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Ulterior Spirits

by E.J. Holcomb

Science Fiction
2020

(based on 1 rating)
2 member reviews

About the Story

On a peaceful multispecies space station, an aging admiral is haunted by strange messages and visions of a long-dead enemy. "A Christmas Carol" meets "Mass Effect"... with bonus evil cat aliens!

Game Details

Language: English (en)
First Publication Date: October 1, 2020
Current Version: Unknown
IFID: Unknown
TUID: 2rkk9oxroibnsrya

Awards

Entrant - 26th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2020)

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Member Reviews

Average Rating:
Number of Reviews: 2
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Great art and visual design, but it was difficult to get into the story, October 12, 2020
by autumnc (Quarantined)
I wanted to like this game more than I did. It was clear that much effort went into building the custom UI, worldbuilding, and so on, but I feel like the story didn't quite live up to what I expected based on the blurb.

The blurb describes it as Mass Effect meets A Christmas Carol, and in broad strokes, it's kind of accurate. The protagonist is an admiral for the Coalition who fought in a war against an alien race, and now the Coalition is sanctioning the aliens. The admiral is pushing for harder sanctions. Then an infiltrator hacks her computer and showing her images of the past, present, and future, possibly in an attempt to convince her to vote against sanctions.

As usual in stories with tons of Worldbuilding, the sci-fi jargon and alien species got kind of overwhelming, and even with the pop-up hints (which were a great effect), it was difficult to keep up. It was difficult to get invested in the story; Mass Effect gave us dozens of hours to establish the world and why we should care about these people/aliens, while this is a one-hour game. At the end I didn't know what to think about the aliens or whether sanctions were good or bad (and the player doesn't explicitly make that choice anyway).

I liked that the protagonist was an older woman and a mother. These traits are still uncommon for video games protagonists. And I liked her relationship with her son.

In the end, the visions were all for nothing; the admiral voted for harder sanctions. Maybe there are routes that are different?

The game was created in Unity, and the art and interface are superb. I didn't like the slowness of clicking through; there was too much friction with the animations and having to click to advance every block of text. It discourages me from playing a second time, which I now really want to do to see if there are different possible outcomes, and to see if understanding the world makes the story easier to follow.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Strong story, weak interaction., October 25, 2020
Ulterior Spirits is a choice-based work created with Unity.

This entry uses graphics, sound, and a futuristic presentation to support a story on a space station populated by aliens and robots. A lot of background material is necessary to introduce the laws, life forms, and technology of this world, but smart design choices bring readers up to speed without being invasive.

While popup windows appear instantaneously to give more detail about races and technology, the story itself is revealed through individual paragraphs of timed text. I wish I could have experienced the main story at the same speed as the background reading.

I needed time to get invested in this entry's narrative, but that investment paid off. Nuanced characters with understandable motives acted out a story arc that ended in satisfying personal development. I enjoyed it as an immersive work of fiction supported by well-timed, illustrative artwork.

However, an immersive work of fiction is not the same as an interactive one. Some choices were obviously meaningless, only altering a single line in the next passage or responding with text that ignored the choice completely. Most passages ended with simple "click to continue" buttons.

Although I tried to make choices as a level-headed senior officer, I suspect that I would have seen similar outcomes from the wild and impulsive options. It was still enjoyable, and I'd recommend it to others.

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This is version 3 of this page, edited by Zape on 10 October 2020 at 12:07pm. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item