Today I begin to read the works of Endmaster, wholly unspoiled, reading his CYS stories in the order they were written. As I do so, I will talk about my responses and thoughts and so forth.
I will start with Tales from the Basement and work my way forward from here.
1) I will be reading slowly and carefully, thinking about why I make each choice, commenting here when it is interesting to do so.
2) I'll talk about prose style, choice design, and overall plot structure.
3) I will do one playthrough of each without going back because I want to really own the choices I make. The exception is if there is an early death or something where I would miss a huge chunk of the story. I can go back and replay to explore other forks after I read each game at least once.
4) Please don't spoil me!
Just going to say, you’ll probably be dying A LOT in my stories, so likely you’ll be encountering early deaths as you’re “owning” a story branch. Fortunately, death is a quick fix and a simple back page will make things okay again.
John Dies at the End. It's a book.
I'm mostly just posting here to keep track of Gower's progress.
For Ground Zero, Eternal (and probably Rogues), I suggest that you read to at least three epilogues before continuing (two for Ground Zero). Part of the magic of those stories is the nearly incomprehensible plot variety that you will encounter. The best reviews of those stories touch on the consistency between characters in multiple paths. Depending on the circumstances under which you meet the same character on different paths, they may behave extremely differently, but it always makes sense and it's really, really satisfying. I think if you only go to one epilogue, you'll really miss out on some of the appeal of those stories.
I've just finished reading Tales from the Basement, and I've already broken my rule about one playthrough because these paths are short enough to zip around and sample stuff. I haven't played every last bit, but I played a whole bunch of it.
I started with the Ebay Escapist. I usually hate the lolrandom style of storygame, so let's see how End does it.
I really like this first page. The narrator is really funny, and I like the choice to buy or sell useless shit. Obviously it's better to be a seller. I'll make some serious bank and get out of here. Naked pictures of my mom will clearly sell for the most money, but I'm on to this--selling for "10,000" but "10,000" *what*? YES, I was right. I like that I had the opportunity to pick the right choice there because I was paying attention.
Going back, I see I can also sell naked pictures of myself for $2.00 which is a "mexican nickle," which is not exactly how I think currency exchange works, but I laughed. The Kill the Kudzu ending was surprisingly heroic. I did not expect that at all, and in the "buy useless shit" branch, there's much more total weirdness like unraveling an island. I think the Kudzu part was my favorite.
This was kind of funny. Let's see how the Good Girl is. Wow. This is way more intense.
On the Good Girl path, I was raped (twice, once by Chulocks), beaten to death (twice), and had my throat cut. And got a computer upgrade. This path was brutal, and several of the forks didn't click for me, but oddly, the most brutal of all--the ring girl path with the shooting end was really effectively written. I was impressed with that, and the way the sister was written there. I thought that fork was just going for the sheer awful titillation of it all, but the twist was good, and the choice to take revenge was really good too. I was impressed with that.
The Anime path: the typical storygame on CYS often has a path where you can wholly opt out of the adventure. You can say, no, no, I'm staying in this basement, I insist. The Anime path has a fakeout path that instead of ending the game, leads to my picking my fetish.
Wow, this path is really good too, even though it is stomach-turning. But it's not bad stomach-turning, it's effective stomach turning.
"Over the past few months you’ve come to find out that your lovely Patricia is bat shit insane." <-- I laughed at that
At this point your mom opens up her purse and takes out her handgun and gives it to you. “Here, take this. If you’re going to break up with her, you might need it.” <-- and that.
All in all, I liked it. The ebay branch is not going to stick with me as much as the other two, which had more interesting characters and cooler, more detailed action.
"You take the briefcase of money, drag him out to the curb for the derelicts to have their way with and think nothing more of it." <--that sentence epitomizes this game for me. It's totally out of nowhere, as casual as can be for the narrator and followed by End Game.
Interesting that you didn’t seem to get the “canon” ending for The Good Girl which involved the path with the serial killer uncle’s rivalry with the cultist neighbors. (Unless you did and just didn't mention it)
Oh, I did play that one. I enjoyed that path, but it didn't stick with me as much as the other one did in terms of sheer reading with eyes very wide open as the ring girl path.
Next up (later this week, I'm guessing)--I read "Repression."
Now I've got to read Repression, and in a hurry!
Shhh nobody mention the best ending!
YOU KNOW which one I'm talking about!
It was the first one I found.
My verbal reaction was, "What the fuck" then I laughed and said, "I hope that they aren't all like that."
But they weren't! I wrote a review. I liked the story pretty well.
(I'll post the sum-up at the end in the comments on the game itself as well, since I think it gets at my take on the game pretty well.)
So it turns out that this going to be the odd one out of all of the Endmaster stories, because I actually have read this one before, although I forgot that I did. When I first joined the CYS Discord, Cricket told me to read Repression, and I did, one time. I don’t remember it, but I do remember Cricket telling me I didn’t get the “best ending” which she referred to with barely repressed glee.
I didn't get the “best” ending. So today, I’m going to see if I can do so.
Whatever that means.
So I’m a character a lot like in Basement Dwellers, interestingly. That’s neat. I’m going to turn this kid’s life around. I’m going to go downstairs, not get involved in the fight, and just do this family proud. Also, my sister appears to be a whore, according to my mom. That’s very hurtful. I’d better find my sister at school and tell her that wasn’t right.
What is this world I’m in? It’s horrible. Aaron is being beaten up, I’m his only friend, and I don’t even like him at all. Of course I’m going to help him. And then I was beaten to death.
OK! So the important thing to know about this game is that it is a merciless, bleak, horrible world where it’s dog eat dog. Forget everyone. I’m a survivor, and I’m going to live and ignore everyone else. I’ll stay out of the fight with my family, go to school, and ignore my “friend” and ignore Jessica, ignore Butch. Just keep my head down. And then obviously I have to beat Henry down so I don’t look like a loser. And now I’m in prison for attempted murder. I’m doing better!
I should have ignored Henry last play. I’m trying to ignore everyone and keep my head down. Don’t confront, don’t talk. Just shuffle along. Except now I have to tell my sister something—do I tell her I’ll relay the message to Mom about her staying with Butch or tell her Butch was cheating on her. I guess I’ll just relay the message to Mom. It seems the most neutral, and then I listened to Mom and ended up doing chores.
This game is interestingly structured in these short paths. I suspect that first choice about getting out of bed, and getting involved with the family fight was really important. So I’m going to go investigate that.
This playthrough made me laugh out loud, because I shot mom out of nowhere, and then shot my sister out of nowhere. I feel so powerful and pathetic. Yep, and I shot myself, just as I thought.
Shooting up the school. Ah, I get this game now. Before this, it felt like it was almost another Basement Dweller game.
Ewww, disposing the mom’s body paths. That’s a lot more like the Basement Dwellers style gross-out comey
The catatonic ending is *really* interesting. Here, I end by feeling “free” which is the only positive sounding ending so far. Can I get a more positive ending, I wonder.
This line is hilarious: “"It was a peck on the lips! Nothing more!" Your Mom shouts.”
I’ve got this now—obviously, I need to support my sister, which—yes, made me be able to help with the fight and confront Butch, and of course I ignore Jessica, because who needs her when I’ve got my sister?
Man, the going home and having a fight with Mom, backing up my sister is intensely written, and I feel absolute joy. This is a great ending.
I went out with Jessica, respected her wishes, and I feel hopeful. So there are ways to break out of the repression and the horrible feeling.
Eleventh – Fifteenth Plays:
Therefore, I obviously have to figure out how to seduce my mom and sister. Sister is easier. I took her “home.”
There we go. Group hug. I remember Cricket talking about this in hushed tones. That is a good ending. “Complete euphoria.”
So, here’s my thoughts. This game is actually kind of artistic in an unexpected way. It’s got the gross-out comedy and the over-the-top sexual and violent situations from Basement Dwellers, but this is way more sophisticated.
The constant refrain in the endgames of “You feel…” followed by the emotion you’ve found was great. That was artistic and interesting and tied the whole game together, making it feel like one unified entity.
I think the game sort of folds into three part, and I discovered the three parts in exactly the right order. First you experience stumbling through the horror and the bleakness, and the no-way-out of dead-end emotions.
You can’t help anyone, and you can’t impress anyone, and everything is horrible.
Then, you figure out, wait, I can do stuff with these emotions. I can shoot people and defeat them physically, and degrade the bodies of the people who humiliated me. It’s a kind of hollow victory, and the game clearly shows that that sort of victory kind of sucks. Or do nothing at all and end up a catatonic shell. This part shows what happens when the repression of the main character is ripped suddenly away.
Then you figure out that you can create more real victories by taking a stand and supporting your mother or sister and not escaping or keeping your head down. And this way, yes, you get the incestuous stories, which is another kind of repression lifted, but aside from the shock value there’s surprisingly hopeful and happy endings with no shock at all. Now I’m dating Jessica, and things seem brighter. Or now I’ve allied with my sister, and I have a friend in her and the air is getting cleared. I would *never* have expected those ending to be here, and I actually found them better written than any other endings. (aside from the shooting at school, barricaded with Jessica. That was pretty brutal and really well written too.)
So I went into this thinking I know what I was going to be reading, and about 1/3 of the way through, I realized that there was more depth here than I thought. I’m authentically impressed.
Next up for me: TRASH.
Going through the comments section where multiple people talk about the Group Hug is amusing all by itself.
I love this thread too. It's like experiencing End's stories again for the first time.
You know those stories where the mild mannered scholar decides to read forbidden tomes and just keeps reading despite all the wrongness in them?
Yeah, this is the first part before he starts going insane.
Well I’ll be keeping this thread spoiler free until your return.
Sucks what happened, but hopefully after taking the needed time for yourself and family, you’ll be back to laugh and joke around with all of us again.
Thoughts about TRASH:
This game really starts me off in the thick of it, which I like. I know exactly what sort of guy I’m playing here, and obviously I am going to have to have a drink before I do anything else. I don’t need Tina telling me what to do, and I don’t need a job either. I’m going to my friend’s trailer, where I’m going to get into the drug trade. I’m all about substances. Booze (not that I have any) and drugs.
“you’ll be sure to inform Tina that apparently she performs sex acts on donkeys” – I laughed at that.
So I really like how this game is already giving me personality questions—I’m an alcoholic loser, but am I the sort of alcoholic loser who beats people senseless? The answer is YES. And yes, I ended the day drinking cough syrup and fired from my job of keeping addicts in line, but I call that a big win. I don’t mess around. You have to beat people down so they respect you.
OK, so if I just beat up the people who *need* beating up I can keep this job. Look at that! A pretty good ending already! “Tina, you do things your way, and I’ll do things mine. An’ right now, I’ll be doing you.” See, Tina underestimated me.
Already, I’m appreciating how this game is structured. I’m going to go do stuff, and then Tina is going to react to it. That’s neat, and what’s especially interesting about it is that it’s a more interesting and subtle way of creating the same effect I liked in Repression with the “and you feel…” at the end of every path.
Three through Five:
The robbery paths with Dan are all pretty funny, especially because they all work out fairly well: the choices hint that you should “get out while you can” when the house owner arrives, but actually, continuing to rob the place is a great ending. I’m realizing that because the stakes of this game are *so* low, the way success gets defined is hilarious. I get bitten by a guard dog! But I got morphine, so I had a great end! I got enough money to buy a keg—major win!
Now I’m going to see if the game will let me avoid a life of crime. I’m going to work. Let’s try a repair shop. Hilariously, these ending are largely horrible. If I fix the car I end up drunk with a “spring embedded in your ass and a stray dog pissing on your leg.” If I had to pick one sentences to embody this game, it’s that.
Maybe I can make my relationship with Tina deeper by working where she does. There is no chance this will work.
Wow, I was completely wrong. I thought I had this game’s number, but I obviously don’t. This was almost a heroic ending in the context of this game's world. “kicking some dickheads’ asses and then fucking your girlfriend in the parking lot of her strip club, is good enough.” The stakes are small in this game, but this ending does the opposite of humiliate you. It gives you the equivalent of this game’s gold medal.
Eight and Nine:
The alien abduction sequence followed by the mutant cockroaches sequence while searching for scrap metal. So by now I've played a bunch of the first fork of the tree which, weirdly, stems off of "have a drink" and these stories are all about my attempts to better myself, many of which have to do with my relationship with Tina. The stories--due to my luck, not design--seem to be getting weirder and weirder. I especially liked the UFO one. But now I'm wondering what the other initial choices do.
If me wanting to have a drink first thing leads to Tina screaming at me to get a job, what happens if I try to just go to sleep? Wouldn't she react about the same? Or would she do things that she wouldn't do if she thought I were awake?
I was partly right: one choice is to get a job (looping into the "job" sequence) if I go to sleep, and they other is ending up with Tina furious and I wander "the streets and eventually fall asleep by some garbage cans, like the trash you are." Wow! That's the nastiest this narrator has ever been. He really wants me to make an effort. So if that's so, I would guess taking a shower would lead to a really positive response from her. Let's see. Back to the first fork, and it's interesting how that first decision, which I sort of thought was just a "setting the scene" sort of decision, is really about how my relationship with Tina is established, and weirdly, the narrator.
So I showered, and nope. There's no pat on the back for making the effort. It's no hot water, no towels, and toilet clog. Oh, weird. And an option to go to the "job" sequence. So it looks to me like the "job" bit is the main line of this game as far as I can tell, so if I resist it and get drunk with my low life friends, I predict the game ends right away like in my tenth playthrough if I insist on sleeping. I will be impressed if that is not the case.
...and I'm impressed! And this branch made me laugh out loud with Joe the bartender's secret.
The "get drunk" branches aren't long, but they are there, and they have a few good laughs, and they maintain the same interesting structure of do something, fail or succeed miserably, have Tina respond.
Now all that's left is to have sex with Tina as the first choice. I've been saving this for last, because I think it's going to be an important narrative branch where I actually learn something about her since the structure of the game is focused so much on her responses.
And in fact, yeah. I did--I'm 12 years older than her, and she's the ex-head cheerleader. So unsurprisingly, this feeds into the main job branch, or I can press the sex angle, which I'll do.
So now I have to read really, really bad Endmaster erotica, the stand out simile here being "... like an insane Panamanian mental patient that’s been locked up in solitary confinement for thirty years." I'm not sure why it has to be Panamanian, but you know, it works. I was bummed that this branch ended so fast. I think this was the only branch that I felt ended without me getting to choose enough stuff.
No, I was wrong, I missed the Cousin Clem job. And boy, I'm glad I didn't miss this one. What's so weird and almost hallucinogenic about this path is the disconnect between the choices you make and what happens in it. Like, I can pick "Go feed more hogs" and "Go to the barn" which *sounds* like two perfectly reasonable choices to make if I work on a farm, but I am sitting here muttering to myself, "does "go feed more hogs" feed the hogs, or...does it...mean sexily rubbing food and garbage all over my body? Will Suzy find that erotic? Why would she? Would I want her to? This is the sort of thing this game is making me say. But I adapt. I get it. "Go get help" = "Allow my cousin to be raped by pigs." It's just learning a new language.
This was a weird ending; it's the one where I try to save Suzy from the pigs. It's funny and stuff, but it ends with
“Wow, Mel, did the farm stink THAT badly?”
“Yeah, and so does the attempt to do good deeds.”
That's probably the only ending I've read by End that doesn't hit me quite right, prose-wise. I don't know. I don't think Mel would say that.
To the barn with Suzy. Huh. This was another funny ending, but I had to reread the beginning to realize that I was actually caught in the act by Bertha, because it's all in the "soon."
"...you know damn well what’s going to happen.
“WHAT THE HELL IS GOIN’ ON IN HERE!?!?”
It's just funny to have the narrator be so reticent after the Tina sex scene, so much so that I actually missed it.
I *think* I've seen most everything. So here are my sum-up thoughts. (this is the review I wrote for the game itself in the comments just now)
Whereas the Basement Dwellers and Repression found its humor in absurd plot and crazy situations, TRASH finds a lot of its humor in character and dialogue, and that’s really cool. It's all about atmosphere. Totally successful in that. There’s *so* much dialogue here, and it’s very characterful. I sort of want to see what else Endmaster can do that's not this genre of sad sack losers having bizarre adventures, but it's totally entertaining. I enjoyed playing and I laughed a lot.
In one ending you wake up with a “spring embedded in your ass and a stray dog pissing on your leg.” If I had to pick one sentences to embody this game, it’s that. This game delights in your character’s humiliating ends, and then insists on also pissing on you, almost casually, as if this were just business as usual. Which it is for the protagonist.
The game is structured such that you go out, try to get something done (or not) usually fail horribly (or succeed horribly) and then Tina, your woman, passes judgment on you. These one liners are often really funny (“What got set on fire?” is one that made me laugh.) and serves the same sort of narrative purpose as the end lines of the paths in Repression, but it’s more powerful here in a character’s voice rather than the narrator’s.
The narrator is very present here and mocks you with a sort of eyebrow-arched sarcasm. ("Reach for those stars..." when deciding to better your condition by picking up metal scraps.) A lot of the humor comes from the narrator's lofty but weary tone.
The minor characters have amusing dialogue—actually most of the work of the description is done through dialogue. Dan, for example has lines like “What?” and “I dunno” and “Oh shit” which, well, tell you just about everything you need to know about this guy. Jim coughs. There’s clear, and funny, characterization—easy to read, easy to remember. Cousin Clem has all the best lines, though, with all of the obvious turns of phrase that have to be in here ("...that indoor plummin’ I’ll tell you what!")
I enjoyed this. I think at the end of the day I liked Repression better because I thought it was more tightly constructed and the writing felt more powerful, but this game was meant to be lighter. There were a few forks that were a little less interesting to me, but I think that's to be expected when there are so many of them. The game feels very, very similar in structure, theme, and tone to Basement Dwellers and Repression, and while that's not a bad thing, I'm noticing it as I play through Endmaster's games, and I really want to see where else he goes.
This game, much more than the other two I've read so far has many more microlevel issues. Like, it's actually harder to read without any spaces between lines of dialogue, which is usually, but not always, the case. It’s painful, because with paragraphing, punctuation stuff, and basic spellchecking (“gask mask”; “When Tina comes home she makes to correct assumption”) this already good story would be even better. I am dying to take my red pen to this game but I have been advised to exit professor mode when reading these. But, man, I want that red pen.
Next up: Paradise Violated.
He pretty much went through every branch. The only thing he might have missed out on is the job with the crazy cat lady.
That was so funny.
From "I will do one playthrough of each without going back because I want to really own the choices I make." to 16 playthroughs of TRASH. I look forward to reading playthroughs 1-36 of Ground Zero, 1-109 of Eternal, and 1-250 of Rogues.
Yeah, I clearly had to jettison that rule. I was operating under a CoG model of playthroughs.
I wouldn’t expect him to clear all epilogues in Eternal.
If he gets "Epilogue 13" then he'll have gone through a good portion of it.
I don't even know enough about the game (i.e., I know nothing about it) to fully appreciate the question. I suspect the longer games will take many sittings and probably lots of reviews if there are tons of endings and long paths. But don't tell me. I really want to go in blind.
I am so excited.
Really it's a lot easier to do play throughs here even taking the longer stories into consideration, mainly due to back button and not really having to start all over. There's even a single save point that can be used for major crossroad points.
I always have to set aside my proofreading urge when I read these. There. Done.
My initial reaction is that this is pretty different from the past three games. We're not dealing with a bunch of losers in an outlandish situation. And the narrator is hitting the hard-bitten soldier trope really hard, with the narrator saying stuff like "well, its a brand new day" and "Ah the joys of" and "Oh sure sometimes..." Now that I've read three of End's games, I know he doesn't rely on cliche in his work, so I'm already wondering whether there's something else at work here.
The set up is *action* with dangerous liazard tribes! Three major powers with all different government names (Collective/Dominion/Alliance) as if I'm in a game of Starcraft! ... and then the first choice lets me "check on my team" or "stay in." I find that actually really funny.
The first choice also gives me the choice to know who I am, which I always find a weird sort of choice, like when games give the option to skip story and go right to the choice. Of course I want to know more.
I'm a space marine (I guess) and I need to know my dark past.
OK, now I'm realizing this is 40K and Heinlein filtered through Endmaster. Which is awesome. I think I'm in the Imperial Guard, not a Space Marine, though. I'm a scout...captain.
Check on my Team
As a gruff and hard-bitten captain, chomping on a cigar stub (I assumed that part) I'm going to walk amongst my men and growl at them a little. Huh, and I can "know more" about them, too. I wonder why this wasn't sort of put in exposition.
So, you sort of don't have to read a dossier on someone named Lt. LaFleur. Exactly what I thought.
"his father was determined to make him worthy of the LaFleur name" <-- best line so far. This is very End's sense of humor. And it's very understated. I'm actually really surprised. By contrast with Trash, this game's volume is so mild. It makes me wonder whether the branches are going to be a little longer and have more predictable...
I went to talk to Lafleur
...oh. Then a spear flew out of nowhere and killed me. Ah, now I can exhale, I'm on firmer End ground. That came out of nowhere, and I actualy stared at the screen for a second.
OK, so if I am getting the idea, delegating this important job of dealing with the Lizards to Lafleur should also kill me.
I wonder if the whole beginning is pretty linear (aside from death ends for a while). The way this game is beginning is not 100% grabbing me, with the linear start--the choice that leads to death, and two "info" choices. I bet if I had stayed in my tent for the first choice, that would be game over. Let's test that.
In fact, it's true. Spear to the gut that "wakes me up."
So now I'm back to what seems like the first actual choice in the game--question the Elojin or have him killed. I like the description of Sgt. Alyssa a lot, especially the last line, "The fact that Inquistor Salo can’t stand her, only makes you like her even more." That's cool because it gives me motivation to work with, and it helps reinforce how I feel about Salo.
The exposition on the Mazatt, I don't know, I'm glazing over. I'm having trouble gluing all of the "would you like to know more" to anything. Maybe I *don't* want to know more. Maybe I'll get this stuff as I read.
At any rate, obviously this guy needs to die. A clear trap, trying to get me to be merciful. I won't fall for that. Death.
This page, after executing the Elojin, has LaFleur, Salo, and Alyssa talking in it, and they are all clear to me--Salo and LaFleur have the depth of an index card, but I've got them as characters, and I know the motivations here. Alyssa is more interesting, a little more characterful so far. She has all the best dialogue so far as well.
I'm learning about the Krik, aka, the Tyranids, aka, the Bugs.
Now, I can attack the village or sneak into the caves. This is interesting, because it's such a different sort of choice than the other End games I've played so far--now, I feel like I'm making an interesting tactical decision rather than poking around at crazy and funny stories to see how wild they get. I'm a scout. Scouts are sneaky. I'll do that, and then execute the taskmaster, commando-esque.
So I tell my squad to kill the two taskmaster at the same time, and Alyssa fires twice hitting both of them in the head. That's some serious shooting. I'm not 100% sure how that works, considering I wanted them dead simultaneously, but I guess she's just that awesome that she can hit them both nearly at the same time. This is useful information, and I escape with salo crystals, which Salo bitches me out about. I'm getting tired of him undermining me. I want to make him do push-ups.
And now the final scene, a big battle. The writing here is a little less energetic and there are more typos here than usually. I think I found the page where End was a little sleepy.
"Other than keeping Salo and Alyssa from killing each other and reassuring LaFleur that getting wounded by a Krik doesn’t mean eggs were laid in him, the rest of your time on Paradise is relatively uneventful" <--I laughed at this line.
The final moment before the "End Game and Leave Comments" was my favorite part. It's the first time I sat up and realized there was something very cool here. I really liked how the mini-epilogue drew out the conclusion of what I had done and extended it fairly realisticly, particularly the relaxing of the promotion rule for non-humans, the desk command for LaFleur, and so forth.
Run #5--Get more help instead of "make a plan now"
This way is a total disaster, as the Krik escalate in order to "protect their investment" of the crystals. I wonder why they don't send a big invasion force in my previous run, the run where I seize the crystals right away? Do they see it as a lost cause at that point? I'm not 100% sure I get where the inflection point is that turns a tactical victory to a major defeat here.
Run #6 -- Instead of running with the crystals, explore the doorway after finding the crystals.
And then an invisible thing kills me.
Run #7 -- Running and not being killed by an invisible thing.
I read this page a few times, and I *think* I get what's going on, just literally in terms of the action. These few branches with the invisible thing didn't do anything for me. I don't know what's going on. Maybe other branches will explain that though, and I expect so. I was bummed this epilogue didn't have the detail of the other one I liked, with more of a generic "You’re sent on your next mission with replacements awaiting you. Just another mission completed."
"Whatever this thing is its quick, because it's keeping up the pace"
Run #8 -- Leave instead of killing the taskmasters.
This is just being overrun by Krik, and this is sort of a neat death, because it showcases how killing a few of them does't help--they are a hive mind, after all.
Run #9 -- Let's see what happens if I attack the village.
Ha, ha, just no. "you provide a change of pace from the Lizard meat the Krik were eating." I really wish Salo had one line in there that was all gung-ho, hell yes, attack! And then he's eaten.
Run #10 - now I have exhausted the "have him killed" branch. Time to explore the other branch, to question the Elojin.
My initial feeling about the "have him killed" branch was that it was ok, but aside from my Run #4 ending, I didn't feel like it had the awesomeness I wanted from a space adventure. Yet.
Now I learn about the Xont. Very B5, excellent.
Paradise Violated, part 2
Run #11 -- Torture the truth out of him!
This is an excellent branch so far. The writing is good (repressing professorial urge to revise every single sentence) and the choice is *hilarious*--check on Salo or RELAX. I'm going to relax.
Which unsurprising gets me awakened by being stabbed--which I've already done in this game, but with a knife instead of a spear this time.
Run #12 - 16
These choices about the weird coins and the apparant mind control stuff are really interesting and with much more wit than the whole first half of the game: "You and your team get sent on your next mission infinitely a lot happier without an Indoctrinator watching over you constantly."
I'm not sure what to make about the "Feeling different? (Current thoughts)" choice. I don't get why that's a choice, not just in the narrative.
These pages have *so much* more love given to them. The blue woman with the spear to whom I bow down in awe--great ending.
Run #17 and #18 -- Humour the alien and then kill him.
I think this game is slowly nudging me to this particular adventure. Makes sense. I would guess if I have him killed now, I'll end up taking the coins and having a similarly mind-taken over adventure. Yep! I have an interrupted mind-controlled scene in Alyssa's tent that wasn't going to go anywhere good, and then I can kill the Lizards or spare them.
Oh, neat. Another really fun end, where I kill Salo, Alyssa saves me and then she probably ditches the coins. I liked how that ending has the protagonist decide, eh, forget about the Xont building. That's funny, and makes total sense. And I wanted to kill Salo, so I'm glad there's that opportunity. Ah, neat, and if he's on the other raft, he gets the jump on me.
Run #19 - 21-- I think I'm finding the golden path here, making a speech, completely taken over by these coins, convincing Lafleur and Alyssa (well, she'll come around fully in time, in time.)
I'm on this mad journey for ruins that don't exist, losing soldiers, while Alyssa gets increasingly concerned about me, and the choice to "Let it go" *right* before "Embrace Destiny" is touching and powerful, and it's just a well-written page all around.
The awful lie of this whole path is embodied in "It’s okay Alyssa, I’ll bring you back to life," and this page is subtle and horrible. "You turn around one last time and address your team." The page of course doesn't note the obvious--what you see behind you as you turn.
Run #22- 24
The Kruz forks are pretty interesting, because they seem to point up the complete pointlessness of this venture. There's really no good choices here. As long as I'm under the coin control, I can't see straight. There's a bunch of Lord of the Rings in here too.
Run #25, so now, as I expected, I'm back to "agree to a partnership with the Elojin"
The narrative says that Alyssa is "stoic as always" but she doesn't read as stoic to me. ("Alright team, we’re finally going to do something worthwhile on this planet, we’re going on a treasure hunt of sorts, guided by this spotty freak here.") She's cynical and a bit funny.
Ah, the Shoot Salo option, which kills me has a great domino effect of having the planet end up bombarded with mass drivers. See, that's great. It connects well with the first page of me being an insignificant scout captain. I'm not 100% sure *why* the loss of my team is enough to write off the *entire* planet, but aesthetically, it's neat. I can ignore the cause and effect of it. And they do that *all* the time in 40K. So I'm cool with it.
I am enjoying how this part of the narrative lets me totally embrace Humanity First and it really feels very 40K indeed.
I can die in an awesome last state with Salo (#25 shooting alien abominations (awesome)); have Alyssa be a last survivor and have the planet destroyed (again #26, also awesome) have a complete debacle of an adventure in a Lizard village where Lafleur betrays me (#27-29, shocker)
The control room:
Ah, ok, *here* is where I have to kill that damn Elojin so he doesn't betray me first (#30)
I'm impressed that I'm still meeting characters (Dobbs) but I feel like he's about to die if I don't let him take some spotlight. Yep! My skin burns completely off. (#31)--ok, Dobbs is up.
Impress me, Dobbs. ("“Um I don’t really know, I just started pressing buttons and that happened.”) Nope, not impressed.
Paradise Violated, part 3
Who to Shoot
This is the most interesting choice in the game. Because here, the choice works really well with the "Feeling different?" info. I don't have any reason to shoot Alyssa unless I want to RP someone who is giving into the Humanity First! notion. And being about to RP that is fun. I took several paths here, (#32-38) exploring different endings--the very best is becoming an Indoctrinator, which feels exactly right as a path after shooting Alyssa! The other great ending here is becoming the Giant Purple God. I prefer to think of it as becoming a Hive Tyrant, or a Shadow.
Let's see what happens if Salo dies instead.
I like the dialogue with the soldiers on this path: "what happened today was a major fuck up, and we did a bunch unnecessary reckless shit."
This bit with the hologram seems important, but the lack of spaces between dialogue lines makes even a committed reader like me. I find this bit very hard to read. I wasn't interested in this part, and I skimmed it.
The ending here with Alyssa growing cold and bitter, as her "final link to humanity is severed."--that was awesome. (#39)
Aw, I found the very best ending, surely--the Hologram's "teaspoon" feeding of technology, and then Alyssa and I marry and live peacefully forever. It's a golden age for humanity. (#40)
That's a good one to end on. I feel like I've seen a lot of what there is to see.
Having played four of End's games so far, this one is the odd one out so far. The structure branches a great deal, but fully half of the branches don't feel that rich or interesting or have as much love given to them. Once you get on the main track, the writing perks up, the choices get more interesting, and the characters get more to do. Only grim determination kept me going until I figured out where the actual story was.
However, once I *got* on that main track, I was more interested. But I don't mean to suggest the other track is pointless. Actually, I got to know the main characters better in the less interesting half of the game, which made my exploration of the other half richer. I had seen these characters and been with them on other, smaller, more low-stakes (usually) adventures, and that made me care more about them.
So I'm sort of torn. I see the point of the less-main-branch section of the game, but it was less fun to read.
As for the characters, I feel like Alyssa is the one I will remember. She has a real personality, and she's well-written, with snappy dialogue and cool epilogue actions. The other characters are really two-dimension--funny, vivid, but totally cartoons. And that's fine, because this is a 40K/Avatar/Heinlein action-packed adventure, and I don't necessarily need super vivid characters for everyone.
Pacing-wise, the beginning was slow, and there were a few slow chunks at the end which really hurt the tempo where I really just wanted to get on with it and not make choices like "explore this area further" or "explore elsewhere." The middle of the game was the very best, especially the journey to and around the ruins, before I even knew what the ruins were. The hologram bit was...ok. It was fine. But the parts where the game makes you explore different versions of mind control--being meglomaniacal, all-id, paranoid--that bit, and allowing you to dive into the madness--that was by *far* the best part.
It was a mixed bag for me. It has some parts that I will be thinking about for a long time--the "Embrace Destiny" ending, for example, or Alyssa's "Final Link to Humanity Severed" ending (my two favorites)--but there was a lot of bits that I deeply wanted to tell End to rewrite, because I know he could do more with some of the paths. (the invisible being, for example, in the caves.)
All in all, it was very cool to see End do a different type of game, in a new genre, with a larger, branchier structure than his earlier games.
I've posted this Summary as my review on the game itself. Next up: Love Sick!
Sort of surprised Gower didn’t point out the obvious Heart of Darkness/Agurrie, Wrath of God/Apocalypse Now references in places.
(Those are ALL essentially similarly themed stories, so if it’s good enough for Werner Herzog and Francis Coppla, it’s good enough for me)
You know, I thought of Heart of Darkness while playing, but it feel right out of my head when I was writing. I never liked Heart of Darkness when I had to read it for school. I was annoyed they made me read it.
I got way more Heinlein than Conrad playing this, especially playing the "other" branch, anyway.
Unlike previous stories, I'm not going to do an ending-by-ending review of this one, because it's so short, and because what I want to say about it is mostly about the overall effect rather than any particular path.
Serpent's featured review notes that "the sister is amazing and I love everything about her, I also love everything about the main character, and this story is just the best" and "As for the writing it is what you can expect from EndMaster. Amazing. That is all I have to say." I hope I can offer a slightly more detailed evaluation.
I actually saw the first choice or two of this game when I joined the Discord and Cricket thrust it upon me to haze me, to see how strong my stomach was, I guess. So I didn't come to this unspoiled, which I guess is too bad. At the time, I thought it was pretty gross, but I hadn't read it carefully, nor had I read End's other stuff yet, (or any other CYS stories) so I had no context for it.
I come to Love SICK from sort of an unusual perspective. I don't like "ultra violence, explicit sexual descriptions, tons of swearing, blasphemy, inappropriate dark humor, and brutal misanthropy" as the warning notes. But at the same time, I teach things like Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus, which, as I tell my class, contains an incredible sadistic murder and then gang rape, the mutilation of that woman by having her hands and tongue chopped off, her father chopping his own hand off and then later stabbing his daughter to death. This is mixed in with tons of other murders. That play famously creates outrage and makes audience members--regularly--pass out during performance. I also teach Renaissance revenge tragedy, including one with a scene of someone making out with the decomposed body of a dead woman on whose skull acid has been smeared, thus eating away the guy's face. And so forth.
And I teach Chaucer, who writes very sexual and scatological stories and puts sort of the equivalent of End's WARNING before his tale "The Miller's Tale": "whoso list it nat yheere / Turne over the leef and chese another tale.../ Blameth nat me if that ye chese amys. ("If you don't want hear this, turn the page and choose another tale. Don't blame me if you choose wrong.")
So I teach medieval and Renaissance edgelords all the time, and I talk about this stuff with my students. Like, "why should I have to sit and read a story about someone gangraping a woman on the body of her dead husband?" And the answer can't be, "Because it's Shakespeare," because then the next question, obviously, is, is "Shakespeare just trying to titillate us or piss us off, or is there something interesting going on?"
I think it would be very easy to read Love SICK and say, this is gross, and it's not even as well written as End's other work, both of which I think is true. It reads fascinatingly well with Repression and TRASH.
This story is sort of an extension of TRASH, in that you have the absurd adventure, and then your sister responds, which sort of "scores" your performances.--much like your wife does in TRASH. And the totally libido-ed out, 100% id thing you do are right out of Repression.
But what this story is trying to do is shock. It's not about the prose or even the narrative (it's way too short for that) but about trying to figure out how to write this thing at the highest possible volume. That many of the choices actually end with exclamation points makes this literal. It wants to, as quickly as possible, show you incest, cannibalism, blasphemy, murder-porn, mutilation, molestation, etc. etc., very very fast, as if to say, how about THAT!? The choices offer you choices about whether you want a little story about torture or cannibalism, for example. There's no branching away from this grand guignol, regardless of how other reviewer note that amazing branching--it's just what theme you want your gore to be.
T.S. Eliot wrote of Titus Andronicus that it is "one of the stupidest and most uninspired plays ever written," but he was wrong. And Love SICK, I think, is neither stupid nor uninspired as well. Or rather, it's clever about how dumb it's being (like TRASH as well, where End's narrator is always looking askance at the main character--and here we have the narrator say things like "You my friend are one sick fuck!")
Shakespeare is of course doing more than shock. He's writing something about women's powerlessness over their bodies and the fragmentation of identity. Endmaster's story is a little closer to Chaucer's having fun with bodies and genre, but I think even Endmaster would be the first to agree that he's not trying to be artsy about this or do anything thematic.
Love SICK works because it's an experiment meant to explore what the outside boundary of high volume and bad taste is in this format; its goal is to plant a flag and say "I'm going to write this story exactly as foul as I want. Other sites would not be cool with this. Here it is. You can respond by laughing and saying "ew" -or- by getting offended and angry and feeling as if something should be done about it.
And that seems to be the real purpose of Love SICK. It's a winnower. If you respond the former way, CYS may be appropriate for you. If not, CYS is very much not for you. Is it a good storygame as a storygame? No, I don't think so, per se, especially compared to his other stories.. I think it's much less interesting to read than his previous stories, by a long shot. But that's not the purpose of it.
Do I *recommend* it? That's completely beside the point. I can read something gross and shake my head and read something else without getting all offended. Honestly, I am way more offended by (lack of) proper comma use. Does it serve an important role on the site? I think it probably does.
I still always mention that the original concept for this story was going to be way more serious and I was going to do a whole serial killer story from the time of birth through growing up to adulthood.
First scene was going to be being born in a dirty public bathroom by your whore mother. First “choice” would have been whether she kept you, dumped you on the doorstep of some church/hospital or even dumped you in the trash (Wouldn’t have been instant death, someone hears you crying)
No matter what your upbringing would be, you were going to be a serial killer. Just would have been a different style of one depending on your background. Being brought up by a whore mother meant a rougher less subtle killer, getting adopted by a rich family meant becoming a more manipulative one, etc.
But I just sort of got bored with the concept and wanted to just focus on the fun, so I went the over the top route and got straight to the good stuff instead.
Next up is Alpha Wolf, probably next week!
I forgot to mention, when I was tallying up the atrocities of Titus Andronicus, that the father of the raped-and-mutilated girl murders the rapists, has their bodies baked into pies, feeds the pies to their mother just before killing her, and finally killing his own daughter (!) before he himself is killed.
It's a crazy play.
It's a good movie, too. Anthony Hopkins plays Titus.
Part One of my response to Alpha Wolf, Part Two soon to follow:
Even on the first page, I have the suspicion I am going to love this one. The cynical, slightly-bitter and self-pitying attitude of the main character is a funnier version of the protagonists of Endmaster's first three games, but the notion of a washed-up werewolf is hilarious.
I see this game has the "Memories" links giving me some insight into characters; I wasn't a huge fan of that in Paradise Violated, but they don't bother me here. Probably that's because I already know a lot of about these characters. I know the Phantom and Jekyll and so forth, so these links feel like I'm just going to be getting some funny writing about this world's version of them from the main character's point of view. These are so funny. I laughed out loud at the overwroughtness of Erik's backstory ending up summed up as "Lately though he’s been as shitty of an agent as he is a musician, at least as far as you’re concerned."
This big fork is about persisting with Erik or going to the bar. Erik is pissing me off. I'm a wolf. I'm THE badass wolf, and I'm going to go find cool, tough guys to hang with. So I'm going to the bar.
Man, this game is catnip to me as a literature nut. I *teach* all these books. Jekyll and Hyde! Dr. Moreau! The Invisible Man! I have to go talk to Moreau. "While the mating, eating, and sleeping all sound pretty good. Everyone there is a fucking VEGETARIAN!" I laughed again.
I should probably make this game required reading for my classes where I teach 19th-century British novels.
Then I saw this is also War of the Worlds. I'm in the H.G. Wells' zone, and this game is officially my favorite so far. And I love this branch. He wants me to be vicious and aggressive and get his animals in touch with their animal instincts.
See, this is the kind of Alpha Wolf I am.
I go talk to Gil (the creature from the black lagoon, I assume) who seems to share my own feelings about this place. These lines are gold: "Look at them, all peace and love and shit. There’s a damn giraffe man kissing a damn bear woman."
Now I'm going go with Gil and train the hell out of them, flying into a rage and showing them what a real predator is. Ha, ha, and then I kill all of them and Moreau has a heart attack and the Martians take over. And I go on as before.
Only I got to kill all those stupid animals, so that's a net plus for me. End of game. That was hilarious! I loved that path.
I then played out the rest of this branch with Moreau. I like the length of this game. Each playthrough (at least in this branch) is about 3-4 choices with a lot of story after each click. The writing is really funny. Practically every line is a joke or has some kind of wry and weary sarcasm.
Standouts: Mating with a fox woman and being killed by my fox kid; Gil trying to explain the logistics of him mating with Godzilla's wife ("“ …I know what your next question is, and it’s a bit complicated so I won’t try to explain, but we aquatics mate a little differently than…”)
The battle with Ro-man was interesting: the game asks you whether you fight aggressively or defensively, and obviously the answer is aggressively or you die. That's the whole theme of this game--are you able to reclaim your animal aggression? This scene gets at that theme really well--and then *again* when it asks you whether you head butt (a human tactic) or bite (an animal tactic.)
After a bunch of Gil and Moreau runs:
I took the path where I leave Moreau's island an run into Andre. (the Fly.)
He annoys me. I'm going to kick his ass. Oh, that was a bad choice. Gross. Biting a diseased fly. There's some problems with biting being my main attack which is that everyone is disgusting here and Endmaster is describing the loathsome *taste* of everything.
I guess I'd better help him.
I love this path too! The argument between Janice and Wolf is funny and going exactly where I hoped it would go for comedy value. This cannot be good to mate with a ant/wasp queen. ("You have to be careful due to her stinger, but its not too bad. Now if anyone asks if you’ve ever fucked a bug, you can honestly answer “Why yes I have!”")
This game really rewards thinking like Wolf. You don't sneak in, you don't stick around after the first round with Janice.
Jekyll and Griffin
This is an interesting setup in which I have to decide whether or not to drink a potion before fighting some super soldiers. My gut tells me that Jack is lying. I'm not going to drink.
And I'm really tough. But the enemies are getting tougher. Do I continue to fight or scale the wall? If I see where this game is going, I should BE the wolf. And fight! Yeah, that works. Man, it feels good. Wolf is powerful. By the way, I love how the bad endings often have you being a guest speaker at a geek convention.
Checking what happens if you run...yep, you are stomped to death.
Ah, but if I do drink, I get to fight Hyde! So my gut was wrong and Jack wasn't lying. I guess I can't trust my gut. And the choices are fight Hyde or escape. Hmmmmmmmm. I feel like Hyde is going to be way more powerful than me. But I also know this game is prodding me to be the wolf. I can't turn tail. I'm taking Hyde down. Here I go!
...Nope! I'm turned into a "thin red furry paste."
So I escape...and this leads to easily my favorite part of the game so far, the escape from Hyde. The action is describe quickly and amusingly, and there is real suspense at the same time that it's comic. I just love this part. I particularly liked how, the second the elevator was brought up, that this is how I would kill Hyde--and it was just a question of figuring out how to make it happen.
Alpha Wolf, pt. 2
The Erik fork:
Choosing to do the movie is the branch that feels like it most embodies the title--after all, I need other wolves around to be the alpha. And the branch just *asserts* that--another game might ask if I want to beat this guy up, but here, "You immediately pounce on him, knocking him down while clamping your jaws on his face and digging your fangs in."
This path is great! You get to take the pack and be alpha. I wonder if this is the path that initially inspired this story.
I laughed out loud at this: "“Erm, not you. You stay in your human form; I kind of like the whole teenage slut look you got going on. In fact you come here right now; you’ll be traveling on my bike with me.”
Considering that this path is all about being tough and leading the pack and paying back debts, I was surprised that the right path with Igor is to take cover rather than storm the gate. But the death choices here in the Erik fork I'm finding a touch less predictable than the other half of the game, with more of this: ("You step on a floor panel and a laser beam suddenly shoots out, incinerating you into ash.") which is out of nowhere.
The whole Victor fork is one long battle, which is interesting, a lot like the Hyde battle was, particularly because you have your pack with you. These endings are often concerned with your litter after you die (or if you live!)--that's one important plot function of Ginger.
But surprisingly, the Vlad battle has no pack fighting with you. I missed them, after fighting with them against Victor.
This is the line that most exemplifies the Vlad path: "I suppose along with your flesh rotting, and lousy hygiene in general, all those ass rammings have taken a toll on you eh?"
Like the Victor path, this path is one long series of tactical choices, the choices being along the lines of fighting defensively or offensively, hiding, punching, ducking and so forth.
Now that I've killed Vlad, I can explore the Kong route.
This route is *so* different from the Vlad/Victor routes--it's way shorter, and there's several different ideas here. I'm playing love-advice-Wolf when talking to Nancy, fighting Triffids, getting body snatched, dealing with King Kong and Venusians. I'm sure End will clarify, but this route feels like the route with all the extra stuff. It's all pretty short, snappy and funny stuff.
This is my favorite of End's games that I've played so far. The routes feel so different in tone, humor, sorts of activities (tactical battles, chase scenes, romantic interventions, leading various packs of wolves and animal mutants, and absurd love stories). So many narratives in one, but all linked together by Wolf, whose grizzled and mildly annoyed and above-it-all attitude yokes it all together. Without that attitude, it would be half the game it is; with that attitude, with Wolf's casually violent and cynical attitude, it works.
“Damn, I really am getting too old for this shit,” you say to yourself.
That's the line that most captures the attitude here. All of the classic movie monsters are here, but older, more annoying, and generally pissing each other off.
The game pretty much always rewards thinking like Wolf, going for the throat, thinking about yourself, and not getting too caught up with these idiots you're meeting. You fight a little, mate a little, lead a little, and then leave. And that helps get the character across--the voice of Wolf is hilarious, and the info entries, while not always my favorite in games, are written in that voice as well, making them a fun and funny read rather than a tedious info dump.
There's a lot here, and it's all pretty funny and action packed, with a lot of memorable scenes. I especially really enjoyed how the fight scenes were in interesting places--Victor's castle, trying to pull out Vlad's heart, the elevator scene with Hyde--Igor firing from the wall--biting Ro-man--... When a game can have so many fight scenes and make each one so distinctive and different and interesting, something has gone right. Just a lot of fun. I could see myself replaying this again quite soon.
e: I've just posted the end of this review as my comment on the story itself, as I usually do. Next up: Geek.
Addendum and Public Notice:
Cat People are Perverts
"All you know is she’s a fucking cat person and that’s enough to disown him by association."
I have been advised that there is an additional branch that I missed, which actually is exactly in keeping with my overall feeling about the game, that it's just filled with different types of things to do. The Cat branch allows Wolf to be a good family man and deal with awkward family situations, which, because this is the sort of game it is, involves "shredding the balls" of a pervert cat would-be incesty uncle. "You might be an old and broke, but at least you’re not fucking a cat thing." Those are words I think we can all take to heart. This branch was quite short, but very different, and very funny. Wolf is extra, extra disgusted here, and the more disgusted he gets, the harder I laugh.
As I said in the Discord, I was somewhat surprised this one was your favorite so far since sometimes Alpha Wolf feels like a reskin of TRASH just with monsters and Mel and Wolf have similar personalities. AW does have more action and background lore though.
I wasn’t even going to write this story, but DEP first came up with the Infinite Story contest idea (The first one ever) and he said the theme was to involve monsters from the pre-1960s.
I probably went overboard in general with the story since it was WAY longer than the other two stories that were submitted for the contest, but once I got into it, I decided to REALLY go with it and include as many pre-1960s monsters as possible. The more popular monsters tended to get the longer branches.
One thing I kept in mind was to create an alternate earth where these monsters obviously were just living right along side humans and out in the open. Background lore for every monster was added along with minor alternate history touches like ant people being instrumental in flushing out the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War for example.
DEP’s Reunion story won the contest (Also later transferred to this site) and I don’t even remember what the other contest story was or even if it’s still posted on Infinite Story.
I can only guess because MRH had just argued with me recently and the story was also on the longer side so everyone involved in the voting process had no attention span.
The quicker Gower can get on with these, the quicker I can get on with having a valid reason for pontificating about my own stories like a self important movie director giving DVD commentary.
Ugh, I want to, believe me. It turns out having kids around 24-7 is more than I bargained for. I have not abandoned this project, it's just on hold until I have two seconds where I am not fixing someone's zoom meeting.