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City of Secrets

by Emily Short profile

Espionage/Fantasy
2003

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Reviews and Ratings

5 star:
(43)
4 star:
(38)
3 star:
(6)
2 star:
(2)
1 star:
(0)
Average Rating:
Number of Ratings: 89
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Large, engrossing,... and somewhat lacking., November 28, 2019
by Rovarsson (Belgium)
Emily Short is one of my favourite IF-writers, and when I found this big story-game with her name under the title, I pounced on it!

And it is good. Apart from being an immersive adventure and a detailed exploration of a fine city, deeper themes also shine through.

Truth above obscurity, even if truth also means complete transparency?

Creativity above strict order, even if creativity also means chaos?

The writing is top-notch, the NPC interactions feel real, the city and it's history hold the interest, but in the end, the game misses something.

Is it because the game is so good that I raised the bar impossibly high?

Finding an outdoor café where there were no interactive NPCs and where nothing story-moving happened disappointed me.
Finding out that a little nook in the gameworld, about which I dreamed up many possibilities, didn't play a role in the story didn't feel like a red herring, it felt like a let-down.
Finding out that certain information I found about myself didn't matter to the game was a pity.

But those are nitpicks, and very personal nitpicks at that.

This game is very very good. Just not as amazing as I really really wanted it to be. And that's on me.

So play it.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Good game, November 23, 2019
by Denk
Related reviews: inform
This game is kind of a spy thriller set in a city where magic and technology exist side by side. You, an innocent tourist, is aboard a train when the train suddenly breaks down. You will thus have to stay for a while in this city you never intended to visit. Quickly you will get involved in a plot.

The game starts of very well with some events happening, which makes the story progress smoothly. After this, you get to explore the city, have lots of conversations and you get to solve some puzzles along the way. More events will occur later after you have played for awhile, progressing the story further, even if you haven't solved that many puzzles.

It turns out that you do not need to solve all puzzles to complete the game. At one point I got stuck, so I searched the internet for a walkthrough. Apparently no one has made one, so when I finally managed to complete the game, I decided to write a walkthrough. Some events occur simply after a number of turns after something has happened. As a consequence, following the walkthrough you will at some point have to wait 90(!) turns as you wait for something to happen. However, the first time you play the game you will be using even more turns exploring the city and so it will feel natural that something suddenly happens. Only if you replay the game and you are trying to figure out how to trigger a certain event, you will realize that it will occur simply after many turns have passed.

It is my impression that this game cannot be made unwinnable, though I am not completely sure. It may also have more than one winning ending(?), though I only managed to find one. So, unless you are looking for alternative endings, you shouldn't need to restart the game. Should you die, you can always undo.

To complete this game you do not need to solve a lot of puzzles. However, there will be lots of conversations. The conversation system takes a little getting used to, but then it is quite convenient.

To sum up, this is a very well written story-driven game with a few puzzles and lots of conversation, which I can certainly recommend.

- erzulie, September 24, 2019

- Laney Berry, September 27, 2018

- comfortcastle (Sheffield, UK), August 18, 2018

- yaronra, July 16, 2018

- gnarp, January 29, 2018

- mapped, July 3, 2017

- KGH (North Carolina), September 15, 2016

- nosferatu, June 7, 2016

- penguincascadia (Puget Sound), February 20, 2016

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
A big fantasy city with many npcs, and epic storyline. Mid-to-long game, February 3, 2016
I only recently played this game, and it quickly became my favorite Emily Short game. I have seen in her notes that she often works ideas that she has into games as a proof of concept; for instance, Metamorphoses and Galatea were both intended as trial-of-concepts for ideas for a massive game that never took off.

I wonder if this game was a proof-of-concept for the city and npcs in Counterfeit Monkey. The idea of a sidebar, a map, numerous npcs with complicated conversation systems, and a large city seem very familiar between the two games.

This game is about a balance between two forces, but it is difficult to categorize the two. This is more of a story game than a puzzle game. There are some puzzles that are oddly difficult to solve, so I occasionally resorted to Victor Gisjber's hints. However, the game has many ways of hinting things to you if you look for them.

Like Counterfeit Monkey, this was a laggy game. Gargoyle had trouble with both of them, as have every other system I have used. I believe the refreshing graphics causes it.

Wonderful storyline and worldbuilding. Loved the final sequences, especially.

- Veraloo, January 20, 2016

- Sobol (Russia), November 20, 2015

- Catalina, November 5, 2015

- Trobairitz (USA), October 28, 2015

- Zoe, March 22, 2015

- Thrax, March 11, 2015

- prevtenet (Texas), October 5, 2014

- verityvirtue (London), June 25, 2014

- IFforL2 (Chiayi, Taiwan), May 19, 2014

- PVince81 (Germany), May 3, 2014

- Deychrome, March 20, 2014

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Strong on conversation, atmosphere, plot, and world-building, October 16, 2013
by streever (America)
I really enjoyed City of Secrets, my first Emily Short game, and spent several hours on it over a two week period.

It is very easy-going in the puzzles: this is more a game of conversation and exploration.

The world-building is impressive. I never felt like I was reading a wall of text, but I understand the world I was in and was not confused. The world she created here is rich and deep, and at times, written with sparse, minimalist prose. I mean to say that Short doesn't waste our time with over-wrought descriptions and backstory. Important information is communicated simply but eloquently.

I enjoyed this and would recommend it to anyone who is new to IF. You won't die at random, and it seems nearly impossible to get stuck. The writing and pacing are a treat.

I had some "guess the verb/guess the action moments" at the very end, but it wasn't hard to figure out what I was supposed to do--re-reading the text and thinking carefully, I saw that the appropriate verbs were at least hinted at. I wouldn't ascribe any of my late game confusion to the author or the piece.

If you are seeking something fiendishly difficult, I'd recommend moving on, but keep this in your queue: when you need a break from mind-benders, you can enjoy the writing and atmosphere of this game.

- Adam Myers, September 19, 2013


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