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Fire In The Blood

A forum where new and old games can be reviewed - an alternative to the reviews on the Adventures page of the main ADRIFT site. Also the place to ask for any assistance if you are stuck playing a particular game.

Postby David Whyld » Mon May 09, 2005 8:19 pm

Fire In The Blood - By Richard Otter

*** As featured in Reviews Exchange Issue 4 ***

The introduction to Fire In The Blood is quite a bit better than those in Richard Otter’s previous games and does a good job of setting the scene. Your wife has been murdered and you have decided to find the killer, and then exact a little ‘payback’ for their crime.

Unfortunately there are a number of things which bring the game down. As with all of the author’s previous works (with the exception of the mini-comp gamp We Are Coming To Get You!), there an abundance of items scattered all over the place, the purpose of which is sometimes difficult to figure out. As you wander around the game, you'll pick up more and more items and while there are a few that serve an obvious purpose (the spade and some of the weapons), the majority just seem to be either red herrings or ones whose purpose isn’t easy to discern. Then, too, there are the NPCs. There are a fair number of them moving around the game. On the plus side, they can be questioned about a wide range of subjects and can offer some useful information. On the down side, they aren’t very interesting characters. The descriptions for them are often brief and to the point and what they say isn’t anything particularly rewarding. On top of that, their dialogue tends to be italicized and features very poor grammar, thus the reading of it is often stilted.

By far the game’s worse aspect is the way the player will frequently react in unlikely ways:

You are suddenly overwhelmed by a complete feeling of depression and you shout to yourself, "If only that meeting hadn't gone on so long!”

You are suddenly overwhelmed by a complete feeling of worthlessness and you hear yourself mutter, "Jane."

A dozen or more times during my first play through the game, I saw this happening and it got steadily more irritating the longer I played. Just like the creepy sensations that featured in the author’s last game, Darkness, this sort of thing is fine when used in moderation but too often and it makes the player come across as some kind of babbling idiot.

The hardest thing about Fire In The Blood is, as with other games by the author, trying to figure out just what needs to be done. This is clearly an author who doesn’t believe in making his games easy to get into. You are presented with a large number of locations to explore, NPCs to interact with and items to collect, but actually guessing how you're supposed to make a start with finding your wife’s murderers isn’t clear. In a smaller game with less NPCs and less items, it might be possible to hit upon the correct path by trying everything and just hoping something works. In a game the size as this one, you're likely to struggle. I think I’d been playing for about an hour, had collected over a dozen items, visited every location I could find and had spoken to every NPC there was… and then I just found myself at a loss as to how I was supposed to get any further. Short of asking every single NPC in the game about every single subject I could think of – a mammoth task considering the number of NPCs and possible subjects – it’s hard to know what needs to be done. I even ended up strangling some guy in the park with a rope just because he was there, I had the rope and the game would let me do it. Was he the guilty party? I don’t know but it felt so good to actually be doing something instead of trying to figure out things to do, that I just killed him anyway.

Fortunately there's a good hints system to fall back upon. I was reluctant to use this to begin with as I tend to think using the hints system is cheating, but unless you're amazingly good at text adventures, or just amazingly persistent, it’s likely you're going to find yourself consulting the hints again and again.

Relying on the hints soon reveals several things about the game that are likely to get the better of all but the most persistent of players. Characters need to be asked about other characters yet there never seems to be any clear reason why the player would question them about these characters. Maybe I'm missing something and the clues are there after all, or maybe the author just expects everyone to either be amazingly persistent and question every character about every other character, or to use the hints system as often as possible.

Dealing with the people who killed your wife is a difficult task, not helped much by the fact that obvious commands don’t seem to be recognised half of the time. I successfully managed to uncover who one of the killers was (well, okay I followed the hints) but after admitting to me that he had killed her, I then tried to kill him only to be hit with the unhelpful ADRIFT default command of “now that isn’t very nice”.

The hints also led me to a strange little occurrence which might be a bug or might just be me. One hint advises me that I can use the bottle as a weapon if I break it. So I type “break bottle” only to have someone shout at me not to break it in my current location (the old tennis court). So I leave the old tennis court and try again to break it. This time I'm told I don’t have the bottle. Sure enough, I check my inventory and see I don’t have it (turns out I gave it away earlier on). Puzzled, I go back to the old tennis court and again try to break the bottle and again get shouted at. Examining the tennis court doesn’t reveal a bottle to me so I'm not quite sure what's going on but clearly the game seems to expect me to break a bottle here. Weird.

To begin with, I liked Fire In The Blood but the more I played it, the less it appealed to me. It’s a large and pretty much directionless game in which nothing is very clear and the only progress you are likely to make is either via the hints or sheer dogged persistence. The writing is average but never becomes anything better than that, and the NPCs are just not really interesting enough to care about. The author needs to work on adding some much needed emotional content to his games.

5 out of 10
David Whyld
Posts: 6926
Joined: Sat Dec 18, 2004 5:15 pm
Location: United Kingdom
Points: 35

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