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Once and Future

by G. Kevin Wilson

Historical/Time Travel/Arthurian
1998

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1-7 of 7


Once a highly anticipated game for years, now forgotten. Arthurian fantasy, February 3, 2016
I discovered Once and Future when looking at old XYZZY awards. The author of this game worked on it for 5 years in the 90's, frequently posting on forums about it, building everyone up to a huge excitement. It was released as the first big commercial game in years, and a whole issue of SPAG magazine was dedicated to it.

How does it fare? It is a fun, well-polished Arthurian game. An American soldier dies in Vietnam, and is taken to Avalon, being charged with a mission by Arthur to stop a terrible event in America's history.

Many reviewers noted that the writing is uneven, with the author having written it over 5 years and improving it in that time. Parts of it, like those with the (Spoiler - click to show)Straw King, are stirring and powerful. Others just seem like the author gave up; for instance, at one point your character openly complains about the endless scavenger hunts, and it is just laughed off.

This is a puzzle-heavy game, with two exceptionally hard puzzles. Fans of Mulldoon Legacy will get a kick out of this.

It is very long; following the walkthrough, I beat it in 1338 turns.

I believe I actually prefer Eric Eve's Arthurian epic, Blighted Isle, to this game. Eric Eve has more and better NPC's, more optional quests, lighter puzzles, and a better (though similar) backstory. My only quibble with Blighted Isle was its treatment of women, but Once and Future suffers from similar issues at times. However, Once and Future is more poetic/trippy than the prosaic Blighted Isle.

This all sounds negative, but I recommend this game to everyone. There is scattered strong profanity (mostly by soldiers in life-or-death situations), as well as a few mild sexual references.

- MonochromeMolly, December 14, 2011

- Rotonoto (Albuquerque, New Mexico), May 16, 2011

- Mastodon, March 26, 2009

- Stagrovin, November 10, 2008

- zer, April 25, 2008

Baf's Guide


You're a soldier in Vietnam who gets mysteriously tossed into an Arthurian story and transported between a variety of settings and times. The story behind this game is arguably better known than the game itself--the author worked on it for five years, during which it was eagerly awaited in the IF community (and often joked about). It was then released commercially through Cascade Mountain Publishing, a company run by Infocom implementor Mike Berlyn which has since gone under, and now is available as freeware. As a game, it's quite good, though it suffers somewhat from having been begun in 1993--standards of IF design changed a good deal by the time the game was released. Similarly, the tone and style of the writing vary, as you might expect when a game is written over a period of five years. Some terrific puzzles, particularly one involving a mousehole, though many are obstacles for their own sake in a way that's more reminiscent of golden-age IF than present-day games. Lots of NPCs, some quite well developed. A very, very large game, one of the largest ever written, but the various pieces work reasonably well together--there's enough story, and the story is good enough, that the game doesn't feel like a random collection of puzzles. There are also plenty of endings and optional puzzles, affording some replay potential. Not a perfect effort--some of the puzzles require some mind-reading and some syntax-guessing--but still a noteworthy game.

-- Duncan Stevens

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