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About the StoryIn the year 5367 IR, humanity is well established throughout the galaxy. It has been over twenty-thousand years since the Zal'tacs passed through our solar system, trading their technology for our food and resources.
Lucius Winterson, the Eurmerican ambassador delegated to greet the aliens, was so successful in his mission that he eventually became Earth's sole representative on the Zal'tac Council. In return, he acquired personal technology that has kept him alive throughout the millennia, creating an Empire in the process, the Xulthe'en Empire.
In Across The Stars, you serve the Xulthe'en Empire aboard a deep-space transport. Adjusting to your lifestyle hasn't been easy though, your berth is small and cramped and the twelve-and-a-half-hour shifts are long. The Captain even gave you an extra week of duty for not having your uniform property squared away. In a place this small, you're beginning to wonder if you have what it takes to serve the Empire.
Set off on a new adventure, as you travel Across The Stars.
"[It] well and truly rocks"
At last I come to the first game of Competition 2007 that well and truly rocks. It's been a long time coming this year, but it was worth the wait. This one is a delight to play, and does just about everything right, beginning with an elaborate set of feelies worthy of Infocom themselves. In fact, this is very much an Infocom homage, particularly to their science fiction games. Never fear, though, it consistently chooses the right aspects to recreate, and isn't afraid to embrace modernity in other areas. While it may pay tribute to Planetfall, you won't find any hunger timers in this one, folks. Nor will you find it short of imagination of its own.
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Rezension zum IF-Comp 2007 (German)
Als frisch rekrutiertes Mitglied der Besatzung eines militärischen Raumfrachters wirst du mit einer Herausforderung nach der anderen konfrontiert. Weltraumpiraten, Wüstenmonster und fremde Religionen sind die Dinge, denen du dich im Verlauf des Spiels stellen mußt. ...
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Number of Reviews: 2
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In fact, my only gripe with this game is that the feelies opened up a LOT of doors and possibilities... and then the only thing I really needed, ingame, was the map, and it was a small map at that. The makers of this game went to a lot of trouble to give us background, even going so far as to involve a family disappearance, only to find it had no relation whatsoever to the plot (unless, of course, the victim fell prey to the same danger that faces our protagonist - but that is just speculation, as far as the game is concerned the feelies don't exist, and neither does their content).
This game has rubbed some people off the wrong way, and I believe it's because of the several different ways to approach a game. Most of the people this game exasperated seemed to come from "Ho-hum, another sci-fi spoof", and then don't really feel it's worth putting any effort. This approach always boggles me somewhat, and like in "Crystal and Stone, Beetle and Bone", this approach simply doesn't work here. If you do that, you'll skim the text; as a result, you'll miss clues (almost everything described is implemented, and you often NEED to explore everything in sight - not unreasonable given the game's first urgent and then explorative tone); as a result, your playing experience will be crippled. Some people have, for instance, said "What happened to the crew?". (Spoiler - click to show)I say, "You mean you didn't look at the viewport when you were in the bridge? Then you missed one of the most chilling images in the game."
Another mindset that works against this game is "Oh. I died. I totally didn't see this death coming, so I lost interest in the game, it wasn't much of anything yet anyway." There are possible deaths before the game really kicks in. If you let them discourage you (and the tight limits are fairly lax, considering the circumstances), you'll just miss out.
Now, let me make this very clear - I don't mean to say that everyone who disliked this game was wrong. I mean to say that a certain mindsets don't work with this game. Especially since there's a rather huge info-dump at the middle of the game (but shorter than it seems, well-paced, and pretty much a page-turner, so it's exciting and interesting and at times sorrowful to read).
To sum it all up, my advice is - go with it, not against it. This game is actually fair and polite. It even has a "hint" command which lets you know what your next goal should be (though of course you can do other things if you like). Keep several saved games, as usual, just in case, but if you give to this game, it will give back.
The game itself starts in your ship, and the whole ship is an interesting and curious puzzle all by itself. It's a vivid place, where the loneliness is palbaple. It's like waking up in the Mary Celeste.
My only real gripe with this section is that the authors often attribute emotions to you as the PC ("You feel such and such, you this, you that") in a very direct way, but it doesn't often work. Possibly because it's way too soon in the game to do this - we've just booted up, we're still getting to know the game, and we're already feeling this and that. Are we? I wasn't aware of that. In fact, the single most efffective image in this whole section is when you look out the window and realize what the asteroids around your ship are. In *that* one, the game doesn't tell you how you feel. As a result, you *do* respond to it, emotionally.
In the second part of the game, however, where the Sci-Fi dwindles a bit and gives way to exploration and knowledge of a past civilization (ok, so that's also Sci-Fi, but anyway), the game stops assigning you emotions, and concentrates on telling you about the place you're on. It works great. It's seldom been this easy to imagine the landscape, the rooms, the enemies, the objects.
There's an optional part of this game, which you can skip altogether - but if you do, you'll miss out on what makes this game rich and fun. There's a lot of backstory to this one, and a real sense of exploration. I'm going to go out on a limb here, and say, if Tomb Raider (the *exploration* part of Tomb Raider, which, as you may or may not remember, is what set the original game apart from all the other games at the time - well, that and the technology and the freedom of movement) were an IF, it would probably look pretty much like this. Not the action part, the discovering part.
On the whole, this game is a gem which has gotten less attention that it deserves. It's not perfect, but it's polished to a high degree. It's fair. It's fun. It's challenging. It's enthralling. It's engrossing. In case you can't tell, I loved it, and I think you might, too.
Throughout the game, I didn't think the puzzles were particularly well-signalled; what I mean by that is that while they weren't difficult in the sense of needing a great amount of intellect, they were difficult in the sense of the circumstances around them not being very clearly explained. I also felt that the huge info-dump of made-up creation myth in the second part of the game was very off-putting.
Basically, I'm still annoyed with this game, and I'd be unlikely to recommend it to anyone else, particularly someone new to IF. I did like the fact that there were multiple solutions to some of the puzzles though.
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This is version 18 of this page, edited by cas on 4 June 2011 at 10:16pm. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item