IFComp 2016: The Skull Embroidery   Leave a comment

By Jeron Paraiso. Played on desktop, not completed.



The Skull Embroidery is a self-described “dungeon crawl” that includes an interface that reminds me of old BBS door games.

=========[Action Menu | Ap: 3]==========
(w)ait -> End your turn (0ap)
(i)nspect -> Inspect something (1ap)
(t)ravel -> Travel somewhere (2ap)
(g)rab -> Pick something up (1ap)
(c)onsume -> Eat or drink something (1ap)
(st)atus -> Check your current state (0ap)
(j)ournal -> Write down your progress (0ap)
(q)uit -> Quit the game (0ap)
[action menu | ap: 3]>

This is a full, non-abashed combat RPG, with statistics for Strength, Dexterity, and Perception. There’s also hit points, poison/disease status, and a hunger system.

To interact, you type the initial letter (or two letters) of the command you want and hit enter. There was something similar in last year’s I Think the Waves Are Watching Me but somehow it comes off as even more awkward here. For example, rather than picking a direction, travel involves first picking “t” and then choosing a direction off a numbered list. I often would accidentally go the wrong direction and have to loop back again.

All actions have “action points” such that a “round” is over once one’s action points are depleted. This makes sense (somewhat) when dealing with enemies, except enemies did not seem to actually react between turns; occasionally they would attack at the beginning or middle. I cannot see any reason at all for the action point system when combat is not in play. Because travelling takes two action points, for each step I took I had to first “travel” and then “wait” to burn the extra useless action point.

In combat you first pick (a) to attack, then choose who is going to get attacked (even if there’s only one enemy, which there usually is) and then choose what type of attack to me (usually always the same attack). Defending takes another commands. Quite often it would take 20 or more key-presses (all repetitive) to take down a simple beetle. To make matters worse there just aren’t any interesting options. You can “inspect” for weak points to get more powerful hits, and consume healing items, but for the most part it’s just an awkward cycle of attack-defend-attack-defend.

The Old Man: “Now, explain yourself quickly. Where were you headed before your mount fainted and succumbed to treachery?”

Taking a moment to think, you realize you can’t remember anything about where you were going, or who you are.

You: “I can’t seem to remember anything at all.”

There is something a plot, summarized above. You awake in a forest with amnesia, and your objective is to escape. Early on youn meet an old man who conveniently has a cottage nearby you can rest in. He also will take things you’ve looted from enemies (insect meat and the like) and craft it into items for you.

Strength, Dexterity, and Perception all can gain experience points in combat. If they gain enough points, resting at the old’s man house gains them a level.

I got through the first task (finding a scroll with directions) and using it made my way through a forest maze, but I was soundly defeated by some sort of guardian with a poisoned sword. I’m fairly certain getting through would require some experience point grinding, but I was far past the two-hour mark at this point. I have been forgiving of RPG entries in past IFComps (see The Lost Dimension from 2007 or Onaar from 2015) but in its present state I just can’t recommend this one at all. I like the ambitions of its systems, but it needs, at the very least, a saner interface; fast-paced combat and movement might make it tolerable.

Posted October 13, 2016 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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