Sunday, November 28, 2010

Echo Bazaar: The strange tale of Fallen London

I've recently been hooked by a browser game called Echo Bazaar. Its a clever little thing with a rather wonderful atmosphere and turn of phrase.

Victorian London was stolen (or maybe it was sold, it's not entirely clear) and is now located several miles under the earth. Some things haven't changed - there are urchins, and criminals, and a crazed killer on the loose (the mysterious Face Tailor). But there are some things about that really shouldn't be - Hell has an embassy here, and devils go about their business like any other person; death isn't permanent for the cunning or ruthless; nightmares are very real; and a drop of the mysterious Prisoner's Honey will transport you somewhere else....

Practically, it is a mostly text game (although items and stories have some wonderfully evocative illustrations) where you have ten actions to spend on mini stories, with these actions refreshing at a regular rate. You can also refresh once a day by Twittering an advert for the game.

Stories range from one-off encounters from your opportunities deck - contact from a maiden aunt, or an invitation to see The Duchess - to complex storylets with multiple choices and opportunities - the Mushroom Jumping Races, clearing your house of a vermin infestation, or seducing an impoverished artist.

Everything you do can affect your four stats - Dangerous, Watchful, Persuasive and Shadowy - or give you "status ailments" like Nightmares, Scandal, Wounds or Suspicion. Some key decisions can give you a reputation for Hedonism, Ruthlessness or even Daring. And you can build up a network of connections from the urchins and criminals all the way up to the devils and high society. You might even become a player in the Great Game.

So what have I been up to in the game?
I very foolishly flirted with devils, and met up with them at the circus for a chat.
I brought a message back for a greiving widow when I escaped death.
I invited my aunt down to the city to live the life she's always dreamed of.
I've played with the hearts of an artist and his model.
I've protected urchins from thugs.
I've made progress on discovering the secrets of the Face Tailor
I've made it my life's ambition to hunt and kill the mysterious creature The Vake.
And I've been bitten by The Eater of Chains while rescuing a family.

Of all the rest that last one worries me the most. My girlfriend thinks I'm mad for being on first name terms with minions of hell, but that festering bite mark has all sorts of dangerous and exciting story potential. I wonder where it will lead?

Join in the Echo Bazaar here

Or read the blog of the designers for all sorts of interesting gossip