The Devourer

a Sci-Fi Adventure by StrykerL

Commended by BerkaZerka on 1/30/2017 12:04:40 PM

Player Rating4.83/8

"Too few ratings to be ranked"
based on 38 ratings since 01/30/2017
played 526 times (finished 45)

Story Difficulty6/8

"wandering through the desert"

Play Length6/8

"It'll be a while, better grab a Snickers®"

Maturity Level6/8

"I'll need to see some identification"
Some material may be inappropriate for persons under age 16. If this were a movie, it would probably between PG-13 and R.

The Devourer

The Devourer is a story revolving around the first 48 hours after the discovery of a wild colony of resource extracting nanites in a post-global warming 2040s setting. It explores the possibilities of a Grey Goo scenario. Endings (and certain story options) are path dependent on the basis of your choices.

The Devourer is my entry for the January New Frontier contest

Core Gameplay mechanic: Hope Vs. Despair
Endings: There are two non-standard endings early on for story reasons, six epilogue grade endings, and one special ending
The kaleidoscope of text color and fonts have gameplay reasons

Sci-Fi type: Adventure
Moh's Sci-Fi scale: Between a hard and medium SF 
Length: 20,999 words (around 50 A4 pages)

Things I'll change later
Find a way to add 1/2 px stroke effect around the active voice text
Reconsider a couple of the character names

Special thanks to:
TharaApples / Plelb / mizal / Seto

Player Comments

This felt like one of the more complete stories in the contest. There was a good amount of branching and just the sheer amount of writing accomplished in such a short time is something to be proud of. It was started with just eleven days left till the deadline, IIRC.

Of course like any story there's room for improvement. It's been mentioned that the colored dialogue was unnecessary and distracting, but it was actually more the things the characters said that I took the greatest issue with. By far the biggest flaw with the game was how unnatural and unrealistic the dialogue was, and that's such a major factor in how a character comes across. Rachel was written very well I thought, aside from the times she's giving infodumps or running around shouting 'THE DEVOURER!' (or burning her dog alive, cheerfully pretending she's not holding a loaded rifle...) but characters for the most part have just one personality trait, taken to an extreme, and pretty much all are weakened by this.

The meeting with the Council in particular stood out in my mind. The Council woman really struck me as a copout of a villain. It's so comfortable to not only have an antagonist completely, obviously wrong, but transparently evil, sociopathic, AND incompetent (yet never questioned), all at the same time. The situation at North End doesn't seem immediately, obviously desperate, yet without a moment's thought or hesitation she becomes completely singleminded about doing something that could become easily fatal to them all, and in such a way that pointlessly alienates and makes hostile the person who knows the most about the subject. And then sends her out with zero precautions taken or any sort of plan in place, either for exploiting or stopping the Devourer. (And the existence of the Devourer itself and what it's capable of is never put in question, so it's not a matter of ignorance.) Survival being such a powerful motivator, it's difficult to believe not a single other person at the meeting suggested taking five minutes to consider alternate plans. (Or said something like 'my condolences' in between the sneering and *Scoffing* (in emotes) to the woman who'd been through multiple tragedies like, that very day, that they were now apparently all depending on to complete a mission of utmost importance, essentially alone.)

Okay, so I feel the Council's behavior was unrealistic and illogical. The reason I've spent a big chunk of this review going on about this is because unfortunately, the entire plot going forward hinged on this. If anyone at the meeting had acted as you'd expect a person in charge of a settlement like that to act (with a shred of common sense, competence, class, or even self preservation...) then there could be no story.

So yeah, this particular issue gave me a lot of frustration even though on the whole I came away seriously impressed and looking forward to the author's next project. IMO this is the best sci-fi story we've had in awhile, and the fact that the scenario and technology it's speculating about are more on the side of realism made it really stand out to me, when the stories in this genre we get are usually more of the action adventure variety with space ships and laser. Adding to what feels like a very well researched subject, there are loads of details throughout that really reward multiple playthroughs. The author has put a lot of effort and thought into this setting and the story and it shows.
-- mizal on 2/16/2017 1:46:34 AM with a score of 0
This was one of those rare reading experiences where at the end of the story, after getting (probably) every ending, I felt like I had a very clear picture of what the author was going for and what their priorities were. I am willing to confidently assert that The Devourer is the result of a very imaginative person with a clear picture of a fictional world, who sees language as their tool for introducing their readers to this world. This author doesn't necessarily have a great love for writing so much as for storytelling. He has a love for his world, his characters, his plots and for his readers, but not specifically for the words he uses to deliver the former to the latter.

I don't for a second mean to suggest that The Devouerer is written poorly! Not at all. In fact, the author is a relatively competent writer and there were no mistakes bad enough to break my immersion. The writing was solid, but there was no flair, and no gambles taken with complicated and emotive sentences. It became clear by the story's end that the actual writing was never the focus for this author. This is by no means a condemnation of this very good story, and if you read my previous reviews, you'll find that I generally have much more substantive complaints, but I felt it necessary to write this down because it made such a strong impression on me.

I have three more small complaints and then I will write about the positives. Firstly, the colored text was obnoxious and didn't add anything to the story. This is the sort of creative decision that seems to be made simply because it can be made, but the only impact is that it draws me out of the world and reminds me that I'm simply reading, and not actually experiencing. Secondly, I am personally against the usage of mandatory reset links. I don't believe that authors and readers are competitors and I'm of the opinion that preventing users from ending the story is a sort-of childish ploy with no good ultimate reasoning. Finally, I thought that the supporting cast could use a little more work in some branches. In a couple of branches solid character development occurred, but in others, characters seemed to be quite one dimensional. This is one of the largest challenges in interactive fiction, so I don't hold the author too responsible, but I really want to touch on everything that I can. One way that the author could fix this is to work hard on making every line of dialogue more interesting and impactful. There was at least one line ("Mr. Drew") that stood out to me as lazy.

Okay! So far, I've done a lot of criticising but that's because I really enjoyed this story, and this is the author's first, so I have the potential to make a serious impact on how they write going forward. In short, this was very good and it did a lot of things well:

1. This was a completed piece of fiction! There were no loose ends. Could it be lengthened and re-worked? Surely, but it doesn't NEED to be because it's done. I can't say how unfathomably annoying it's been to read so many incomplete works so it's a total breath of fresh air to get to sink my teeth into a complete work. This was written in no-time flat as well; an extremely impressive endeavor!

2. This had complicated IF elements and multiple endings with a huge variety of user choice being taken into account, especially for a story of this length. I really appreciated how far ahead the author thought and how clever some of the decisions were. There were numerous pages that I didn't expect to be able to affect, and then later found that my choices really changed the way they played out. This was an excellent usage of the medium!

3. The author's world itself was excellent. I loved how the protagonist was not all-knowing and their deepest and most sincere beliefs proved incorrect in some branches. This was the sort of detail that proves that the author does think in shades of gray and I really appreciated it. Even among the website's best story's, I have often found this quality to be lacking.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this story. It was marvelous for a first game and impressive even without that qualifier. When I consider the timeframe that it was written in, it becomes all the more so. Thank you for your contribution, StrykerL!
-- JJJ-thebanisher on 2/4/2017 1:25:51 PM with a score of 0
I very much enjoyed this story. There were some minor issues with grammar but they didn't do too much in ruining the overall flow of this piece, and I suppose that's thanks to the plot. It's something that could be possible and I didn't feel like I had to extend my belief too much to imagine the setting and the looming threat in the story.

Stryker, you do a rather wonderful job with world-building and adding information and exposition when needed, so I never found myself getting lost since this information was spread throughout the story.

I had the pleasure of reading this in its early stages, and I'm rather impressed with what the final product turned out to be. There's not much fault that I can find in your storytelling, as this was quite emotional at times.

Also, Rachel is pretty much one of my favorite storygame protagonists now. I liked her backstory, and I found her strength and perseverance to keep pushing on rather admirable, but I felt that the other characters could've been fleshed out a bit more. At times they felt rather flat when compared to her, so I couldn't feel as connected to them.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this quite a bit and I look forward to reading more storygames from you in the future.
-- TharaApples on 1/30/2017 8:16:19 PM with a score of 0
So, this is a weird story game, but very complex. I died, but it's not a bad thing. Hopefully 2040 isn't this bad for real, I'd rather keep my world.
-- harrypotter on 3/2/2017 11:35:20 AM with a score of 0
Well written an enjoyable Story.
-- lejama88 on 2/7/2017 4:45:55 AM with a score of 0
Well, it was a solid piece for a first storygame. The opening was good, showing the apocalypse lite of climate change.

However, I do find the "Put down your dog" thing fairly weak. It doesn't punish me for my decisions as it's inevitable, it doesn't even inspire hatred for a villain as there's no malevolence causing it, it just seems to be a cheap way to make me feel sad that you gave me a dog and killed it.

The font thing was also a bit strange, but that's neither here nor there. Maybe other people preferred it, but I'd much rather have the dialogue be uncolored and in its own lines like normally done. Also, you really didn't need to capitalize as much, an exclamation mark is far better.

There were also a few issues with things like characters seeming a bit too two dimensional, such as the Council Woman who wants to time the Devourer. The lines "If I want to continue to live my life as I want it" is so filled with greed not even Trump would say it. It'd be better to have given them a better point to rally around, which even if clearly wrong would at least have their point of view more understandable. There indifference to life and blatant greed was just weak. If they had actually been arguing for something that I could understand real people would care about like trying to solve the actual hunger issues they were having to avoid starvation, they would've been able to have a point.

As well as this, there's a few other strange interactions, like telling a girl her friend loved her BEFORE telling her that said friend is dead. That's just blatantly stupid, although the friend's response of attacking is even worse. Plus, the way Ratchel handles it makes her seem like a raging bitch, so there's that.

Plus, the Foreign Legion dude was just a raging cunt for not particularly reason.

All in all it's a solid game, despite its flaws, and the writer does have a lot of potential. It'll be interesting to see his progression as a writer.
-- Steve24833 on 2/4/2017 12:31:32 PM with a score of 0
Nice use of colors, oh and is there an ending where the protagonist doesn't die?

Still a great story, by the way. Most details were fleshed out, enjoyed the times when Rachel acts like some fearless commander, no grammar errors found. My only regret is that it coulda been longer.

Still worth every cent. 6/8.
-- AgentX on 2/3/2017 10:00:50 PM with a score of 0
I had a pleasant time playing through this game! Rachel is an interesting protagonist in a well-built world. There were a few errors dotted about the story but didn't detract from the story significantly. The constantly shifting fonts and colors were confusing, I'll admit that. (my eyessss)
Overall, this earns a solid 5/8 from me.
-- MrMustachio on 1/31/2017 4:18:09 PM with a score of 0
Funny, I was sucked in by that title in the new section a few minutes ago, or so it feels, and was in the midst of putting it off when Stryker PM’ed me asking whether or not I’d read his story yet. Clearly, this was a sign from Thor. Or maybe Stryker is a 4th-dimensional abomination who sees all things between the spaces we comprehend. Either way, this was shaping up to be a good story.

My first thoughts upon “Opening” the “Book” pretty much equated to “Damn, that’s classy!” and indeed it was, because my opinions are always correct. I could tell that this was going to be a pretty well-polished, if not well written and well thought-out escapade into the tiny robot apocalypse, because there was a banner image, a centralised title, a subtitle, and a “By StrykerL” line that made it feel as if I was reading a real book and shit. Hence the previous thing that I said.

The Disclaimer felt a little bit unnecessary. I understand that not everyone knows what a Grey Goo scenario is, and I’d reiterate that it’s much better to show us what a Grey Goo scenario is than tell us, but as it is, it’s infinitely better than exposing the concept in dialogue, and it shows you know your stuff, further contributing to the very professional appearance and feel of your game. It was there with a purpose, and I can’t think of a better way. It easily avoided the trap of Pacific Rim.

There may have been grammatical errors, but I was too lazy to pick them out. I was eating a really good apple at the time of reading, which provided me with a sort of euphoria that made me stop giving a fuck about what exactly I was seeing in the physical world. Aside from the fonts. I noticed that there were quite a lot of fonts employed, but they didn’t seem to be very overwhelming. They were used sparingly enough that the changes were not striking or eye-hurting, just enough to let us know that different people are talking.

I ate some strange apple of joy, and I’m already imagining what Times New Roman sounds like. You sure picked a good time to ask me for a coherent review!

We’re given some good insight into the world and how climate change affected it from the point of view of a hunter. This hunter is our protagonist, Rachel, who sounds exactly the way you’d expect Navy-Blue TNR to sound. Global Warming, despite what your nearest protester will tell you, did not instantly end the world, but rather caused everything to become weird as shit. Not in any particularly surreal way, mind you, just messing with the biological clocks of animals and behaviors. Most of the migratory birds died in the 2030s, which was probably considered the decade equivalent of the year 2016. I imagine that in 2031, a zookeeper kicked off the horror by shooting a Bartailed Godwit named Hamby to protect the child that wandered into the Migratory Bird Pen, which in turn kicked off an internet phenomenon that dulled our senses to further bird and human tragedies. But that’s just my headcanon.

She and her dog, Axe, (A specimen of the rare Bold Green Tahoma breed.) are hunters in this bizarre dystopian future. Not for sport, either. Hunting is a necessity in this world, which I wasn’t about to question because I’m not good with logistics and I didn’t know what really happened in 2030, which may have been an actual apocalypse. (Spoiler: It was. They’re at the actual edge of the world.)

Anyway, axe runs off and gets some of the unholy mechanical oobleck smattered upon his person, and since he is both the heroin’s dog in a dystopian future, he is most certainly doomed to die a slow and horrible death. Accompanied by sad music, if at all possible. I henceforth convinced myself that Axe was one of the racist robo-dogs from Wolfenstein to prevent emotional damage in the coming inevitable tragedy.

Although, I only played one particular path through the story, so I wouldn’t be able to tell you whether he truly dies or not. What I do know is that this is a very good story. Particularly marvelous, in fact. This is the fantastic adventure of a wilderness survivor who maintains a Sigourney-Weaver-like will in the face of mankind-ending adversity. We’re assured in the beginning that Rachel has been through some shit, but whatever it was must have somehow been worse than plain old nanomonsters the way she perseveres, in a way that is both badass and sympathetic at the same time, without having to flipflop between those things like the new Laura Croft.

The pacing is fine, and information is presented on a buffet table that we may sample at our leisure the moment it becomes important. The world is fully developed and well-conceived, which deeply enhances the experience. The very defined nature of the Devourer and the technology around it keeps the grey goo well away from any possibility of being the vaguely defined plot device it’s usually treated as, and it makes the cybernetic menace a very real and visceral presence throughout the game. From the very outset, it’s clear that, holy shit, the thing is real, and it’s eating the world.

But that kind of conceptual fear usually associated with the Gray Goo fades if you’re not really that kind of person. But you know how to build atmosphere, and as you continue to encounter and avoid the phenomenon, it remains effective and becomes a monster of its own. More horrifying than that, though, is the nature of society, which is so magnificently dickish that I found it hard to really notice how horrifying it was until a page or so after when I realised the very real and very disturbing shittiness of the fact that Rachel genuinely doesn’t have any other choice. This is who she HAS to work for, this is what she HAS to do for those people.

It paints a very dark and intriguing picture of the future, which kept me reading for two entire apples. I rate it 2/2.5 apples. I should sleep someday.
-- ISentinelPenguinI on 1/31/2017 2:45:39 PM with a score of 0
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