I haven’t been able to finish the game due to running into (what I consider to be) a game-breaking bug (which I reported to Abby ) but I wanted to write my thoughts of my general first impression so far:
I think the prose is the strongest that I’ve read in a CoG/HG game in a long time. The author is obviously a skilled writer and lends a lyricism to the words and writing of the game that’s very satisfying (as well as engaging) to read. I’d read whatever else they put out! (The way chapters ended, especially, was so well-worded, and even the sex scenes were written well.)
This rightfully is and should be a Hosted Game. I say this because the PC’s perspective is much more defined and “preset” than other protagonists of CoG games. Although the PC is a transplant coming from another place to Boulder–possibly to get away from their old relationship or to live in a “kind of” nice place–they automatically and irresistibly have only the hobbies, interests, and lifestyle of a longtime Boulder “hippie.” I thought this was kind of interesting because they just got to the city after packing up in a hurry and leaving their ex, and they can state that they’re only here to find love or to try out someplace new, and they can also state that they feel out-of-place or like the hippie culture is all new to them–but they invariably only have stereotypically-“hippie” outfits, they meditate in their backyard, they can only want to visit the library to read a book on fracking–not because they just like to read. It’s interesting and was definitely something I had to get used to. If people really want to go all in on character customization, this game is probably not for them. (People who want asexual romances, as noted in the beta testing thread, will also probably be disappointed.)
There were times where I felt a lack of control over my choices and personality. This includes what I said above about having a “locked in” personality to start with–there’s really no choice to be skeptical about qigong as a concept, just the instructor’s ability to teach it well–but there were also times that I felt the game committed the biggest sin in IF: presenting a choice to me and then immediately negating it when I chose it.
Example, possible spoilers
Example: I got a sound therapy massage (??) while on a date, and the therapist sternly instructed me not to speak during the session. During the session, I was then presented with a choice, which fell along the lines of:
- Make a witty joke to my date.
- Question the therapist on why I’m not allowed to talk.
- Stay silent.
I chose to stay silent, and immediately the game negated my choice!
“…However, you’re too friendly of a person, so you crack a joke anyway.”
This happened a few different times throughout the game, and it was honestly extremely off-putting to me. I think it’s because I failed a stat check, but I’m not used to stat checks being tied so concretely to personality opposed-pairs (friendly vs. reserved) rather than skills, and it really felt like agency was taken away from me quite a few times.
I also felt that the protagonist/the game questioned my decisions almost constantly, and that was a bit frustrating, too. If I adamantly chose to stay with someone for very definitive reasons (“I want to stick with X because I have eyes only for him” was an option when being flirted with by someone else), the game immediately would say “…however, you find yourself in doubt while the other person is walking away. Did you make the wrong choice? You almost reach out to the other person and stop them. You want to say, ‘Hey! Wait!’ You only just manage to stop yourself short.”
If I made the choice to definitively and with no doubt in my mind stay with the person I’m dating, and express no interest in this other interloper, I find it a bit frustrating that the game somewhat ignores that motivation. It made me feel not in control of the character, and they often had thoughts that did not reflect my choices and play style.
I loved how the relationship with the ex was handled. I’m a bit surprised that people here are saying that the ex wasn’t toxic… Maybe it was because you guys (@Eric_knight and @TheBlast) were nice to the ex from the get-go, so your relationship wasn’t toxic, but from the outset I ADAMANTLY informed my ex that I didn’t want anything to do with them anymore, that it was over, and that they should stop contacting me. To be told that–in no uncertain terms–and then to persist in contacting the person and meddling in their life is very toxic, imo. It shows a lack of respect for the person’s wishes and autonomy. If I say “stop calling me, I’m moving on and I want a new life” and the person keeps calling, sends letters that are manipulative and packages from a friend’s address so I’ll be tricked into opening it–it’s manipulative. I replied to a letter with hostility and told them to stop fucking bothering me, and they sent an email back saying, “I’m glad you got to unload your feelings, you’re a bad person for trying to hurt me but I still love you, I’m such a saint and a victim and you’re always hurting me, hopefully next time we talk you’ll be nicer.” It was absolutely manipulative and blatantly ignoring my wishes. Obviously each to his own, and I’m sure your interactions with the ex were different, but I thought this game portrayed a toxic relationship (and the fear and paranoia that come with it) really, really well. It was incredibly engrossing and one of the reasons why I kept playing the game.
Finally, the pacing was a bit wonky for me. It could be because I poured all my efforts into pursuing a single person, but it felt like there was a lot of repetition or stagnation, like we would have an awkward rough patch, I would select “we should talk about this,” we wouldn’t talk about it, and sometime later the other person would say “we should talk about this,” and there was just a bit of circular conversation going on. I also felt the beginning started out quite slowly, and there were almost a bit too many choices that didn’t seem to matter in the long-term: the game was asking what we thought about marijuana legalization, homelessness, mental illness, etc., and it began to bog the pace down for me a bit.
All in all, this was an engaging and interesting game for the time that I was able to play it (still have to wait for the bug to be fixed), but it did have its share of issues in my opinion!