App Review: The City’s Thirst by Max Gladstone
Remember reading Choose Your Own Adventure books as a kid? I used to gobble those up and am excited that my daughters can now control the outcomes of their literary adventures as I did. Because your choices matter!
I’ve moved on to define my adventures in games like BioWare’s Dragon Age and Mass Effect, but sometimes, I just want some good old fashioned reading entertainment. Turns out that, as an adult, I can have just that. I can still have a say in the stories I read because of course there are choose your own adventure-type reading experiences for adults. Thanks to a tweet from Max Gladstone, I was reminded that the Craft Sequence author has augmented his incredible world with two side stories based in this format: Choice of the Deathless and Deathless: The City’s Thirst.
The stories created by Choice of Games LLC and written by Max Gladstone are available for iOS, Amazon Kindle, Steam, and Google Play, or you can play in your web browser. The text-based games company has several stories available, though I have only checked out the Craft Sequence ones so far. The available stories allow you an introductory taste before you hit a pay wall of less than $5, which isn’t much to ask for a well-crafted story in an interesting format. Choice of Games also offers their proprietary software, ChoiceScript, to creators looking to script their own text-based game.
I have not explored Choice of Games’ other offerings, but I definitely jumped into the Craft Sequence adventures to become Avani Hawke and Calli Shepard (speaking of Dragon Age and Mass Effect, I see what you did there, Mr. Gladstone! There really was no other choice in character surnames for me.)
In Choice of the Deathless, you are a lawyer clawing your way to the top with a major case. Who you befriend and betray along the way and whether or not you pay those pesky student loans all factors into your story. Do you play the cutthroat gaming of lawyeriness? Or are you a little more honest and fair. I opted for the latter.
In Deathless: The City’s Thirst, the fate of Dresediel Lex’s water supply is in your hands as you try to broker a deal with the Scorpionkind and farmers who need the water just as much as your city does.
Both games benefit from some passing knowledge of Gladstone’s unique world of gods, souls, undead, and legalities. By nature of the format, there is not really a lot of time given to descriptions and world building so there are a lot of blanks to fill in. I suspect the basics could still be handled by someone who has not fully immersed themselves in the Craft Sequence, but it certainly helps to be familiar with the major players of the various firms and their ultimate goals within each realm.
The game-play is fairly simple. Read a chunk of text, choose your subsequent response or action. The game tracks your statistics which apparently affects interactions and your general state of being. How badly does your PTSD affect you? Are you too poor to pay your rent? Does Dunestrider want to feast on your guts? You also can score achievements for various accomplishments such as dying (my first achievement. I am so proud). Out of a possible 900 points for these achievements, I barely scratched the surface, which obviously means I need to go back and try out other options.
Aside from the fact that you can’t cheat and skip to the end to find the best options like in the olden days, I found it slightly disconcerting that there didn’t seem to be a way to gauge how far along I was in the story. There were chapters and climactic moments that indicated some sort of passage of plot, but little indication that things were coming to any kind of conclusion until they did, at which point I was kind of jolted out of my escape world into the reality of the book being over. I wasn’t ready!
Still, the stories were engaging, if somewhat repetitive at times. I’m thrilled to have an opportunity to relive my childhood love of choose your own adventure stories again.