Talk about anything and everything Squad-related here -- what you've been playing, what you're looking forward to, and how big your Pile of Shame has grown after that last Steam sale...
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Mechanical Elephants & Bathyscaphic Rail - 80 Days

by Alex Connolly » Sat Aug 09, 2014 1:23 pm

I had to make a new post for this iOS effort, because it's delicious.

Image

A Steampunk reimagining of Jules Verne's acclaimed novel, you play the part of long-suffering valet to Phileas Fogg, Jean Passepartout, and proceed to chaperone the expedition around the world in, yes, eighty days. Inkle's interactive fiction effort here has me by the short and curlies like nobody's business. It is terrific.

Gameplay has you seek out, plan and select different routes in a relentless charge Eastwards. Depending on your actions and interactions, routes open up across the map. Some save time, some offer lucrative stops to buy and sell wares, some are simply there as exotic backdrops and stages for this picaresque romp. The gameplay itself is secondary, and really only pertains to the raw mechanics of simple trade. However, itemisation does have certain narrative hooks and there's a plethora of goods that would draw a player away from an intended route into new territory. The world remains a vast place in Verne's world of fresh technology.

But the writing by Meg Jayanth is absolutely sumptuous. As a lover of the era, industrial history and travel writing in general, there is such a passion for the source material that it makes me giddy. Set against the tumult of the late Victorian, flared and frilled with the fantastical, it does more with writing and the tasteful user interface than any superfluous triple A graphics fest ever could. You get such a rich taste of an bygone era of travel, even when it's dealing with steampunk mechanica. Probing a grizzled Provodnik aboard the Trans-Siberian about the Vladivostok port, its closure on account of a brewing war with Japan, on alternate routes and live atop the frigid rails. Seeking an airship route to Lahore or a Bathyscape to Brisbane from the Dutch East Indies. Purchasing maps and liquor to use at the opportune times. Keeping Fogg's spirits high at the lowest of ebbs in the journey.

This is why we still have the written word permeate the gaming medium. Why there's such a thing as a Visual Novel in 2014. Why Twine exists. You cannot replicate the luxuriousness of a well-conceived sentence with motion capture or TressFX or Havok physics or a seven hundred-strong development team and their ability to render Rome to within a pixel of realistic flagstone texturing.

For every thousand gutless, F2P Bejeweled clones on the app store...for every hundred tepid action game ports with their inadequate virtual controls...you get things like 80 Days. We should be celebrating things like this as much as we pour petrol over iOS travesties like Dungeon Keeper and rightfully set them alight.



This game? Experience? This story is ace.
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Angry Jedi

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Re: Mechanical Elephants & Bathyscaphic Rail - 80 Days

by Angry Jedi » Sat Aug 09, 2014 1:42 pm

Thanks for giving the skinny on this. I've seen people showering it with praise recently, but no-one really mentioning what it actually is.

Agreed 100% on the written word thing. Words are still a powerful means of storytelling, and combined with interactive, multimedia elements -- even if those elements don't necessarily add up to what you'd traditionally call "gameplay" -- can provide a wholly unique means of enjoying a narrative.

I'll have to check this out.
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Re: Mechanical Elephants & Bathyscaphic Rail - 80 Days

by Alex Connolly » Sat Aug 09, 2014 3:07 pm

I think you'd dig it immensely, Pete. One of the finest things I've played this year, for sure.
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Re: Mechanical Elephants & Bathyscaphic Rail - 80 Days

by Alex Connolly » Sun Aug 10, 2014 4:20 am

An update...

I've run two journeys around the world now, and outside of the London-Paris run, I've had the pleasure not only of finding relatively different paths, but even when I return to cities I've traveled to prior, there's a good mixing of characters I hadn't yet met on previous travels. How far back I care to pull the curtains, I do not yet know, but it's a thrilling romp.

Snippet: Our airship from Thessaloniki to Constantinople was departing in four days, yet Fogg was furtive and insisted I find a way to the East faster. Turns out after chatting with a fellow that there was a way to leave at dusk and, rather than head into Asia Minor, reroute through Bucharest. We boarded a steam-powered Phaeton coach, drawn by mechanical horses, and roared through the winding darkness of the Romanian countryside. Fogg was taken by the chance at seeing not the bandits that plagued these roads, but the bears. Our driver was a wry chap and shrugged, figuring it was our coin. I made the case to not tarry, lest misfortune overtake us, and our carriage rattled on to greet the dawn and the old capital we sought.

Thrilling stuff.
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Re: Mechanical Elephants & Bathyscaphic Rail - 80 Days

by Beige » Mon Aug 18, 2014 2:44 pm

Where has THIS been all my life? Must investigate.

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