Interactive fiction, both choice- and parser-based games, is primarily a plaintext-based medium. It’s therefore good to see a game to takes a more visual approach to the genre, still providing an interactive narrative but using illustrations to drive rather than merely support the prose. “Abbess Otilia’s Life and Death” presents itself as a historical medieval chronicle of the titular nun and the administration of her abbey.
Gameplay: The work’s charming central conceit of being a medieval document is emphasized throughout, with period-appropriate illustrations, font choices, vocabulary, and even a song included in the game. Playing the game really does feel like reading a recovering medieval document, complete with snide commentary in the marginalia. It’s a choice-based game with about ten decision points, and the choices I made did feel like they mattered. The conclusion of the game, for example, summarizes the choices you made and both how they influenced the world and how they affected other characters’ impressions of the abbess. It’s a nice touch that brings together the story as a coherent narrative rather than an indepedent series of choices. 8/10.
Mechanics: The choices are clearly laid out in the text, and (from replying the game) the different paths are genuinely distinct. Aside from the choices themselves, the player can click to translate the marginalia and Latin quotations in the main text. Still, I would have liked more variety and deeper effects from the various decisions; the game was primarily a series vignettes to sketch out Otilia’s character, and it didn’t feel to me as a player that I had much ability to influence the larger the setting and plot. 7/10.
Presentation: The art for this game is amazing. In fact, it feels more like a work of visual art than fiction simply because of all of the rewarding effort that has clearly gone into the illustrations. Even the font and text layout suggest a medieval manuscript. The game is not just a work of fiction, but a beautiful work of visual art as well. There are a couple of typos (“whos bird was whos”, “Peregrins are really to big”), but nothing that detracted from my enjoyment of the game.
It may not be clear if you’re reading through these posts chronologically that I’m stingy about giving out scores at the high ends of the scales. If this work doesn’t deserve a perfect score for presentation, though, nothing does. 10/10.
You might be interested in this game if: You have an interest in medievalism, especially visual art in that style.