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- Edo, December 18, 2020
- ryd5185, November 14, 2020
5 of 5 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.
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