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Vespers

by Jason Devlin

Historical/Religious
2005

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Number of Reviews: 8
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Heed the Disclaimer, December 1, 2013
by streever (America)
This game presents a muddled and incorrect theological perspective, that isn't particularly illuminating or enlightening. This leads to the only flaws in an otherwise well-written and engaging experience.

The shoddy theology makes it hard to recognize your choices as such, but the game makes great use of your choices, so it is frustrating that the developers limited understanding of Christian theology provides some inconsistent and illogical implementation. I recommend saving and using restore/undo as needed.

The actual mechanics of this game are fairly brilliant, and the writing is excellent. There are a few minor bugs (characters aware of events that haven't happened yet), but you can avoid them--and improve the overall experience--by restricting yourself to using "talk to character" instead of the more open-ended "ask".

Some of the puzzles are quite clever, and almost all of them involve multiple outcomes. Keep this in mind as you play; you are not restricted to the most obvious solutions. In this, the game does get closer to a proper Christian theology, although it still misunderstands the significance of this decision.

I enjoyed this game quite a bit and think it is well-done. Yes, there is some unsettling imagery, but I would rate it as "less disturbing than CSI".

Comments on this review

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bluevelvetwings, January 7, 2014 - Reply
I think that you've actually sort of missed the point, as the previous commenter said. The point of the game is to make you question theology - ask yourself, what if the game is right. That might be uncomfortable for a lot of people, and I totally understand why you'd say this sort of thing. However, to complain about the (Spoiler - click to show)perhaps equally bad portrayals of Heaven and Hell, or to say that the overarching philosophy isn't 'accurate theology' is like saying Buddhist theology is weird because it doesn't believe that Jesus was the Son of God. And the response is "well, obviously it doesn't think so?!"

It's fine if you dislike its theology (everyone is entitled to their own opinion) but just know that the point of the game is what you're saying is the mistake in the game.

streever, January 8, 2014 - Reply
No, you've misunderstood me.

To actually question 2,000 years of writing, beliefs, and philosophy requires a deep understanding and knowledge of the subject matter. This isn't that.

It is a great game, and I really enjoyed it. The story was good. The writing was excellent. The atmosphere was deep.

However, having read theology (which I question, deeply, on a regular basis) the ending was completely ruined for me. The basic premise and ideas are flawed and based on a parody of theological thought. The author doesn't understand the subject matter well enough to present it in a way that is meaningful to someone who actually has read some of the great theological writers and works.

I have no problems with criticisms or critiques of *any* faith (or opinion), but I require them to be informed by fact and a deep understanding of the various points of view.

I would *never* say "Buddhism is weird". I actually think Buddhism is a deep and meaningful faith. I feel the same way about Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, and many more. I think--in general--religion is beautiful and transformative to it's practitioners, and I dislike shallow or superficial portrayals of religion.

I would criticise a game that "explored Buddhist beliefs" written by a Christian who had never read or studied Pai-chang, Lin-chi-tsung, Yunmen, and Huang-po for instance.

I would criticize a game that dealt with climate change if the author of the game hadn't read any of the papers or done any of the research associated with it.

Everyone is free to have an opinion, but for an opinion to carry weight & meaning, it should be informed by a deep understanding of the subject matter. Heaven & Hell have no physical data, and are concepts or beliefs in a religion; thus, I expect a writer who asks me to question the beliefs to actually understand and know the beliefs associated.
Sam Kabo Ashwell, December 1, 2013 - Reply
The author is on record as not being a Christian, and I don't think that an orthodox Christian worldview is really the point.

In fact, unorthodoxy is kind of a central theme! The game's pretty clear that it's set in a medieval backwater full of superstition and ignorance; the protagonist's slipping grip on reality is signaled by ever-less-accurate Bible quotations. The world's a reflection of that harsh, muddled, monster-filled medieval worldview. (Compare The Warbler's Nest).

Unless you're thinking about something that isn't covered by this? You weren't very specific.
streever, December 2, 2013 - Reply
Spoiler-free, what I can say is, it isn't that an orthodox Christian worldview is the point. The point is that I felt trapped by the moral choices embedded in the game, because they violated the knowledge I have, and weren't clued in the game at all; they were presented as meta-knowledge that my character didn't have because of his faith or lack thereof.

If I face a moral quandary, I'd like to at least understand I'm facing on. Inventing a pseduo-religion after I've already violated the morals and telling me that I messed up was irritating.

This game presents Christianity & Christian morals as being a set of checkboxes & to-dos, which may be believed by some Christians, but the game gives it a weight beyond the human believers, turning it in essence into a meta-scoring tool.
streever, December 2, 2013 - Reply
I might have to spoil this, but you are almost describing the problem.

(Spoiler - click to show)
The ending of the game is frustrating, because it puts the backwater beliefs right onto God. You don't have to eat the dead bodies of your brothers to have sinned; you can be in sin simply by picking up the coin from the alms box.

The game abuses some IF conventions, revealing later that you're strait-jacketed into a non-existent moral system that transcends humanity and goes all the way to God, which has a huge impact on the end of the game.

It would have been fine if more of the characters had backwater beliefs, but the actual "good" ending reinforces the idea that God is a list of rules & checkboxes, which is a bit silly. It hindered the merits of the rest of the game for me. I enjoyed the game thoroughly, and was put off by the really shallow ending.

If I realized going in to it that it merely used an idea of Christianity, and had no actual cultural relevance, I wouldn't have had my reaction. I didn't read the About Menu though because when I tried to the game warned me that I'd see spoilers, so I disabled it with "help off". Which was unfortunate! Hence, my advice to heed the disclaimer; players should not expect that this game will be accurate in even minor ways.

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