IFComp 2014: The Secret Vaults of Kas the Betrayer   Leave a comment

Attempts to locate the party failed, primarily because of poor villagers being paid for their silence by Kas’s crew.

The few reports that did reach the King’s court consisted of rumors about a dwarf who split the mountain and built a palace filled with riches before the sunset on a single day.

A.E. Jackson’s The Secret Vaults of Kas the Betrayer goes for fantasy heft straightaway with its title. I kept a running “word map” of all the references, because in this sort of game I find it easy to get lost in a sea of names. (I did end up finding the fantasy backstory to have the right amount of thickness; not too dense, not too implausible.)

A partial word map.

A partial word map.

This is a choice-game that tries to keep up both a minimalist interface and exploration-with-objects simultaneously. I started to accidentally click the wrong thing multiple times when I was trying to transverse the rooms and went in circles. I also started to lose track of objects the player character picked up. Early on, for instance, there’s a pack with “a climber’s kit, some iron rations, a flint and tender, two large empty sacks, and a battered crowbar” and there is no way to see that those objects are in fact now inventory items (unless one reuses the same option which hits a bug and has the PC finding and picking up the pack again).

There are puzzles, all of the “find the right sequence” or “pick the right symbol” type. They are clued via a “strange poem”:

Up, And, Up, Up to a way!

It will weigh on you until you find your way.

Everyone praises Kas’s generosity, except the unknown penitent one.

A giant enters as the sun melts ice into an ocean under the moon for wealth.

A narrow passage to endure, avoid tragedy to receive your reward.

“Oh my! What lovely lavalier!” – “Well you know green is the new gold!”

If you’re wondering why this doesn’t look familiar even though you played the game, this poem was not in the first version released at the start of the competition. (Moral: Even Twine needs beta-testers.)

Unfortunately, the puzzles are of the oblique variety; in two cases I solved the puzzle first then worked out how the verse might possibly match after the fact. Even in the parts I worked out, deciding one lateral interpretation was superior to another was not the most satisfying of puzzle solves.

There’s a trio of possible endings which result from the very last step, although each one can be checked in turn with the browser “back” button (similar to a parser game checking endings with an “undo” button). The trio of overlapping endings diluted their concluding effect. This is a general problem with “last turn chooses ending” games and I don’t think anyone has quite solved it.

Posted October 27, 2014 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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