The Devourer

a Sci-Fi Adventure by StrykerL

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

Player Rating5.06/8

"#288 overall, #24 for 2017"
based on 57 ratings since 01/30/2017
played 1,262 times (finished 67)

Story Difficulty6/8

"wandering through the desert"

Play Length5/8

"Not going to lose any sleep"

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
Well, shi- er, shoot! This is really good. Sad thing with Axe but other than that it seems reasonable enough to happen
-- VictorisaiahCYS on 3/28/2018 4:39:43 PM with a score of 0
A wonderful original story with a wide variety of outcomes and an impressive first attempt. There are places I could take issue and advice I could provide to improve it, but it stands on its own merit fairly well. Stylistically, I appreciated the change in text color & the ability to investigate the backstory as it became relevant. Looking forward to your next attempt.
-- march5th00 on 5/10/2017 12:20:18 AM with a score of 0
-- GigaKnight on 5/4/2017 1:43:51 PM with a score of 0
I prefer the spite ending rather than good ending I don't know why it just feels right for me.
-- Angriach on 4/26/2017 11:43:36 AM 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
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