Player Comments on When The Music's Over
Well that was quite the ride.
I've been reading this on and off all throughout the day, and it hasn't disappointed. Written almost entirely in Cave of Time style (with the exception of one branch which I'll get to) choices lead you on to story after story with very little retreading.
I'm ashamed to admit I've never listened the theme song in its entirety before. But it fits REALLY well with the tone established in the beginning, I can totally picture the bitter man slowly losing his mind and devolving to a drunk throwing bottles at the wall. Although many of the paths happily go on to prove that he can still be more than that or even find peace and contentment.
Kit just WORKS as a protagonist. As I said in the thread, Disillusioned Old Sword Guy Who Only Wants to Be Left Alone is such an archetypal character type and I believe that's a factor in making him so easy to relate to. The key to many of the paths fit this, so many of them come down simply to what level of apathy he'll be operating at.
There are several paths I wish were longer, but I know that's a trade off with the Cave of Time style, and of course it's better to leave the reader wanting more than wanting to know when it will end. Only one or two out of the MANY endings were abrupt enough they didn't feel like real endings, anyhow, and what we did get fueled the imagination and left me thinking about what happened next. I'm happy you went ahead and made the prompt thread...I do so hope Gower started a trend with that idea, because this story in particular is really suited to it.
The only path that felt weak was the one where you accept the mission and go to the castle. On its own I suppose it's not bad, but when compared to the others it just felt lacking. That's extra unfortunate since 1) I believe a lot of new readers will pick it first while assuming it's the 'canon' path, and 2) it's the only path that has multiple choices looping into it, so it will be encountered more often than the others.
For one thing, it's hard to play a washed up and bitter old hero getting a special summons from the king to go on a quest without feeling like you're about to embark on something epic....and in this case that turned out to essentially be just sneaking through a sewer and burning a warehouse down. I wasn't shown any convincing reason why another knight from Miller's order or even just some normal soldier wouldn't do. In fact, Iris did most of the heavy lifting there on her own.
From following the developments on this in the Discord I was already aware that this was the last section Chris wrote, and he's heading off to Job Corps tomorrow so he had a hard time limit there, so it's pretty clear all of that was a factor. Maybe this path can be revisited and expanded some day.
Even though the mission for the king was a bit of a disappointment plot-wise, the writing itself still held up as well as anywhere else in the story. The proofreading was very thoroughly done for a story this size, I only spotted a handful of typos throughout the whole thing. And the entire style and mood here is such a departure from Chris' usual style, it feels much more mature and contemplative in tone, even a little sad. The first page really captured that sense, and even though there are many satisfying and even happy or uplifting endings you can find, the tone is consistent. Along with that are the touches of realism mixed with the fantastic, and just the right level of detail to make the setting feel lived in by real people; it's all written so smoothly you can't help but slip right into the scenes.
'When you reach the gates, you see two guards ahead; one is watching a firefly intently as it floats around his face, while the other has fallen asleep while standing up.' - Just a random sentence I pulled to demonstrate how a couple of small details to set a scene can make the whole thing grounded so believably and easy to imagine. (It also made me feel like a dick when I killed them a moment later...)
The characters were also standout and worth a moment of appreciation here.
Even in the relatively weak mission for the king path, Iris was great. She had an attitude and was so not impressed with this washed up old drunk and not shy about saying so, and yet she was the only one who had her facts straight about what happened in the past and fondly remembered Grace.
As I've said, many of the paths can be short, and each is practically a standalone story. Yet these characters who only get a few pages apiece are each so memorable. A couple of vivid visual details about them combined with a speaking style that's recognizable for each (without ever going overboard on accents or anything annoying like that) just piles on the personality. I don't believe I ever realized before this how natural Chris' handling of dialogue was.
Wrapping this up, I just want to say that I think out of all the paths, nearly all of which I enjoyed quite a lot, the stand out ending for me was actually the first one I got--the one where Lilith showed up. In fact when I get around to doing the writing prompt to continue an ending, it will certainly be this one, because I badly, *badly* wanted that adventure to continue, and even moreso now after reading the rest of the story for perspective. The shift in Kit's whole worldview after the knowledge she gives would make the entire mission read differently, from a suddenly more hopeful perspective. If this were a novel, that scene would almost have to be canon to give the hero that push they needed to go out and face their demons. (Occasionally literal ones...) I couldn't help but feel afterwards that Kit just leaving on his own felt like he had juuust missed getting to experience something life changingly important.
Anyhow, Chris has really proved that sometimes suffering the continued existence of the edgy racist eleven year olds among us can pay off in spades down the road. And the featuring was well deserved. I'm really pleased he was suddenly so divinely inspired to write this one and was able to gift it to the site right before he left for a bit to get all grown up. This should be inspirational to us all.
on 11/11/2019 8:48:15 PM with a score of 27
First of all, I want to address the title page as it sets the tone for the entire story. It’s very fitting. It could be a hero walking into the distance after performing the typical heroic actions. It also could be the hero turning his back when the people need him most. Spoiler, both options are presented to the protag in the story and the image is in-line with it. The picture adds to the story instead of taking away (or adding nothing), and I think it’s great use of visuals. Also, I notice the font changed from the blocky, meme looking text. Great decision.
The story takes classic fantasy aspects and puts its own twist on them. It’s very “Chris-y” if you’ve read his other work. There’s an interesting dynamic happening with the main character, and you get to follow his story during a strange part of his life. It’s not often the reluctant hero was a legendary warrior in the past, and the unique situation kept me engaged. There is only one minor issue I had with the MC. His fighting ability doesn’t seem affected by his situation at all. He’s spent many years doing nothing but “drinking wine and eating bread.” Now I can believe his legendary skills are enough to carry him through, but that lifestyle will add pounds fast. In fact, I imagined the MC as rather portly after reading about his life since the “good ol days” but I imagine he was not written to be on the heavier side. This is fantasy, so maybe real world health facts don’t apply. I’ll give you that.
On this play-through, I chose to answer the king’s call. The plot gives you a good enough reason to follow through with his king’s request. It’s kind of the classic “kill one, save a thousand” message. This also reveals the hero within the MC, Kit, may still be in there. Kit’s drunkenness reminds me a bit of Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai. He’s an alcoholic, but later you realize he’s affected by severe PTSD, and the sauce is the only way to manage. The conversation Kit has with himself before the mission alludes to that.
One thing I noticed by the traveling description, is that the king’s castle is very close to the border. The distance between the castle and Ornislov is about a day. The distance to the border was a few miles, and the journey through the forest to Ornislov took maybe half a day at the most. Most of the time descriptions were “a few hours”, and I didn’t remember reading a section about camping overnight. This is just an observation, although when you imagine a conflict between a nation and an empire, you think it would take place over a vast amount of land. Like I said, just an observation. I was going to point out the border was not very protected, but the END GAME link in the forest helped solve that issue.
I think I reached all the possible endings for this path. The endings I found all resulted in death. I didn’t see the generic mission successful epilogue where the MC gets the girl. I suppose the king did say it was a suicide mission. Unless I didn’t discover the right path, the ending felt very abrupt, like the story was just beginning and then it suddenly ended.
This is the second path I’ve played through, and while the story has extensive branching, the two I’ve played lack the overall feel of an epic. For example, this branch probably took less than a week’s time from beginning to end. It feels like you’re just getting to know your party and it’s over. I would like to learn more about Grace and Iris as well as more into Miller’s background. The writing quality is high, the story is engaging, and the plot is interesting. I intend to go back and read more paths, which is one of the tells behind a solid piece of interactive fiction. Well done.
on 11/8/2019 11:38:36 AM with a score of 42
Having read the entire story before release, I am writing this on the first end game link for this playthrough. Spoilers will be present.
This game was very well done. The best part about it is the unique perspective of the main character--who is a legendary hero AFTER the great evil is dead. This character has to deal with the loss of all of his friends, who died during the quest that took place before this story. This jaded ex-hero now has to decide how to cope with the fame and live the rest of his life. This perspective is continued in a branch where you can see what would have happened if the main character had died and one of his companions had lived--the author shows that any one of them would break down from the pressure.
No one branch is particularly long--but there are a ton of branches. You can do many things from resuming hero work to going mad, or even being king of the barbarians. Each branch has a great amount of character development packed into a short time. You either make a mental breakthrough and recover, continue a half-drunken stupor, or descend into chaos.
This story makes you wonder two things: what exactly happened before, and what exactly happens after. It is a great snapshot of the hero's internal struggle. I found my self caring about this hero and looking for the best branch for him to make a heroic comeback (because that is what I like).
There is even a 4th wall break that is pretty funny. I would have gone a different direction with that personally, but the author had some fun with it. He went in a ton of different directions. Again, the only "complaint" is that each branch felt short. If you wanted to just play one branch you will not see this story's potential. Playing multiple branches is when this story starts to shine.
I hope the author makes a prequel and a sequel. Perhaps this game could even be a writing prompt: pick and ending and continue it.
on 11/8/2019 10:36:02 AM with a score of 9
This game kicks ass, and I continue to be a big fan of Chris's writing. I love his sense of high adventure and his choice structure, with meaningful, interesting choices everywhere.
on 12/5/2019 10:28:45 AM with a score of 43
-- -geboh on 11/18/2019 8:20:44 AM with a score of 9
First I love your writing style, it reminds me of those old bards from medieval epic with a mockery undertone and a direct style.
I choose not going to the king calling. And all the Lilly presence it was great but the lack of knowledge about her that limits a little bit the dramatic weight of the scene. Maybe a previous dream about her and the dead companions while being drunken. Or crying their names in the dark could set the tone a little better but I love the game.
on 11/5/2019 12:28:04 PM with a score of 27