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1st Place overall; 1st Place, Miss Congeniality Awards - 11th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2005)
Winner, Best Game; Winner, Best Writing; Nominee, Best Story; Winner, Best Setting; Nominee, Best Puzzles; Winner, Best NPCs; Nominee, Best Individual NPC; Nominee, Best Individual PC - 2005 XYZZY Awards
Emily Short's Interactive Fction
What I found most interesting about Vespers was its construction, its success at arranging events and making characters take action; it has a lot of plot, but avoids the excessively linear feel of many high-plot-content games.
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Set in a 15th century monastery beset by the plague, Vespers follows an abbot driven increasingly insane as he watches his feverish monks perish one by one. It's a nauseating, deeply frightening game, like survival/horror without the survival part, and it clings to me like a bad nightmare I can't shake. I'm thoroughly grossed out by it, physically, emotionally and morally.
Vespers is one of the best games I've ever played, text-based or no. -- Lara Crigger
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Vespers is strong on atmosphere, very strong on atmosphere. It is told over three days, with the monastery becoming slowly creepier and more oppressive as time goes on. Descriptions change in subtle – and not so subtle – ways as the plot progresses (and, I think, in response to player action – if you play as a raving nutbag things get rather more messed up rather more quickly).
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Number of Reviews: 4
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Another thing that quickly had me hooked me was the way Vespers starts out as a medieval detective story. Alongside the plague, murder has come to the abbey, not to mention a mysterious waif and stray, and the monks are all acting strangely - among them the player character. As things progress, Vespers only becomes darker and more sinister, something that I would normally expect to repel me - but this carefully constructed rendition of apocalyptic Dark Age sentiments kept me hooked until, naturally enough, the detective portion gives way to a set of uncomfortable decisions - some of which you will have already made before you realise their portent.
This kind of IF game, where you must explore a world and form a moral reaction, has obviously been done before, most notably in Slouching Towards Bedlam. But whereas in that game I found myself having to refer to the hints to get the least thing done, my experience with Vespers flowed quite nicely towards its dramatic and nihilistic conclusion.
The best thing about the game was how the monastery and monks change over time. You really get a sense of how inexorable their fate is. However, implementation is uneven. I enjoyed the changing scenery but then would fetch up and be thrown out of the story when I asked someone about something and got an answer that didn't make sense considering what the PC knows or how he's interacted with the person. I also felt like some of the disgusting imagery could have been toned down, that it served little purpose but to be revolting. I'm aware the Plague is going on, but it was just so raw and unrelenting. Not to mention none of the characters are really likable.
This was one game I did not need hints for. That was nice. There are plenty of ways to die, and some timed puzzles, but if you cultivate a habit of saving games, it's not that much of a problem. It's not like you have to play really far back. They are just sections that take trial and error to get past. Somehow, this was not frustrating, since every time you die, you get clued in on what you did wrong. So the puzzles were satisfying and logical.
In the end, I don't feel very edified by this game's experience. I would not replay, even though there are other ways through it. (Spoiler - click to show)I got the middle path, but you can also be excessively evil or try to be the Christian your character is. My advice: Heed the disclaimer in the game menu. I made the mistake of thinking the gore wouldn't be so bad. It gets worse as the game progresses.
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This is version 4 of this page, edited by Emily Short on 16 June 2011 at 8:41am. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item