IFComp 2007: Varkana   Leave a comment

Review after the cut.

The figure is adorned with a necklace of gilded vine leaves, beads of lapis lazuli, and armbands with lion heads (a more ceremonial version of the ones you have). Her jet-inlaid eyes are outlined with thick black lines and she carries six weapons on her back; reminding you of Varkana’s tradition of initiating a warrior to all those six weapons before letting them specialize in one.

It’s obvious the author has a complete background for a richly imagined world; unfortunately, even in the epilogue the game is providing critical world background. Ideally, a SF game should work in two stages: the first (hopefully shorter one) lets the player absorb enough new material to understand the universe, while the second lets to player apply it. There isn’t anything wrong with constantly introducing new material, but in Varkana I never got the chance to feel immersed; the magic point where I felt I had all the pieces was right at the end of the game.

This wasn’t helped by the overall plot structure feeling aimless in the mid-game. If I open the hint menu and don’t understand why I care about any of the questions listed, that’s a bad sign.

Finally, the characters weren’t well-differentiated; their dialogue sounded very similar and I couldn’t pick on anything I would describe as a Character Attribute. I’m not suggesting a switch to the opposite style (where every character has a wildly colorful history and a bucketful of personal quirks) but every character needs a voice, and I didn’t sense that.

These negative points aren’t overwhelming, and the basic things — writing, implementation, and puzzles — are solid. I am just wistful in that we have the introduction to a story, rather than a full story proper.

Posted November 4, 2007 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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