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by Jason Devlin


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Number of Reviews: 9
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1-9 of 9

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
You're breaking my heart. You're shaking my confidence. , October 1, 2020
by deathbytroggles (Minneapolis, MN)
I was really looking forward to playing Vespers after reading reviews that it had similarities to Anchorhead, though I was left underwhelmed. I'm bummed, too, since Vespers has so many good things going for it.

The setting is damn near perfect. Playing a monk during the plague, watching everyone decompensate and die around him, is ripe for vivid imagery and tension. At times the game reaches that pinnacle. There are many subtle changes to the environment that occur as everything collapses, and in general, reexamining things on a regular basis is horrifying and rewarding. I also appreciate that while time moves forward with plot triggers, they are not always obvious at the time, which helped keep me in the moment. In this way Vespers succeeds as a successor to Anchorhead.

For me, though, just about everything else here is a misstep. The most egregious is that the game frequently does not remember things you have already done. I counted at least four instances on my first playthrough where the descriptions given do not match what is actually happening. For example, (Spoiler - click to show)if you ask Lucca about the flagstone while he's locked in the calefactory, he responds as if he's still in Matteo's room. Also, if you examine the bell after Matteo dies, the game responds as if he's still alive. While it's not expected that an author catch every single random thing a player can try, this happens more often in Vespers than just about any well-received game I've played, and it took me out of the moment every time.

The horror also didn't hit the right beats for me. Part of that is everything goes sour perhaps a little too quickly, so while I'm still digesting one horror, the next one is thrown at me before I have time to relax. By the end I was a bit numb to it all. I think part of that is also I didn't have time to really get to know any of the other monks, and with the exception of Drogo, they all kind of seemed the same to me. I wasn't invested in any of their fates, so when terrible things happened, I just shrugged it off.

I'm lukewarm on the multiple endings based on the moral choices you make. Vespers avoids the pitfalls of Tapestry, in that you aren't force fed choices and nothings feels overly moralistic. On the other hand, it's hard to tell (unless you do something truly horrific) that you're even making moral choices most of the time. Adventurers tend to just take the easiest path, and to not find out until the end that there was a harder but more rewarding path feels like the game played me a bit. Wishbringer and Counterfeit Monkey offer a more satisfying alternative by telling you at the outset that most every puzzle has both an easy and a hard solution, and neither of them are right or wrong. Just different.

I'm a broken record at this point, but in a serious dramatic piece, I much prefer there be one story with one ending. Replaying Vespers by making more despicable choices feels very icky, as it's no longer a character I'm playing at this point but rather me deciding to do despicable things.

I did enjoy my first run-through and it was the right amount of difficult. But with all the problems I have no desire to see it through again.

Featured on Radio K: Ask/Tell #11, August 10, 2018
by Adam Cadre (Albany, California)
Clare Parker Fischer, Alex Hoffer, and I discuss Vespers at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6R_ecqf7vI#t=10s

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A horror game in a monastery with extremely disturbing imagery, February 3, 2016
This is a game that very acvurately portrays a horrible situation, and thus left me feeling uncomfortable. Its not the kind of game I enjoy playing.

You play the abbot of a monastery that has been afflicted with plague, and you have to take control of the situation while everyone goes crazier and crazier.

The game features many npcs and strong moral choices. You can choose to do truly horrible things, including (Spoiler - click to show)rape, murder, eating corpses,etc., and egen if you choose the best paths, people around you (Spoiler - click to show)crucify others, violently commit suicide, etc.

I'm not proud that I completed this game. I came back to it years later, like scratching a scab you know you shouldn't.

3 of 4 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".

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Clever and Disturbing, November 30, 2013
Clever and disturbing! I found it very reminiscent of "Name of the Rose", with a very creepy supernatural atmosphere.

(Spoiler - click to show) Vesper's map

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Ewww. Catch 22., April 17, 2013
by Andromache (Hawaii)
I'm starting to think games with a Christian component really aren't for me. I always end up feeling dissatisfied and conflicted, that ultimately, I'm somehow to blame for having an IF mindset or an ethical code. I understand that in Vespers' case, it was kind of unavoidable, but I'm still left feeling like I've been judged unfairly. Maybe I am just angry that none of the endings I found were really to my liking.

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.

4 of 17 people found the following review helpful:
Extremely overrated, December 26, 2009
by Andreas Teufel (Poland)
OK I've decided I don't care whether any of the haters vote no, I give only my honest opinion, and I don't run with the pack (or rather flock)



Name of the Rose all over again? It is impossible to deny the influence (right to the end (or rather one of them)).

Good points

- while this is an Anchorhead-like game in that you have to walk around and see what room description has changed, in contrast to the aforementioned game it's generally not too hard to advance the plot, I was able to guess most things the game expected me to do

- puzzles are solveable and logical (very big plus)

- style is ok

- technically good

Neutral points

- multiple endings, but I don't have the slightest desire to see them

Bad points

- there is little logic in the plot or characters, e.g. why should you (Spoiler - click to show)pray to a woman! In the end, everything goes to hell, also literally.

- the world never comes alive (big minus point), descriptions are too minimalistic, interactivity is severely limited, rooms generally feel very bare

- little fun stuff (stuff that is not needed to complete the game), I don't think you (Spoiler - click to show)find a single item you don't need to complete the game other than the notes

- syntax isn't really flawless, there are bad responses and I think even some typos

- the game is never actually interesting or gripping, nor deep, it could as well be set on the moon, what were you reviewers playing!!!

best NPC nominee?! Twice?! I cannot jot down how angry that makes me!!!

game of the year?! with every mediocre or bad award-winning game I play the artistical level of interactive fiction seems lower and lower to me

where is the Planescape: Torment of IF?! there MUST be one... I will continue searching.

Vote no. I command you to.

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful:
Apocalypse a Few Centuries Ago, July 2, 2008
by C.E.J. Pacian (England)
As a hypochondriac, I stopped playing Vespers as soon as I read the word 'plague'. And then, a few days later, I started playing it again. Something about its atmospheric depiction of an abbey barricaded against the Black Death drew me back, not because it was pleasant, but because it was quite thoroughly sinister.

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.

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful:
Haunting, memorable, January 17, 2008
by incandenza (carrboro, north carolina)
I still think about Vespers nearly a year and a half after first playing through it. In the game you are a monk in charge of a monastery during the plague years of Europe. The nearby town has succumbed to disease, and the abbey is the last available refuge. The game takes place over a few days as the plague begins to infiltrate this remaining sanctuary. Dark secrets are uncovered, and the abbey itself is one of the strongest and most dynamic characters in the game. Though not for the faint of heart, or those who are easily offended by violence or religious questioning, the sense of place, immersive character, and interesting NPCs make this one of my favorite IF works.

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