Friday, December 10, 2010

An Assassin in Orlandes

I've been waiting for Tin Man Games gamebooks to come to the iPad. I tried out the first game - An Assassin in Orlandes - last night. I like it. Compared with the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, An Assassin in Orlandes is vastly superior.

The art, design and user interface work really well. The writing is decidedly competent. The writing scrapes the borders of try-hard descriptiveness, but never reaches it, so it's an enjoyable read. I like the use of Spanish to give it that exotic flavour. (I speak Spanish, so it's not so exotic for me, but it's a nice idea.) I noticed a few grammatical errors (an occasional missing comma or comma in the wrong place). Nevertheless, generally it was edited well and is easy to understand.

The story is a generic fantasy affair, but that's okay with me. It's quite intriguing.

The decisions - the core of a gamebook - appear decent. It's not just "do you turn towards direction X?" I felt like what I decided to do had a real impact on the game/story. At the beginning, you can choose to have one more drink at the tavern. The outcome is that your stats are lowered for a while. I'm totally fine with that sort of stuff. Most of the time it seemed like it would really matter if I chose one option over another. Of course, it can't matter too much, else you'd get in-exhaustive branching very quickly. It's the illusion of infinite choices that really makes the difference. Thus far, An Assassin in Orlandes holds up to that illusion.

A weird aspect of the choices, however, is the "if you choose to do X, turn to 345." What's with the "turn to 345"? This isn't a printed book, why present the user with worthless fluff? I found it quite distracting.

The achievements are great. It's very cool being rewarded for going off the beaten track. (I wasn't even aware I was off track, which made it even cooler.) Unlocking the pictures is a nice touch too.

One can bookmark various places in the story. That was something I always used to do in the printed books of yore (I used to use my fingers as bookmarks, switching back to a spot in the book and trying an alternate path). It was a clever idea to integrate bookmarks into the game, limiting the number you have access to based on what mode you want to play.

I don't like the combat. It involves watching the dice roll, few (almost no) decisions. What they really need is a rock, paper, scissors mechanic. And I have one:
Each round of combat you can choose to attack, parry or cast a spell. Depending on the class you choose at the start (fighting man, rogue or wizard) you get two dice for one of those manoeuvres and one die for the other two manoeuvres. Fighting man has two for attack, rogue two for parry, and wizard has two for cast.

While fighting, if you attack and your opponent casts, you get a +2 bonus to the die roll. Same if you cast and they parry or you parry and your opponent attacks; you get a +2 bonus. If you both choose the same manoeuvre, there is no bonus awarded. Otherwise, it'll be your opponent who gets the +2 bonus.

Therefore, if you chose fighting man, you'll be inclined to attack more often than parry or cast, but not if you're going up against a rogue. If the computer opponent made random decisions with a slight prevalence for its favoured manoeuvre, it would work well, I believe. Certainly better than watching digital dice resolve.
I haven't actually read all that much of the gamebook as yet, so my opinion may change. In the main, however, I'd say it's very good. The combat is utterly uninventive and redundant, but that's my only substantive criticism. This isn't exactly what I've asked for, but it's getting there.

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