Under the Surface – Fallen London Review
Text-based games? Nobody plays those anymore. That’s why we have graphics! I don’t want to read “Master Chief splattered a Covenant grunt on the side of his Banshee,” I want to see it in all its splattery detail!
There’s a lot to be said for super-pristine graphics with each hair on your character’s head being animated individually for maximum sexy awesomeness. I get it.
But we still read books, don’t we? We still read Twilight fanfics, don’t we? Well, maybe you do.
Fallen London, however, is no Twilight fanfic. It’s the modern-day incarnation of the very first type of video game, and it is magnificent in its scope, its quality, and its complexity.
It’s set in – you guessed it – Fallen London, an enormous underground city that supposedly has sprung to life in post-apocalyptic circumstances. Or something. It’s unclear at best. There’s a Victorian, slightly steampunk feel about the universe, and its gloomy streets are filled with delightful amounts of villainy, murder, debauchery, blackmail, and good old-fashioned scandalous lasciviousness. Sound interesting yet?
You are a nobody, descended from the “Surface,” something like a regular industrial-era Earth, into the depths of Fallen London. You spend action points (of course you do) to train skills, commit acts that are most certainly illegal, and discover layer upon layer of the mysteries surrounding this place and its history. Hence the quote about it being “unclear at best.” The further you dive in, the more you find out. And the more you find out, the more questions you have to ask yourself. What happened to the other cities that came before Fallen London? Why are there stars underground? Who are the Masters? Should I blow up this building?
Yes, there is a lot of reading to do. Yes, there are innumerable items, qualities, storylets, and layers of gameplay to learn. The learning curve, however, is nice and steady. By the time you’re wondering how many Echoes you’ll get if you convert all of your level 2 sticky items up by using your Urchin rep, you’ll be amazed at how easily you got there.
The thing I cannot stress enough about this game is that it is immersive. There are moments when you genuinely get a chill from the events taking place. There are times when you can be frustrated, elated, triumphant, curious, and sad. There are times when your palms will be sweaty with the risk you’re about to take. It’s shockingly well-written, and the further you delve into its many-layered mysteries, the more you begin asking yourself questions that you’re not sure you want to know the answers to.
For a free, online game, it has no equal. Try it, and lose yourself in the underworld.
P.S. If you try it, give the admins here at LTG a message, or over at the FB page and I’ll help you out with some goodies. You scratch my back, and so on. 🙂