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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 » Sun May 15, 2005 10:07 pm

Threnody by John Schiff

(((As featured In Reviews Exchange Issue 4)))

By far the most interesting aspects of Threnody takes place right at the very start of the game. Afterwards the player is born and it all goes downhill. Kind of like real life in order words… 

The game begins just before you are born. You're sliding down a canal and there's a cord wrapped around your throat. The canal can’t be examined (bad move – although considering what it actually is, that might be just as well) and there's not much to do here but wait for a while until you get your first real decision. Here you have to make a choice which will affect how the rest of the game plays out: choose the lion to be a warrior, the dragon to be a mage and the ferret to become a thief. I actually liked this idea and if I’d liked the game itself more than I did, I’d have probably played it through a few times to see what difference choosing different career paths made for you.

After that, alas, you're born. And the game gets less interesting.

I chose the path of the mage and the game jumped forward a number of years and plonked me outside a generic fantasy fortress in the middle of nowhere. Hardly the most riveting location for my adventure to properly begin. There's also no real clear idea of what I'm supposed to be doing here. Not the sort of thing that generally encourages me to keep playing a game.

But I persevered for a while. As I wandered around, the game filled in some of the gaps for me and I managed to figure out roughly what I was supposed to be doing.

I tried casting a few spells and ran into some annoying guess the verb problems. “cast spell” hits me with the truly annoying default error message “there's no verb in that sentence!” which always reminds me of English lessons back at school. Never a good sign. “cast spells” (note the ‘s’ on the end) works wonders. Suddenly I've got a whole horde of spells at my disposal; none in good ol’ fashioned English alas but I guess you can’t win ‘em all.

After wandering the bleak and not very interesting landscape around the fortress, I decided a bit of spell casting was in order. Unfortunately the game seemed to have other ideas, or maybe just liked giving me confusing messages. “cast volare” – a spell of weightlessness – just gave me “what do you want to cast the Volare spell?” Bit confusing there. “cast exubero” didn’t work at all and instead hit me with an error message which informed me the game didn’t understand the word “cast”. Considering I'm playing a spellcaster, that’s a pretty poor oversight. In the end, I figured out that the spells can only be cast at things. So “cast volare” will always hit you with an error message unless you're typing “cast volare at [something]”. Annoying.

Once I’d figured out the basics of what I was supposed to be doing, getting further in Threnody was fairly simply. Most of the puzzles, at least in the earlier parts of the game that I played, tended to involve simply figuring out which spell was required and casting it. As there doesn’t appear to be any actual limit on the amount of spells you can cast, you can just keep going through the list until you hit upon the right one. I only played Threnody from the mage’s point of view so I'm guessing that more warrior-like and thief-life ways of puzzle solving are also available.

So does the fact that there are three different paths through the game via the three classes you can choose (mage, warrior, thief) give the game added replay value? Not really. I didn’t dislike Threnody, I just didn’t find it that interesting. The generic fantasy world wasn’t anything very special and at no time did I feel like I was actually embarking on a wondrous journey. A lot of this is down to the way the game is written. Strange and magical events are given no more room than ordinary run of the mill ones and so while they are strange and they are magical, you never get the impression that they're anything very notable. Not to mention the fact that the generic fantasy setting has been done to death before, and much better.

Actually the most fun I had with Threnody was in typing in some of the games built-in silly commands (a list of which is accessible via the hint command). Peeing on the midwife amused me no end, childish that it was.

There are also a few annoying things missed out that I felt should have been covered, the main one being the lack of a “talk” command, with not even a default message to tell you to try something else.

But not a terrible game all told. I didn’t finish it. The game just didn’t interest me enough but the for hour or so that I played it, it was reasonably entertaining.

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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