his initial plans. There are some doors that never become openable through the whole game, and others which open only during an epilogue sequence at the end, when the player is told to wander around gathering as much data as she likes, then quit when she's done. So in this portion one gets the impression that the author originally intended a longer sequence of gameplay to introduce those rooms and objects organically, but perhaps ran out of time to make that happen.
Despite all this, there were some striking and vividly imagined pieces to the story, which kept me interested enough to play through to the end.
I came away thinking that perhaps the author would have had an easier time with choice-based rather than parser-based IF: the larger sections of non-interactive text would have flowed more naturally in that context, and some of the puzzles could have been implemented in a more streamlined way, allowing the author to focus on the expansive lore-telling that seemed to interest him most.