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Saturday, 9 July 2016

Open Sorcery.


Open Sorcery.

Now for something a little bit different - a text-based indie game! I'm pretty sure this is the first text-based indie game we've ever done on this blog, so that's all very exciting. I'm actually not sure if I'm going to be able to spin eight-hundred words out of this, though, so this might end up being a shorter review than usual.

Open Sorcery is a free text-based indie game/interactive short story in which you play as the BEL/S Elemental Firewall v.5.6, an artificial creature of magic and fire created to protect four places: Its two creators' homes, an old person's home, and a local high school. Going through and dealing with threats, you have the option to negotiate, destroy, or ask for help dealing with the various threats you encounter, and to pursue self-awareness if you so wish. Before long, however, disaster strikes, when a death curse and a powerful, malevolent water spirit attack in quick succession, and your choices as the Firewall come back to haunt you.

Created by Abigail Corfman, the game contains a good ninety-thousand words of text, five animated sequences, and eight possible endings - which is pretty impressive. I've currently only gotten four of them.

So, as you might expect, it's technically a fairly simple game. There's text on the screen, you progress through it by clicking certain words to either alter them, expand them out into full explanations, or to branch down several different paths by making different choices. Quite often, this takes the form of fulfilling the Firewall's basic function, scanning for a threat (using an element and a motive, which can be gleaned from paying attention to clues in the text) and then deciding the best way to deal with it, whether to destroy it, attempt to talk to it, or contact one of your creators.

It's a simple concept, but it makes for some quite varied, interesting turns of story and gameplay, as you experiment with the different ways of dealing with threats, and approach the various different challenges involved. Broadly speaking, reacting with violence increases your firepower, befriending threats gives you new elements to use, and contacting your creators (or any of the other humans around) increases your relationship with them.

There's no wrong path, really, but the choices you make affect how you'll approach the final threat, a water spirit that wants to feed on people, with an attached time limit. For example, certain allies can attend to different parts of the problems it's creating in different ways, but only if your relationship is high enough with them; using extra elements against certain problems will use up those elements, but not affect your firepower; and if you have higher firepower, you have more to spend on dealing with the water spirit's havoc yourself, and also have to do less to get its own power down to the point where you can defeat it.

Which I like, because it gives your choices genuine weight, as you attempt to figure out through multiple playthroughs the best way to achieve victory against it with the fewest losses. That's the main reason I've played through this game so much, and it offers a greater replay value than - well, most triple-A games.

It's also a pretty short game - it takes about twenty minutes to half an hour to play all the way through, so you can blur through it pretty easily, which is useful when you have a game that actively encourages multiple replays. It's also short enough that it doesn't outstay its welcome: As mentioned before, it's pretty simple from a gameplay standpoint, and much longer and it might have been in danger of becoming boring.

As far as the story goes, it's actually genuinely touching. I ended up really sympathising with - well, everyone, but especially with BEL/S and her earnest need to protect everyone. In my first playthrough, I experimented with seeing if I could make her turn evil, and I'm kind of glad that I couldn't. 

This was a really good text-based game, basically, and I recommend it. It can be found here.

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