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A Final Grind

by nrsm_ha


(based on 7 ratings)
3 member reviews

About the Story

Text-based RPG where your character becomes weaker over time. A game about frustration, regret, and slaying goblins.

Use of a calculator is to be considered cheating.

Game Details

Language: English (en)
First Publication Date: October 1, 2018
Current Version: Unknown
License: Freeware
Development System: Twine
IFID: Unknown
TUID: pxni6qpssmx2zhgp


72nd Place - 24th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2018)


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Number of Reviews: 3
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Kill monsters with multiplication, July 3, 2019
by Victor Gijsbers (The Netherlands)
I wanted to like this game. I have a soft spot for games that combine interactive fiction with RPGs, and also a soft spot for traditional dungeon crawls. Furthermore, although the game’s premise seems tired and cliched – rescue miners from a mine filled with goblins and orcs – the author nevertheless manages to make it feel fresh. The scene in the storage room, for instance, where you remember your training days? That’s great! Nothing fancy, but enough to turn a standard scenario into something more memorable.

Unfortunately, the game suffers from two big problems: an annoying combat system and a severe lack of testing. To take the latter first, (Spoiler - click to show)if you try to crack open the safe, you get stuck on a page with a dead link. In some circumstances – I do not know which ones – the spade cannot be found in the storage room even though you have seen the cave-in. When you arrive at the magical barrier, the page displays an error message and some code. It seems to me that even some mild beta testing would have caught these problems.

I would nevertheless have persisted if it had not been for the fact that the combat system becomes annoying rather quickly. There’s only one action you should ever take: parry. Parrying leads to a sort of mini-game where you have to answer a question of arithmetic in order to succeed. It reminded me a little bit of Typing of the Dead, in which you must practice blind typing to kill zombies. Here you must practice calculation to defeat goblins and orcs. That might be fun... if it were not for the following:

1. You have to do far too much of it. A single fight can easily consist of four to five parries, and there are many, many fights. Not so much the main story ones – they are limited. But the random encounters just pile up, and it happens regularly that you finish a random encounter only to immediately begin another one and then yet another one afterwards.

2. The questions seem to come from a rather short pre-made list. This in itself is mysterious: it seems easy to have a computer come up with random arithmetic questions. Instead, you will get the same questions again and again, so the game quickly turns into memorising the answers and typing them in when needed. This removes any feeling of skill or satisfaction.

3. The difficulty of the questions varies immensely. You might be asked what 2+2 is, but you might also be asked for the derivative of x cos(2x). Who is the target audience here? Anyone who can so much as understand what the second question means, will be insulted by the ease of the first question. (It would make some sense to have easy questions for easy opponents and hard questions for hard ones, but I don’t think it works that way.)

4. And then there’s the impossible question: “-13 x - 7 is 46, so what is x?” Well, it is -53/13, the decimal expansion of which is infinite. As far as I could figure out, getting this question is an instant loss, because you cannot give a correct answer. (Typing in the fraction doesn’t work.)

After a while I noticed that my enjoyment of the game had vanished and had been replaced a feeling of exhausted annoyance whenever another random encounter appeared on my screen. So I decided to quit. (I did not, by the way, find a way to restore saves, even though you can supposedly save the game.) There is something fine here, but changes need to be made before it can actually be enjoyed.

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A sardonic commentary on RPGs, November 21, 2018
This is not your usual text-based role-playing game. In fact, I'm convinced that it's intended to be a sardonic commentary on role-playing games - and particularly of the noble, heroic figure that seems to be the classic RPG player character.

To start with, the game calls itself "A Final Grind." Grinding is one of the un-fun things you nevertheless sometimes have to do in an RPG. It's not why you play RPGs. Then, the game bills itself as being about "frustration, regret, and slaying goblins."

There's also the fact that (as you gradually come to realize), while the PC does have a quest, he really has entered this particular dungeon not in order to complete the quest but to die. His self-loathing and exhaustion increase with every level (never his strength, the only other stat). He's tired of fighting, and he repeatedly dissuades a younger character he encounters from ever becoming a hero. In fact, the PC says something like real heroes are those who settle down and raise families. The PC says that the only skill he's ever learned from his misspent youth is murdering monsters, so he's not capable of doing anything else. Also, at the very end, (Spoiler - click to show)after you kill the goblin king and save the Duke's son, the PC's emotional reaction is primarily to lament the death of the majestic being he's just killed. He also deeply regrets that he had come into these mines to die and hadn't even managed to get himself killed.

A Final Grind goes one step further, though, in that it very much recreates the feeling of grinding through a dungeon. For one, you quickly realize that the optimal action in each encounter is to (Spoiler - click to show)parry, as opposed to attacking or using magic. In most RPGs, you nearly always want to go on offense, not defense. Every time you attempt to carry out this action, though, the game requires you to solve a math problem. And these math problems are all over the place, from kindergarten-level arithmetic to calculus to questions that require lightning-fast calculation tricks (you're supposed to answer the math questions within ten seconds) - and even to a question whose answer is a fraction that the game doesn't appear to recognize. Not only that, the questions repeat multiple times, so after you've solved a semi-interesting one you find yourself having to type in the same answer again and again. I'm a mathematician, and even I don't have the patience for this.

(Editorial: Do not write games that pull the player out of the main flow of the story in order to solve what are effectively a collection of math homework problems that have nothing to do with the plot. It's not very educational, since we tend to retain knowledge only when it is integrated into some overarching framework. It also reinforces the stereotype of math as something boring that's completely disconnected from real life. That said, this feature does work in A Final Grind, since it very much creates that feeling of grinding. End editorial.)

As if this wasn't enough, A Final Grind also features far more than its share of random encounters, particularly on the second level. There were multiple times where I fought a group of monsters, then immediately had to fight another group of monsters, then immediately had to fight a third group of monsters. Then I got to move one step further down the corridor and do it all over again. (And again, every one of these encounters requires you to solve multiple math problems if you're playing optimally.) By the time you get close to the end, every step feels like a major slog.

The game also features some unpleasant bugs. However, they're kind of in keeping with what the game is doing - especially a bug at the very end.

I think I'm actually impressed with A Final Grind. Getting through it did feel like a grind. I think that's exactly the experience the game is going for. However, I'm not sure I want to have that experience again.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A combat RPG investigating a mine with math-based mechanics, February 1, 2019
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours
This is a twine RPG with an interesting mechanic: you can either do randomized attacks against a single opponent at once, with them randomly attacking back, or you can consistently do 10 damage to all enemies and block their attacks by answering math questions. Questions are hand-written, not randomized, so you can see the same ones over and over, reflecting your increasing skill. They range from "2+2=?" to "what is the first derivative of xcos(x)", so if you enjoy being quizzed on arithmetic, algebra, and calculus, this is the game for you (I enjoy that, so I liked it).

I did get stuck on level 2, after finding the altar and decoding the writings. I did skip some material on level 1, so maybe I missed a ladder? In any case, this seems like a fun RPG, though I wonder if there is a 'story behind the story', because leveling up never increases strength, it only increases exhaustion and self-loathing.

(I wrote this review during the comp. After, I investigated more of the code and found the endings, and I do believe this RPG has an overall theme related to resignation and/or stoicism, but I don't want to spoil it).


This is version 3 of this page, edited by Doug Orleans on 25 November 2018 at 6:10pm. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item