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About the StoryYou are the very first Outer Worlder to gain an appointment on a Bio-Drive vessel, let alone as part of the engineering team. Looking to gain enough credits to procreate could this be your first and last journey?
Nominee - Kareene Veet, Best Individual PC - 2017 XYZZY Awards
13th Place - 23rd Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2017)
This is an obsessively detailed parser-based sci-fi story that took me the full two hours to play, albeit not all in one sitting. The richness of the game’s background, character backstories, and the number of rooms and detailed objects in them more than makes up for however many stories I have criticized as under implemented in this IFcomp.
The amount of detail is at first overwhelming, but I am sure it is only a fraction of the world that this author has generated. I don’t doubt that in creating this game, the author generated extensive histories of each alien world and extensive character sketches for each character, but had to make some tough choices about how much of this material to hold back on in order to condense the story to two hours of playing time.
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This is a well structured, almost puzzle-less sci-fi, with a brilliant PC and an incredibly detailed backstory, which could have aimed, imho, at a much higher outcome.
The most intriguing things revolve around racial (and racist) themes, told through the eyes of a special creature whose sole businesses in the universe seem to be procreation and money. And money because of procreation.
There are aspects of the subplot which are genius: the mating techniques of different races; how an Outworder sees us (provided the Inner Worlders are us); how racism can dwell in close environments; segregation.
Unfortunately, the story is presented through an endless array of posts and notes, and via the comments (on dead bodies) by a cold PC, who’s prime feature seems to be the lack of any empathy with anyone except her distant relatives and lovers. All of this sums up to a distinct vibe and a cool backstory that, in the end, fails in finding a route to the final outcome.
The atmosphere is strong (I was actually scared by the continuous opening and closing of doors, hinting at another survivor— the ship is full of dead bodies after an initial “incident”) although there is not much to do except reading tons of backstory. And this is first flaw of an otherwise impressive game.
Style apart (the text needs some more intense editing, due to the generative process it has to sustain), the fact that the main action you continuously do is reading notes or long flashbacks hinders the gameplay a bit. This sums up to the fact that navigation is hard due to a very symmetrical and squareish map (a map is provided and I would say it is fundamental for your survival).
But the main aspect — the thing that, eventually, lowered my experience most — is that, of all the important backstory told, the one which is central to the final twist (and there IS a final twist!) is overlooked enough that I simply forgot to notice. Saying more means spoiler, so I have nothing to add, if not that a much more “central” approach to something inside the ship would have done a better job in causing the final wow-effect.
Finally, the endgame, too, looks muddled and I failed to actually get what was happening in the ship until I woke up this morning with the proverbial epiphany.
To recap: I wish the main story was more “main” and the sub-plots (about race, gender, and the overall backstory) ended up being sub-plots and not the big finger in front of the moon. I wish I could understand more about the plot, something my “4-Good” ending didn’t convey (who was the one opening and closing the doors? I understood this after an 8-hours sleep, never having seen him during play!). I wish I could read less and do more, as a piece of Interactive Fiction should allow.
This said, I enjoyed this game a lot, and it frankly had me holding tight to the chair here and there, for some nice, perpetual sense of danger. A calm post-comp reset of the game is all it’s needed to put these few things straight.
But then lglasser said she loved it on her twitch stream, as did an Italian IFComp judge, so I gave it another shot, walkthrough-free.
This time around, I liked it. All reasonable commands seemed to be accepted. The game allowed a great deal of flexible exploration and a money system that worked. Exploration was all that was needed to trigger the story, and the hint system was just strong enough to get me through and just vague enough to make it a challenge.
It seemed oddly fixated an alien mating systems, but it was more National Geographic than anything else.
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