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2 months ago
Commended by Mizal on 4/10/2024 5:27:19 PM

Do you find yourself wanting recognition for your storygame that isn't "sucks" or "lol, fag?" Are you tired of waiting for weeks while your comment section remains a barren wasteland? Have you ever wondered why so many people on a writing site just don't seem to read?

For a limited time only, I will be offering free reviews! Claim yours today.

-- ⚔︎ --

It’s been a while since I reviewed storygames, so if I’m going to host a review contest, that has to change. Therefore, this will be the thread to shamelessly self-promote your stories offer reading recommendations!

To keep things exciting, I'll post in this thread at a random time each day. The first recommendation as a reply would be the storygame I'll read, rate and review. 

You can recommend any published storygame. It can be any genre, and of any length (for longer ones, I'll read through to one ending and maybe more depending on time). The only real requirement is that I haven't already written a proper review for it.

Let the reviews begin!

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2 months ago

Mystic's Wall of Reviews

A Prayer for Destruction, by Malk
   → Link to storygame
   → Link to review

Revenge on the River Lord, by GP
   → Link to storygame
   → Link to review

The Village That Was, by Goodnight_a
   → Link to storygame
   → Link to review

The Red Church, by Peng
   → Link to storygame
   → Link to review

The Grand Pharaoh's Tomb, by Dire
   → Link to storygame
   → Link to review

Arakhan's Vengeance, by Elfred
   → Link to storygame
   → Link to review

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2 months ago

Day 1

What storygame do you recommend I start with? Reply to this message for a free review while stocks last.

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2 months ago

A Prayer for Destruction

Placed second in the contest and deserves some more attention, the comments section is pretty barren.

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2 months ago

Definitely deserving.  This is my favorite so far out of the ones I have read.  However, I havent gotten to yours or MHDs yet

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2 months ago

Writing this review took slightly longer than expected and I know it isn't technically the same 'day', but I'll still attempt to finish each of them within 24 hours after the previous one. I might as well add the review here because it might convince more people to read the storygame:


Day 1 Review | "A Prayer for Destruction", by Malk

Read it here: https://chooseyourstory.com/story/a-prayer-for-destruction 

I’ll start with a disclaimer: take everything in this review with a grain of salt. I’m not a professional writer nor a seasoned reviewer (yet). To those of you who haven’t read the story, I will mention a few spoilers so do yourselves a favor and read it before this review. 

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The description is strong and succinct. Right away, I can tell the story will incorporate compelling worldbuilding elements, interwoven with themes of religion and war. As for the starting quote, it sets the tone really nicely. The all-caps was slightly jarring, but it worked to convey the context, which matched the message delivered. 

I love the parallels to Catholicism. This might be a bit of a tangent, especially to readers of this review who don’t know much about the religion, but I like how there are just the right amount of allusions for it to feel unique and distinct, yet recognisable. The ‘Necessary One’ was a nice touch, showing the significance of God to the people in this world. There were references to being made in God’s image and likeness, and his thoughts transcending human understanding. 

Pacing is great here. There is enough information revealed to immerse the reader in the setting without overwhelming them, while keeping some things unknown. Details of the worldbuilding are sprinkled in nicely, such as hinting at the governance and political system, the way power is maintained, and the factions that exist. The sword only being effective in the hands of one trained by their kind is a cool detail. There are also a few hints at moral superiority and believing their way is the ‘right way’, such as the sword’s inscriptions of forgiving sinners. I wonder if this foreshadows the future conflict. 

Strong sense of character is conveyed throughout the narration: the protagonist is devoutly religious. Not sure if it was meant as humor, but I laughed at the horse being named ‘Dirt’. After reading about the serious religious customs, and the noble lineage of the horse, that name was the last thing I expected lol. 

I’m probably nitpicking, but quite a few sentences begin with ‘you’. I didn’t realize it at first, and it wasn’t disrupting immersion too much, except for that one paragraph where the same structure is used three times in a row. Also, I think it’s ‘brisk’ trot, not ‘brisque’ (had to do a quick search to confirm it wasn’t the american english spelling).

There was a paragraph which might have been a bit of an infodump, but honestly, I didn’t mind. It was done well and introduced as being relevant to the situation—the protagonist was recounting important facts before he entered the city—and I enjoyed learning about this fascinating setting. It feels like a high fantasy version of the Old Testament with its warring nations, false gods, etc.

The last paragraph of the first page summarized the protagonist’s mission of the story. It describes the situation, the stakes, and enemies whose morals are in direct contrast with the protagonist’s (potential character foils?). But it also hints at the fact that not everything may be as it seems. 

WORLDBUILDING

The worldbuilding was incredible in this story. Lots of care seems to have been put into crafting the setting, from the city structured by three rings to the individual locations. When reading some stories, it feels like the setting is very confined, made solely for the purpose of furthering the plot/ the main character’s interaction with the world. This is very much the opposite. The world feels real and lived-in, with mentions of other cities and their cultures. 

The description seemed almost cinematic: for the part where the protagonist approaches the northern gate, it was like watching the story unfold from a wide-angle view, then the camera zoomed into the twin towers, stretching to the sky, panning to the skyway and crossbowmen. Every place—the mutated quarter, the great hall, the laughing goat’s chamber—had unique descriptions with its inhabitants reflecting the location. Lots of subtle details enrich the world, too: the Family Above Reproach signaling the extreme power given to royalty, the maxims which may be used to encourage groupthink, and the idea that magic is something which can be sensed, leaving traces behind, whether through a scent or a feeling. 

Another interesting worldbuilding detail is the inscriptions on the swords, where the protagonist—one called to war—has a saying about forgiveness for the sinners he will slay, and the grandmaster’s is ‘all things beneath the law’, perhaps a reminder of his servitude despite his standing. Though maybe I’m overthinking, but it slightly contradicts the part where the monarchy is viewed as the ‘family above reproach’. 

PLOT & CHARACTER

There is a good amount of branching in this storygame. I won’t spoil too much, but depending on the choices that are made, the protagonist’s character arc can move in completely different directions—from the highest title of Grandmaster in his order, to borderline heresy. The best part? Most of it is realistic and within character. 

While there did not seem to be much internal conflict in some paths, for a story of this size, characterization was sufficient. I liked the brutal nature of the protagonist, and the way death was something brushed aside casually (e.g. “You chop a man in half” and “you do not mourn your casualties”). They were just numbers to him. Then at the same time, we had the contrasting characterisation of him caring for his horse, Dirt, and paying the stable boy out of pity. This makes him appear more multidimensional. 

In one of the paths, there was a five year old in the order who killed several people. I did a double take haha. The juxtaposition of the phrase ‘purity of his hate’ was something I found refreshing; most religions tend to focus heavily on love, whereas this one was driven by hate—of the mutants, the non-humans, and those who sympathized with them. 

My favorite path was the one where he eventually committed a ‘crime’ by letting the elf live. I enjoyed the character development. At first, the protagonist was reluctant to work with her, though he recognised the loophole in the law and how it might be for the greater good. The character dynamics of them insulting each other was fun to read about. We knew the protagonist viewed all mutants as ‘monsters’ and ‘subhumans’, and some people (like the knight who tried to defend one of them) believed they were innocents. Then the elf started calling the protagonist ‘monster’ as he did, and ‘great beast’, thus beginning the uneasy alliance. There was also a part which hinted at his backstory and how an elf was the reason behind his broken nose (I would have liked to hear more about that, as it was described as the only distinguishing feature from the rest of his order, though I recognise there was the time-restraints of the contest). Yet, the protagonist eventually learnt from working with her that perhaps not all mutants had to be killed off and had the choice to spare her in the end. The battle with the Laughing Goat was quite impressively written, involving combat both physically and mentally. In the end, the elf acted honorably too, further reinforcing this theme; he refers to her by her name that last time instead of an insult. And he smiles at his heresy (btw ‘embarrassing’ is spelt wrongly, but it’s embarrassing how I only caught it on my second readthrough). 

If I were to give some feedback, some paths were a bit abrupt, e.g. the one where you accept the position of Grandmaster. The previous page seems to foreshadow that it might not be the best decision, as something nags at you, but then in the next page, the only slight negative consequence is that it will be a while before you get back to killing. I was expecting more of a repercussion like the elves interfering with your reign, or maybe less satisfaction with the role (since in the other path, the protagonist’s true calling was to exterminate the evil species and kill for the Necessary One). Though I do suppose it might be due to contest constraints and it was intended to be a longer path.

NARRATIVE STYLE

Reading this story was a great experience. There were lots of beautifully written lines, but at the same time, there were some I found quite humorous, like: “You are received with a grandeur befitting your station. You take no notice of it, as befits your station.”

At times, death was described in such a matter-of-fact way: “The survivors are prostate and begging for mercy which they know will not come. You sentence them all to death.” Yet, it was contrasted with some really in-depth descriptions, especially for locations, drawing out the pacing. Action scenes were tense, with vivid descriptions of violence, adding to immersion. 

I like the line “You leave the city of Edelrach politically headless”. Nice pun.

Another worthy mention: “He took a vow of silence after the ordeal; presumably because they took his tongue.” Both of these serve to add a touch of humour while preserving the grim, violent atmosphere of the world.

Since this section seems like I’m just compiling quotes to compliment, I’ll add a slight nitpick: maybe a bit of extra proofreading would help, as there were often extra spaces between words, and once even a word being split in half and continued on another paragraph. Still, I’d chalk that up to contest time pressures. The writing is very polished in terms of prose, with few grammatical and spelling errors. 

One of my favorite descriptions is a scene during the fight, where the protagonist somehow overcomes death and being burnt alive: “You are in a sea of fire being unmade, inch by inch. You see beyond the fire. You see a vast blackness, and beyond it, shimmering light; a great curtain of whitest white. The curtain has ten thousand blinking eyeballs; the attention of just one of them has set you aflame. You scream, exalted.” Something about it just feels so otherworldly and encapsulates an abstract experience really well. 

TL;DR

I recommend this storygame to everyone reading this review. It was highly entertaining and I can see how it nearly won a contest. 

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2 months ago
I became shamefully distracted this weekend and did not get any of the planned commenting done, I shall try again this coming weekend. But glad to see this thread, and I think it goes without saying that the contest games are going to be the recommendations.

For all the talk about it being a low turnout, the number of games were more than enough to underline that readership levels have hit rock bottom. At least among active regulars. We still have comments coming in from drivebys, but their selection methods are inscrutable.

Might as well mention though that Tony was asked to put the 10 newest games on the front page of the site next to the Top 5 and In Need, so maybe that will start bringing new people to new games. (This would've been a terrifying prospect in the past, but the new games these days are for the most part pretty decent despite the fact barely anyone looks at them.)

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2 months ago

Revenge on the River Lord

Y'all can do better than 10 ratings, I want more constructive feedback, thank you in advance!

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2 months ago

When I first began this thread, the concept was to only accept one recommendation a day, incentivising members to check the site more frequently (and hopefully be more productive as a result). But then I felt bad withholding reviews from people who wanted them, so I suppose my new comment challenge is to write a review a day.

Anyway, here's your review! I've added some constructive feedback as per your request.

-- ⚔︎ --

Day 2 | Revenge on the River Lord, by GP

Read it here: https://chooseyourstory.com/story/revenge-on-the-river-lord 

I’ll begin with a disclaimer: to the author, take everything in this review with a grain of salt. I’m not a professional writer nor a seasoned reviewer (yet). To future readers of this story, I will mention spoilers so do yourselves a favor and read it before this review. 

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Right away, the description establishes an interesting premise. It introduces the conflict, briefly describes the protagonist and sets the scene well. (Minor grammatical error: you ‘were’, not was). 

The story starts by immediately placing the protagonist in peril. Given the reader already understands what’s happening from the description, this quicker pace in the first page works well. Using thoughts that flashed in the character’s mind was a really good way of incorporating worldbuilding and providing context without making it an infodump. It also served to develop both plot and character in the same sentences. It is well-paced—starting with action, slowing slightly to explain the situation, then plunging back into the face of danger. 

I noticed another comment mentioning that the ancient China setting wasn’t too prevalent. Yet, I enjoyed the subtle way it was interwoven into the story, such as the references to boy child favoritism and the way women were expected to marry young. Red is also a color that symbolizes luck in the culture and later in the narrative; there was a path where the village fled because they viewed the place as ‘unlucky’—this ties in with the ancient Chinese’s fascination with luck and fortune. 

The backstory conveyed why the protagonist was forced into this situation, with no one on her side, where she was stuck between two bad choices. It showed the problem with their society too, which was really the root cause behind the main life-or-death problem she was in. Maybe to take it one step further, it might be good to tie this into character development: how does this affect the protagonist’s thoughts and future actions? At times, it often felt like an impassive recollection of events. You could show how she feels about it—any resentment for the village? Or pity, if she could sympathize with their desperation to prevent the flood? Perhaps just contempt at their stupidity and how people just believed whatever they were told. This could flesh the character out a bit more while adding layers to the theme/ a potential subtheme.

WRITING STYLE

The writing style was easy to read, revealing information to the reader without being overly convoluted or wordy (unlike my reviews). Details of the darker aspects of the world were sometimes mentioned quite casually: “you hadn't had any food this morning since it would be a waste to feed someone who was going to die before lunch”, though it makes sense, as if the protagonist has normalized this sort of treatment. 

Let’s get the slight proofreading errors out of the way. There were instances of tense shifts, like “you’re running out of time” on the first page, and on the page to flee to a different town, starting from the part “the first town is Dandelion Village” and all the ensuing paragraphs, the tense shifts from past to present. For conversations, use commas instead of full stops before dialogue tags (I won’t go into too much detail but you could find more about this in one of the helpful articles on dialogue). 

I understand it’s probably a matter of personal style preference, but I felt there wasn’t as much grounding in each scene as there could have been. This could be due to the large scope of the story—an impressive number of plot events occurred—yet, in some paragraphs, it seemed like the narrative was merely listing out what happened. Still, I recognise my biases as a reader and know lots of other readers don’t really like excessive descriptions or too much focus on immersion through the senses. 

I found the parentheses quite funny. My favorite was the reference to gay and depressed. 

PLOT & CHOICES

I was honestly impressed by the branching in this story. It consists of so many different stories and directions, really stretching the limit of what the cave-of-time format can do, and readers will get wildly different experiences depending on the path they play.

For example, I found it refreshing how there was a whole path about escaping and having nothing to do with the River Lord or previous village. Most choices led to unique branches and paths, with very few looping back. 

One of the best parts was how the various branches linked to one another. (Spoilers below). At first, I believed it was kind of humorous—albeit unrealistic—how the part about pretending to be a wedding fairy worked out so well. Then in another path, I found out the man was rather insane so it all made sense. Another part which surprised me: the baker said a line where his brother and children were murdered for helping a girl sold to thieves and robbers as a wife—this was the wife of the delusional man on another path! I loved the attention to detail and the connectedness of the often really different paths. 

New information is revealed in each path too, hence reading another branch could enhance your experience of the previous one. There was a part where a man explained the history of the River Lord tradition, and even though it only ended with death, this information did provide more lore about the vicious ritual. Some themes were consistent throughout—like misogyny and double standards for men and women—keeping an element of cohesiveness. 

A bit of feedback for the author would be to work on ensuring continuity. For example, take this sentence: “You tried to walk calmly towards the outhouse, acting like any villager who needed to use the bathroom in the middle of the street, which was difficult because you were wearing a full red wedding dress.” It makes sense, except for the fact that before this, there was no mention of a red wedding dress. I suppose if it were more of a traditional wedding, one could assume this to some extent. But this wasn’t the case (they didn’t feed those who would soon die, so why would they make them a wedding dress?). There was also another scene which referenced a red blindfold and red shoes. This felt somewhat out-of-the-blue, since although the reader knew about the ceremony, it wasn’t described in much detail; maybe mentioning this earlier would prevent disrupting immersion. It’s just like how in some stories, a character isn’t described so we form our own mental image of them, and suddenly the hair color is mentioned and our mental image is disrupted. While of course the author cannot make us envision the exact same thing as them, describing something first and later referencing that descriptor helps maintain immersion.

Regarding endings, there are lots and lots of them. I like how one of the peaceful endings kept with the consistent theme, showing how the protagonist’s past abusive situation meant she was satisfied with the less-than-ideal life in the village, yet it also shows a sense of dissatisfaction which hints that there is a more fulfilling path. Good technique to get the reader to check out the other paths. 

Overall, there are some vastly different narratives, from living a luxurious life but keeping a terrible secret, to being the ruler of monkeys. The theme and tone varies accordingly to these too. It is quite a versatile story, and for readers of this review, I recommend reading a few different branches. There’s so much range and lots of unexpected events. 

CHARACTER

The protagonist is rather resilient. Despite everything she had to endure, she fights for her life. This was portrayed early on, as she struggles for survival. In part, this is due to her harsh upbringing, like how she remembers keeping her hiding spot as a secret even after being beaten nearly to death. This ties in with the constant theme of the parents being abusive to their daughter, through controlling and exploiting her. Throughout the narrative, we see how this is brought up in memories and influences her thought process. 

Now, we come to something I’m not very sure how I feel about. On one hand, the characterization wasn’t as consistent or distinct as it could have been to create a stronger emotional impact. Yet on the other hand, having her personality or internal conflict being too set-in-stone would have prevented the story’s plot from branching as much as it did—which is one of the features which makes it shine.

First, let’s talk about the positives. Readers can sympathize with the protagonist, especially after the page where her whole backstory is revealed if one chooses to kick the bag. It shows more about the protagonist and the toxic culture in her village. Moreover, the protagonist’s goals and motivations are characterized well and blend in nicely with the plot. Throughout most of the narrative, her conflict is external: she fights for her survival. As such, not too much introspection is needed, and she focuses on the situations she’s in, drawing on past experiences and her observations of the world around her. This is done well.

Furthermore, I really like how this shifts when she’s no longer in survival mode. For these paths, she has more of an emotional conflict: this could be driven by her loyalty to her cousin despite the potential fallout an action could bring, or whether to carry out revenge when it means giving up the comforts of her new life. One of the parts which made me smile was the except where she was finally living for herself after all the dire situations. Yay for character development! This story presented a realistic depiction of how a character’s ambitions change depending on what aspect of their life is threatened. 

Now, some potential improvements. A big part of the wanderer path was about wanting revenge. As much as this is understandable given her situation, since this was one of the first few paths I read and didn’t rely on knowledge in the other branches, I felt this wasn’t built up as well as it could have been. Maybe it was because she had been preoccupied with surviving, but a few brief lines about how she wanted to survive so she could exact revenge in the future might have foreshadowed this a bit more, especially since it seemed like she wanted survival above anything. Hence, I was surprised by the sudden switch to wanting revenge instead. Then again, having too many character traits/ strong personality or internal conflict would probably prevent the story from having all the different paths due to contradicting characterisation. After all, if the protagonist had a burning desire for revenge, a lot of the other situations would not have occurred as revenge would have been her sole mission, her focus. Whereas having that take more of a backseat role meant being able to explore all the other paths this setting presented.

Similarly, the part about getting justice through the merchants building walls around the river was a creative solution, though I felt the protagonist didn’t have much of an emotional reaction. This was something the protagonist had strong thoughts about. A tradition which nearly killed her, which started off this whole story. And yet, the actual scene felt somewhat…anticlimactic. Maybe it could be improved by having her watch from afar with a sense of pride at this hostile tradition being eradicated, but then, as she sees her reflection in the river, she is struck by a faint memory of what could have been. And she realizes she never truly got the revenge she desired, for all the pain and suffering they made her endure, though as her reflection fades away, she realizes she did put an end to the tradition. No one else will be sacrificed ever again. That’s more or less the same thing in terms of plot, but with a bit more of an emotional impact.

In the same vein, the barbarians ending involved so many people getting killed, though there wasn’t really much strong emotion attached as one would expect. Was there any sort of sadness, considering these were people the protagonist grew up with? Or how about anger, and resentment, and hatred, all fueling her actions and reminding her of how they were so willing to kill her in the first place. 

One of the most emotional ones was the guilt ending, probably because of the close relationship with the baker established. The character dynamics was presented well, with him even asking her to be his niece, and it made that path have more of an emotional stake. 

TL;DR

Read this storygame. And if you do, I suggest checking out a few different paths: it’s satisfying to see how they connect to one another and there are some very different ways your story may play out. 

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2 months ago

Thank you so much for this! I couldn't ask for more. 

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2 months ago
As of writing, all the contest entries have 10+ ratings except for 3, so if you want to rate or maybe review, those are good candidates too.

The Village That Was
The Red Church
The Grand Pharaoh's Tomb

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2 months ago

Here we go, yet another review!

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Day 3 | The Village That Was, by Goodnight_a

Read it here: https://chooseyourstory.com/story/the-village-that-was  

Disclaimer: to the author, take everything in this review with a grain of salt. I’m not a professional writer nor a seasoned reviewer, so exercise your own discretion. As for potential readers of this story, I will mention many spoilers; please do yourselves a favor and read it before this review. 

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

There’s not much in the description except an ominous line that it’s raining again. Going into this story, I wasn’t sure what to expect regarding the plot. I like the recurring motif presented from the start, with the chapter title of ‘light drizzle’. Will the story be organized by the stages of rain? I enjoy seeing this sort of thematic structuring, perhaps with rain being a metaphor/ symbol throughout the story.

The atmosphere was crafted really well through sensory descriptions. As the story begins in a rainy, foggy location, it creates a moody and downcast tone. Good use of pathetic fallacy here, I felt quite immersed in the setting. Revealing information about the location and characters through conversation was a nice touch—this meant avoiding info-dumps or slowing down the plot. There was good pacing throughout; the narrative flowed well.

A slight grammatical error: ‘you world’ should be ‘your world’. Also, I’m probably nitpicking here, but it might be better to use more distinct names for the newspaper and village. ‘Crantley’ and ‘Cranner’ were a tad too similar which could confuse readers.  
There was good characterization of the protagonist, too. His backstory, ambition and knowledge of his own talent were all interesting elements; I got the sense he felt he had to do a job he was overqualified for. This tied in with the driver’s impressions of the village and how nothing ever happened there. 

The first page left just enough information unrevealed to keep me invested. There were hints at future conflict: for instance, when the driver said “Well, you’ll see” and the protagonist was unable to ask him what he meant. Also, the line about “You'll be wanting all the luck you can get out there” added to the underlying ominous tone prevalent throughout the story.

SETTING

Given the prompt that was chosen for the contest, the setting played an integral role. Lots of well-placed descriptions prevented the white-room syndrome: even as I write this review, I can still picture the waterlogged islands, complete with its cold, damp air and flooded terrain. There was a lot of emphasis on the weather throughout the narrative. The protagonist used it as a way of initiating conversation with several individuals throughout the story (e.g. “Nice weather we’re having?”). In a way, it felt almost British based on my experience of having lived here for a few years: there’s the constant talk of the weather; dismal, gray landscapes; lots and lots of rain (it comes so unexpectedly too).

Anyway, let’s not get sidetracked. The flood was foreshadowed well from the beginning—when the driver mentioned it and how catastrophic it was to the village—and then again, when the protagonist questioned a relative of the deceased who mentioned it. This made the narrative more cohesive, given it was one of the main sources of the human vs nature conflict in the story. At first, I didn't really see the relevance of the ‘plague or famine’ prompt until I noticed the subtle parts where it was implied: mentions of a past food shortage, and the pamphlet about monthly rations. Then, as the story progressed, and the tensions surrounding the flood ramped up, this prompt came in at a good time to increase the stakes even more. 

Oh, guess I was right about this story being set in the UK! The references to Arsenal, the Bake Off and Earl Grey tea were very British. This story is also written in British English; not sure how I didn’t notice at first. 

Throughout the story, I loved the way the rain was a recurring motif. (spoilers) I’ll probably mention more about it later, but it was there, in the background, of all the significant scenes: after the funeral, when the protagonist chooses to leave Crantley, and it even gets heavier after a boat is stolen, they’re out of medicine and a member of their community is sick. 

Neat reference to Atlantis, the lost city, as the title of this is ‘The Village That Was’. 

It was fascinating to see a story about the destructive forces of nature—storms, rain, flood and wind—and how individuals’ true colors are revealed in the struggle for survival.

Since I noticed the author edited the story to correct a typo, here are some slight misspellings I found: ‘hve’ (Rain Check), ‘townspeaople’ (Try to Get Help) and ‘ot’ (Leave for the City). Editing was pretty good otherwise, though, as those were the only ones I caught.

CHOICES

I was surprised by the amount of branching in this story. There were more unique paths than I believed at first, especially as it was organized by chapters. Depending on the choices you make, your chapter 2 and 3 could be completely different from another reader’s.

At the start, we were given choices revolving around information-gathering. This made sense seeing as the protagonist was an investigative journalist. Then, closer to the end of the first chapter, the choices were more significant and could change the direction of the story.

There were some parts where seemingly insignificant choices like where to look for a boat meant the story split into separate directions, though I enjoyed that. It all made sense given the sequence of events presented in the narrative. There was great use of delayed consequences too—such as the choice between staying with the Sanders or at the hotel—and these led to different branches. There were similar scenes which could be experienced differently: in one path, it’s mentioned how a group of elderly kept interrupting each other, in another, this was shown in more detail. I didn’t realize this until my second readthrough, but whether or not you choose to converse with a character could determine the information that is revealed (i.e. whether you see Jasmine’s letter). 

Another thing I liked was how every chapter began with a type of rain and quote (which corresponded to/ foreshadowed the future events within that chapter). I never knew there were so many poetic quotes about rain. 

CHARACTERS

Strategic use of character—an investigative journalist—for this story. From the start, the protagonist took on quite an interrogative role even when he was just making conversation, which gave the reader new information about the village. The protagonist’s characterization was revealed in bits and pieces, sprinkled into the narrative, whether through his actions or the memories that are sparked (e.g. when he remembered his past at the church). As the story was about human nature in the face of natural disasters, this enabled readers to empathize with the protagonist more. 

Not sure if it’s intentional or a mistake, but are the years in the diary meant to be XXXX? Or was that part of a first draft and you forgot to replace it with a date? This was seen on the flyer, too: XX/2/XXXX.

The side-characters were interesting to read about. For instance, the deceased had quite realistic diary entries: she briefly mentioned world events, before focusing on what was most important to her life, like the milestones of her family members. From the different conversations, I got the sense she was more or less an ordinary woman—some people liked her, but others, not so much. Also, depending on whether we chose the pictures or diaries, we could see either a more positive or negative view of her life. It was a subtle detail but I liked how Paul tried to direct the protagonist to the pictures (positive memories). 

Then, there was the shady character who was disappointed the deceased wasn’t murdered lol. We also had other well-written side characters, like Emory, whose bluntness in conversations was enjoyable to read. Jasmine’s character was sympathetic too, given that one emotional ending. 

PLOT

I liked the notepad and its reminders depending on the choices we made. Usually, with mysteries or stories where lots of information is revealed, I find it difficult to determine what is or isn't relevant to the story. Sometimes it may feel like an information overload. Thus, this little item was a great way to point out what was most relevant to the reader.

First, I’ll briefly discuss the theme. As with lots of survival stories, the readers have to care about the characters and by extension, their survival. This was done quite well. Furthermore, one of the characters said “communities last longest”, which appeared to be a consistent theme throughout the story. By choosing to save the furniture with a group of people as opposed to individually, the outcome is more effective. Selecting selfish options—like leaving a character to her fate or stealing medicine for yourself—led to disappointment and death. 

I loved how the tensions and stakes kept rising (like the water levels) as the story progressed. (Spoiler) Fighting broke out, people tried to flee, and situations kept worsening. One of my favorite endings was the scene where the protagonist saved a character from committing suicide. I like the line: “She came here to die; you came here determined to live”. This scene was somewhat emotionally evocative, especially considering the context and how it was foreshadowed in most of the protagonist’s interactions with her. This illustrates the toll that natural disasters may take on a person. And I smiled at the part where it says the rain has stopped—through the story, it represented sadness, endless tears and grief, yet in that moment, everything seemed to be better. I found it a nice ending: the protagonist came to investigate a death but ended up preventing one.

At first, I thought I didn’t discover the ‘true’ or ‘main’ ending, but now I think I’ve read them all. So…it feels like the first half is a separate story from the second half. The first half involves more of an investigation, and maybe I had the wrong impression, but based on the notebook and differing viewpoints of the townspeople of the deceased, it appeared like there was a greater mystery behind her death (or at least some shady secret to be uncovered). It probably didn’t help that I took note of the part where Paul implied more than one journalist came to ask about his mum. Yet, the death wasn’t considered big news. Was this foreshadowing there might be more about it than meets the eye? Unless I missed something, this wasn’t the case.

Then the second half of the story—regardless of whichever path was chosen—is a tale about a community of people trying and struggling to survive a flood. There was lots of branching but even though it involved the same characters, it felt quite different from the first half of the story. Namely, the protagonist’s main goal had completely been disregarded.

Now, genre switches or changing the trajectory of a story could work, but here, it just didn’t feel that cohesive, as if the first half was building up to something quite different than what was delivered. And I guess this is what made the ending of the story feel rather abrupt, as another comment pointed out. 

The main character’s personality and goal, for instance, was to write a great piece. This was also shown through the notebook feature. Yet, the notebook was no longer relevant (and no new information was added) by the third act of the story. The protagonist’s choices became about self-preservation or saving others. This made sense given the story, though it didn’t have as much of an impact as it wasn’t tied to his characterization or internal conflict. If, for example, he was shown to be self-centered or hyper-independent, there would be more of a character arc flowing from the second half of the story. This could also build upon some of the implied themes like the importance of community and helping others. I’d have liked to see some connection between the deceased and the second half of the story too: maybe her past actions inspired a solution to escape the flood? Or perhaps, she had a secret which, once discovered, enables the characters to get away to safety. 

Nevertheless, this was a solid story about survival. Actually you could ignore everything I said if you had intended to create a specific effect. As the disclaimers say, this review is just the thoughts of a random reader. Only after writing all that do I realize the sudden shift could have been done to shock the reader. In real life, if a flood comes in without warning, it disrupts everyone’s lives, changing their previous goals and ambitions. In the same way, the protagonist arrived with a different objective, was committed to it, and all of the sudden, the circumstances changed; so must the story change as a result. 

TL;DR

This was a solid story about survival and community, and I loved how it had a strong sense of atmosphere and worldbuilding. I definitely recommend it to any readers glancing at this review. 

 

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2 months ago

Thank you so much for this review (and to Peng for recommending it - you should definitely review his contest entry next, it's well worth a read).

When writing this story, I thought: 'Let's aim for quintessential Britishness.' I'm glad this seems to have worked out.

Again, thank you for the detailed review, Mystic.

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2 months ago

A bit later than usual, but here it is. As per popular request, here's a review of your story, Peng.

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Day 4 | The Red Church, by Peng

Read it here: https://chooseyourstory.com/story/the-red-church

I’ll start with a disclaimer: As I’m not a professional writer nor a seasoned reviewer, take everything with a grain of salt. To potential readers of this story, beware of spoilers galore. Please do yourselves a favor and read the story first. I promise you won’t regret it.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Maybe I’m a bit biased towards it, but I like that the description begins with a quote from the story. It gives readers a sense of the overall tone, introduces the situation that the protagonist will face, and there’s also the implied theme of temptation from the dark side. Unrelated, but it’s quite cool how you used an unpublished article for your author’s notes. I might steal that technique in the future. 

The story starts with a question to pique the reader’s interest. While the conversation between the two characters was short and succinct, there was so much tension underneath the surface: there’s the implication that the question has been asked many times in the past, and the fact that not remembering anything—ordinarily something that would be concerning—satisfies the old lady. And that last line, I love it. Unreliable narrators are fun to read about. It made me re-read the page and the conversation again. This reminds me of writing advice I once read that the first and last line of every page are the most important: the first is meant to hook the reader, whereas the last keeps them turning the page. So far, this story does both of these well.

WRITING STYLE

I absolutely enjoyed the sensory details and descriptions, which immersed me into the story. There was a part about dreams—normally, an abstract concept—but they were described so vividly with concrete imagery. There were two recurring motifs: the cold and the color red. I like the mention of leaving behind warmth when being captured, after which there were the constant references to the cold. But more on these later. 

A slight issue I noticed throughout the story was inconsistent tenses. It begins on the first page, though it wasn’t too disruptive, as I didn’t notice until I found this issue on the second page and re-read the first page for the third time. Only the 3rd and 4th paragraphs are in present tense; the rest are in past tense. On the next page, the tense shifts from past to present: ‘“Look at me,” he hisses’. Then it switches back to past again. It happens every so often in the story, but it’s nothing a quick proofread wouldn’t fix. 

Another proofreading error I noticed concerned the dialogue. Sometimes, dialogue tags were capitalized after commas and question marks when they should have been lower-case. Then, there were other parts where the dialogue tags were not capitalized, but the dialogue ended with full stops where there should have been commas. Still, I’d give you a pass due to contest constraints.

The pacing was good, especially employing a deep point-of-view to stretch out suspenseful scenes. For instance, when the protagonist was hiding, a lot of information was left unknown as he could only see glimpses of the red-robes from beneath the bed. He couldn’t see the last cultist so he wasn’t sure if he was bluffing. This lack of information kept the stakes and tension high. 

“There were no other choices, so you shouted in your mind.” - I wonder if this was a reference to there being no other choices on the page haha. 

So, remembering one of the posts you wrote, I did find a comma splice: “The next moments were a blur of crimson, red robes rushed through the house like wraiths hunting for flesh.” But that’s the only one I caught, and no, it definitely doesn’t make you a terrible writer. You’re quite the opposite, in fact.

Description effectively enhanced the narrative by creating a sense of atmosphere which tied into the grimdark world and tone of the story. For example, there were mentions of “broken baskets”, “dying embers”, and “fading fire” - all connoting brokenness and death. The death scenes were written really well too. I especially love the attention to detail in one of the endings with this as a last line: “The next moments fly by in a flash as your vision fades to black - a blood splattered veil… collapsing spires… and the cold, cold winds…” The collapsing spires beautifully juxtaposes the constant references to the spires “rising”, “towering” and “growing in height”. As for the cold winds, this was another recurring motif, with the repetition of the word ‘cold’ used to convey that the situation has gotten much worse than it was at the start.

WORLDBUILDING

There were so many cool worldbuilding details throughout the story, such as the hearts of children being crystalized and transformed to a calming substance. This answers the question posed at the start, where the kidnapped villagers were separated and there was a pause after the cultist announced, “as for the children…”

Also, the magic system was developed well. The voice wasn’t fully untraceable: the protagonist could sense its presence searching through the bodies. Furthermore, there was a man with a large eye to see what normally cannot be seen, and a woman with a large nose to smell what normally cannot be smelt (like the mark). 

(Lots of spoilers) Foreshadowing was great too: the rumors about the lord’s wife and her singing was later important, as her voice had persuasive qualities. Then there was the ritual where the “sacrificed would have their body parts cut and shaved off piece by piece, symbolizing the sacrifices that their god provided to the church”. At first, I thought this was a reference to the crystalized hearts and the abnormally large body parts that grant inhumanly strong senses. Only much later did I realize the larger significance of this as an event which parallels the four servants cutting off the body parts of the demon.

CHARACTERS & PLOT
(This part contains many spoilers). 

I liked that from the start, the protagonist had a clear mission: to rescue his parents. This led to him following the instructions of the voice and eventually finding himself trapped in this sinister web of secrets and deception.

In one of the dead-ends, new information is revealed and a question left unanswered: “Turns out the whole process is a lot faster if y- oh, you should probably hide.” That’s a good strategy to make the reader compelled to read another branch. 

Regarding the protagonist, I got the sense he was a bit of an unreliable narrator. There was the lie he told at the start, and he seemed to lie quite easily, like when he made up a reason as to why he stopped in the first church after hearing the voice for the first time in years. 

As for the voice, his motivation was foreshadowed well. There was his desperation for the child to live, the ellipses before he said “save your parents” which hints at him only using that as a way to convince the protagonist to help him, and him saying he wasn’t at the first church which implies he has a physical form. Later, the readers learn more: he is quick to abandon the protagonist when he doesn’t do as he says, and he can influence the protagonist’s memory after calling off their deal. He’s characterized as wanting retribution. Based on the information provided, it can be deduced that he is someone who used to be one of them in the past, perhaps before he got betrayed. In the scene right after, Ling mentions that he is dangerous: “It’s hard to say whether his servants betrayed him, or if he betrayed the five of us.”

I’m impressed by the way that the story builds towards the information which is revealed in the next scene. Only when the reader is immersed in the plot do they find out about the backstory behind the Red Church. In some other stories I’ve seen, there would have been a link to the lore, or maybe even an info-dump. Yet, this method here allows the reader to connect with the protagonist’s personal goal, and go through a sequence of events with a fast-paced plot that reveals bits and pieces without truly telling the full story. The timing was great, too. Earlier on, when the voice gave the protagonist newfound skills—from telekinesis to super strength—his power appeared unlimited. But this shows the limitations of his abilities. 

The power play was foreshadowed when Ling said that ‘servant’ was used as a title. All the five servants and their special abilities were introduced well, as the protagonist had already been acquainted with several of them so they weren’t a list of new descriptors/ names. The child being the demon’s favorite was a subtle detail I appreciated, which probably explains why she was spared (though that might also be because she didn’t take his tongue). 

Really good use of red as a recurring motif. I love the application of color theory: red represents passion, warmth and love (back when they were a ‘family’), but also “blood, war, and rage”. 

On another path, we get to see this story from the mason’s point of view. It adds to his characterization: he saw the demon as someone he could manipulate, hence portraying his hunger for power. The way he and Ling perceive the demon conveys the difference in their characters.

“I provide, they receive. And the instant I can’t provide any more, they turn on me like a pack of wolves.” I always enjoy paths that link to one another. In the other branch, Ling mentioned it wasn’t clear who betrayed whom; this line makes it clear. I find it refreshing that there’s no real ‘lesser of the two evils’—both the demon and corrupt servants are presented as two equally bad sides. 

Back to the main path, or what I assume is the main one: it ends with a parallel to the start! Once again, the protagonist wakes up to the sight of a concerned face staring down at him (similar to what happened when he awoke in Miss Anne’s cottage). I like full circle moments. And Ling being happier that her voice is no longer enchanted portrays her character’s lack of corruption. Unlike the others, she doesn’t crave power or the ability to control others.

Once again, we have a reference to the crimson spires collapsing and tumbling one by one, juxtaposing them as a symbol of power earlier. It’s similar to how the servants were killed, one at a time, then the demon at the end. It’s a pretty good ending, having the line “I’m tired of the cold” as another reference to the recurring motif. Whilst this seems like the true ending (unless I missed something), the parents plotline doesn’t seem to exist anymore. Wasn’t saving them the protagonist’s goal? It was the only reason the protagonist heeded the demon’s calls. Although I read the author’s notes and discovered the memories were fabrications by the demon, that part seemed to be swept under the rug as it isn’t really explained at the end. 

The revelation about the Red Church’s backstory seemed like a midpoint plot twist, or perhaps even the start of the second act. But within a few scenes—albeit good ones—the story ends. Maybe it’s because I was enjoying the story and didn’t want it to finish so soon, but the demon was extremely powerful so it felt kind of anticlimactic for the protagonist to somehow just regain control of his body and kill him. I would have liked to see more; this story has a brilliant setting, amazing political structure and magic system, and lots of interesting worldbuilding details. It felt as if it was building up towards a larger story. In fact, I’d even say it could be turned into an epic where the protagonist goes around to different red churches, killing the servants one by one. He could find out more about the demon messing with his memories and once the others are killed, there’ll be a showdown between the two of them. Still, as it stands, this is a spectacular story and well worth a read. 

TL;DR

I highly recommend this story. It was well-written, immersive and had an entertaining storyline.  

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2 months ago
Brilliant! I was excited for this all day. Thank you Mystic for the absolutely massive review, and I'm glad you enjoyed the read.

As I mentioned my notes, I was experimenting with writing a lot less restrained and nitpicky, which helped my pacing but had the unfortunate side effect of my grammar faltering at times(if only I had time to proofread... I wonder what happened there). It's good to hear that overall the writing was conducive to establishing the setting.

Also unfortunately, with the last-week contest rush the story ended up falling short of what I initially imagined it to be. In my intense bouts of thinking about writing I had indeed visualized a sweeping epic spanning more churches than two, and the first half of the story was set up for such a structure. That never got realized, of course, but I tried to stick the landing as gracefully as I could (still trying to figure outhow the whole parents plotline could've been fitted in, no satisfying solution yet haha).

In the end I'm pretty satisfied with the final result and will probably leave it as is. Thanks again Mystic!

If you or anyone else are curious about the article thing

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one month ago

No worries, glad you like the review. Thanks for the guide on using unpublished articles! Apparently, I wrote an article on completing contest storygames a while back, though I'm not sure whether I ought to publish it.

A Guide To Actually Completing A Contest Storygame

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one month ago
I'd submit it, and let the article mods decide. It reads like a final draft and contains pretty valuable information!

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one month ago

Alright, I'll probably do another quick proofread and submit it. My writing style was so different back then lol. 

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one month ago

Apologies for the brief absence, I had to focus on my assignments for a couple of days. Anyway, I'm back with a new review!

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Day 5 | The Grand Pharaoh's Tomb, by Dire

Read it here: https://chooseyourstory.com/story/the-grand-pharaoh's-tomb 

Let’s begin with a disclaimer: I’m not a professional writer nor a seasoned reviewer, so take everything with a grain of salt. As for readers, this review will contain spoilers, so I highly suggest reading the storygame first.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

There’s a brief description that outlines the protagonist’s motivation and goals. The stakes are introduced, given the character’s commitment to their goal, and readers also get a sense of the setting. As this is a branching storygame, we know the answer to the rhetorical question would be ‘both’, depending on the paths we choose.

Unless you’re submitting more than one entry within this storygame, there’s a typo in the description: “This is my submissions for End Master’s Prompt Contest 3”. 

Onto the story itself. It begins with text in a small font size and italics. That’s an interesting formatting choice, though I’m not sure what it means yet. 

Then, there’s some backstory describing the situation that the protagonist is in. Good use of interspersing the protagonist’s thoughts throughout the narrative. This adds personal stakes, allowing the reader to empathize with the character and care about what happens to them in the story. I like the sentence where ‘alone’ is separated by a comma, drawing emphasis to this, as if visually ensuring the word alone is…well, alone. It’s even more thematic considering the first choice readers get in the story is between solitude and companionship. The metaphor of snakes is good too, seeing as it’s egypt-related. 

The outburst of emotions following a description of the location is a nice way to pace the story. It almost seems like the protagonist is attempting to distract themself from the situation by observing their surroundings, but at the end, they cannot escape their thoughts. A slight error: I’m not sure ‘over delivered’ is the right term here. If the protagonist over delivered to their benefactor, wouldn’t that be a good thing?

Speaking of proofreading errors, there were a few on the first page: “suppose” is supposed to be “supposed”, it’s “it’s” not “its”, and “peek” not “peak”.

There were good descriptions which added to the immersion. And just as the protagonist was about to accept defeat, believing it was all over, they accidentally pressed against a part of the pyramid that revealed a secret entrance. This inciting incident leads to the first choice.

The page starts and ends with italicized text. My guess is that it’s probably used to represent the voice of something that lurks within the tomb, but we shall see.

WRITING STYLE

The story utilizes a deep point-of-view, where the protagonist’s thoughts and feelings are interwoven into the narrative. For instance, this occurs on the information page about the pharaoh. I appreciated how it wasn’t just purely a textwall of information, but it reflected the protagonist’s process of finding out information about the elusive Kannok, along with their motivations for this. This furthered characterization. Another thing I enjoyed was that this was all explained the way I imagine a history student/ historian would, from the natural curiosity shown through all the unanswered questions to name-dropping past pharaohs of Egypt without stopping to over-explain much about them. 

I notice the descriptions include lots of active verbs, often personifying the surroundings and natural environment. You are ‘greeted’ with the dunes, the air ‘feeds off’ the moisture of your tears and the sun ‘kisses’ the top of the dune. This adds to the atmosphere, making the setting feel almost alive. It’s also a nice detail that later in the story, forces of nature are involved in a number of death endings. 

On the page about ‘Setvanet’, there’s a brief moment where the story shifts to past tense (second and third paragraphs), though I didn’t catch any other tense changes. Another word choice error: “unknown to how the locals will react to see you again” (you could replace ‘unknown to’ with ‘unsure’). Also, it’s “quite” not “quiet”. Although there are a few more word-choice, spelling and grammatical errors scattered throughout the story—likely due to contest constraints, I’d assume—I won’t list them all here. Though if you plan on editing your story and would like me to point them out for you, do let me know; I’ll be happy to help. 

Quick note: ‘we’ is used for first-person point of views, so maybe switching that to ‘all of you’ or ‘the three of you’ would keep the point of view consistent. 

I enjoyed the way tension was stretched out in the scene where Ahmed, Babu and the protagonist were trapped on the rising stairs. The use of the ‘thuds’ and short, simple sentences about the protagonist’s observations quickened the pacing while prolonging the suspense. Even after this, they faced a new problem: being cut off from the rest of the group. This is a great technique to keep the reader invested, as the protagonist’s life is continually placed at stake. 

A slight improvement might be to avoid repetitiveness. I’ll briefly paraphrase advice that was given to me a while back: when the same information is repeated, readers might lose interest and it slows down the pacing. An example: there was a part of the story which mentioned “the door directly before you describes a trial of wits and logic”, yet the same information is repeated again when the protagonist says “The first door talks about wits and logic”. The same thing happened with the second door. Another instance of this: the sentence “there must have been some sort of truth to what happened but no one would believe you if you told them” and later, “you know that no one will believe you if you told them, so you must show them.” Though, I’ll add that this is not a prevalent issue in the story and is more of a minor nitpick. 

In many death scenes—or those where the protagonist suffers a fate worse than death—the descriptions are quite uncanny and otherworldly, which depict the characters’ descents to insanity really well. Part of this is because of how the protagonist takes note of seemingly ordinary details, acts accordingly, observes something else, acts, and only when it’s too late do they realize that this chain of events led to a horrifying outcome. In a way, this ‘innocuous sequence of events leading to tragedy’ structure can be said to apply to the overarching story, but more about this later. The metaphor of the voice being described as a ‘puppet master’ in this path is so very fitting. An example of this: the protagonist enters a room with statues, sees a chair, and notices nothing remarkable about it except that it’s a stone chair (nice reference to the stone which seems to absorb all the protagonist’s tears at the start). They move towards it. There’s also a crown. So the protagonist puts on the crown and sits on the chair. Nothing happens. Then the statues appear to be staring. Only then does flesh begin melting off their hands and they turn into one of the silent observers for all of eternity. I like this technique and might steal it for future stories. 

CHOICES

The consequences to most of the choices are realistic and foreshadowed well. For example, the protagonist’s evident lack of distrust for a businessman and his bodyguards turns out to be well-founded, as it creates the consequences where, if you still decide to trust them, they will backstab you (both metaphorically and literally, which made me chuckle).

Another thing I liked was the fact that the death scenes after incorrectly answering the riddles were all different. Some were even quite relevant to what was chosen: ‘night time’ making everything go dark and ‘thoughts’ removing heads. 

PLOT & CHARACTERS
(This part includes heavy spoilers, read at your own risk)

There were two main side-characters: Babu (characterized as being the most trustworthy) and Ahmed (the one with the most expertise). This was a good way of setting the stage for some of the choices and events later in the story.

Maybe it’s a bit of a nitpick, but I feel that Ahmed’s sudden breakdown when choosing a door was out of character, especially since he’s portrayed as an expert in ancient Egypt. Perhaps if this occurred due to his expert knowledge—e.g. he knew that ancient Egyptians prided themselves on creating the most unsolvable riddles, hence he thinks they’re unlikely to escape the tomb—it would not only increase the stakes but ensure the characterization remains consistent.  

Actually, ignore everything I just said. This is brilliant. In another path, where the protagonist chooses a different door, Ahmed seemingly for no reason goes insane and attacks Babu, saying that only one can take the throne. That makes so much more sense! After all, it is later shown how Kannok possesses and takes control of individuals, after luring them in and driving them to insanity. There’s the implication that Ahmed’s expertise of ancient history is the reason he was chosen in this path. That, and the earlier characterization of Babu as someone who is extremely loyal. 

I must say, I’m quite impressed by the revelation/ plot-twist at the end. First, let’s discuss how the italicized, small-font text was used throughout the story. In some paths, it calls the protagonist a ‘coward’ or a ‘weak fool’, and in others, it gives them the gift of knowledge. Then we have the amazing foreshadowing. At the start of the story, when choosing to find out more about the Great Pharaoh, the mystery of Kannok was established. He somehow was mentioned at various points across the centuries, alongside famous pharaohs, though the protagonist wasn’t sure if those were merely his descendants or bloodline. Even though it’s never explicitly stated, the answer to this is heavily implied given the number of endings where the protagonist or another character becomes a vessel for Kannok. He possesses them, taking control of their mind and body. Another detail I loved was how the voice guided the protagonist throughout the whole story—and in fact, choosing to listen to it was the most strategic option—yet at the end, this leads to betrayal. The protagonist’s survival only mattered to Kannok until he reached the amulet. Moreover, in the endings where the protagonist chooses to reject it, he replies, “you will not reject me again”. Then the story loops back to the start. Not only does this create the effect of the protagonist now being trapped in a time loop—which is foreshadowed in one of the riddles, whereby the tomb’s ability to do this is revealed—but it also insinuates that from the moment the reader begins the story, the protagonist is *already* trapped in this time loop (hence the word ‘again’). Thus, there is no way out, other than to follow Kannok’s orders or to be killed. A true puppet-master indeed. As such, this story is a tragedy, doomed from the very first choice. 

TL;DR

I recommend this storygame. Despite the grammatical and syntactical errors, it was an enjoyable read, and the plot-twist at the end was brilliantly executed. 

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one month ago

Thank you so much for the detailed review. I'm glad that you enjoyed it! Unfortunately, due to my own procrastination, I cut a lot of what I had originally planned and I was nervous it was going to appear too rushed or just plain incomplete but happy to hear you enjoyed and recommend it!

Also thanks for the feedback on my proofreading, I'll make sure my next story has less mistakes!

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2 months ago

Don't worry, I haven't forgotten about this. Today was busier than expected but I've drafted the second review. I'll refine and post it tomorrow along with the next day's. 

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2 months ago

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one month ago

So, I planned for this review to be a bit shorter than the normal ones because the author doesn't seem to be around anymore, but...let's just say I got carried away.

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Day 6 | Arakhan's Vengeance, by Elfred

Read it here: https://chooseyourstory.com/story/arakhan's-vengeance 

I’ll start with the usual disclaimer: I’m not a professional writer nor a seasoned reviewer, so take everything with a grain of salt. Also, seeing that the author hasn’t logged in for a few years, this review would mostly be for potential readers of this storygame. Hopefully it helps you decide whether it’ll be something you would enjoy. 

PREMISE

As the description suggests, you play as Arakhan, Captain of the Guard. The inciting incident occurs when the protagonist’s village is attacked and he sets off on a quest for vengeance, spanning multiple locations and involving several fights.

The setting takes place in a medieval fantasy realm, complete with fencing goblins, red ogres and murderous plants. From taking part in a bar brawl to sword fight, there’s a lot the reader can experience. The worldbuilding is so much more complex than I anticipated: the author created a part where the reader can discover more about the world through reading books in the library, and despite the info-dumps, I soon realized there was so much more planning put into this story than I initially thought. 

If you’re someone who enjoys (or rather, wouldn’t mind) the following elements, then you’re the ideal reader of this storygame: puzzles/ riddles, combat scenes where you choose each action, and having to replay the storygame a few times to find the real ending. Still, it is satisfying to see everything come together and discover the secrets hidden around the story. 

WRITING STYLE

I won’t go into too much depth on the writing style, as another review already covers it pretty well. The prose was easy to read and quite enjoyable. There was good use of deep point-of-view, where the protagonist’s thoughts are embedded within the text, creating personal stakes. The readers see the world from Arakhan’s perspective: the feelings arising from failing to protect his people, the brief memories of his past and the possible consequences behind each choice. 

Description is done well, too. Details add to the atmosphere, creating a cohesive picture of various locations—most notable is the burnt village at the start. It was utilized effectively at various points of the story to draw attention to important details, such as those concerning the puzzles that the reader would have to solve. Yet, this is not without its flaws. At some parts of the story, the description felt rather sparse and lacking; this was exemplified even more when readers weren’t given too much information to base their choices on. As such, the life or death situations sometimes felt like randomly clicking a link and hoping for the best.

Within some of the more serious scenes, I noticed attempts at humor. For example, puns like ‘Knife to meet you’ or I’m So Totally Struck by You’ were used as titles when the protagonist was fighting against another character who sought to kill him. I’m not entirely sure how I felt about that. On one hand, it reduced the tension and didn’t really help maintain immersion, yet on the other, they made me chuckle. Sarcasm and other forms of humor were also used.

CHARACTERS

The side characters were portrayed well. For example, it was realistic that Joad and a few other characters no longer trusted Arakhan after he failed to protect them from the attack. This added to the protagonist’s own internal struggle too: I like the technique of reinforcing internal conflict through external conflict, I might steal that in the future.

Though the protagonist did not spend much time interacting with some of them, the personalities of some of the side characters were quite distinct and interesting. I enjoyed the variety of choices we had at the start: fighting with a villager who strongly wishes to kill the protagonist, playing a card game with children, giving a eulogy for a dead man, and so on. There was quite a variety of characters to meet and find out more about. 

I enjoyed reading about the antagonists too, and how—depending on the paths that the reader picked—their presence could be foreshadowed quite well before the protagonist ever meets them. This was a cool detail I only noticed on one of my later playthroughs.

Now, onto the protagonist. He can be described by a line one of the other characters said: “An idiot, maybe. But not a coward." At the start of the quest, he believes it would end with his death. Yet, he doesn’t mind, as he plans to destroy his enemies and ensure his village is left alone. This sort of ‘self-sacrificing’ trope is reminiscent of folktales or generic fantasy stories where the protagonist goes on a heroic quest and survives despite the odds. To be honest, I did start off thinking it’d be this sort of story. Yet, I was rather surprised and impressed to find out the scope of this story. But more on that in the next section.

If I had one gripe with characterization, I would have preferred a bit more in terms of the protagonist’s motives and backstory. Fleshing these out would have answered some important questions, e.g. why does being captain and protecting his village mean so much to him? These would have added to the personal stakes while creating a more compelling narrative. Sometimes, he felt almost archetypal rather than realistic. Still, considering the humorous tone of this story, I suppose it was intended to be more of a light, fun read than a serious one.

PLOT & STRUCTURE

Now, for this section, I’ll try to explain the structure of the story in a way that would let potential readers know what to expect (and get the best reading experience) without giving away too many spoilers.

I’ll start by mentioning that there are five endings. Only one is considered the ‘true’ ending. It follows the ‘quest’ structure, with various different sections that lead to either death or premature endings, or eventually links back to the main narrative. Despite this, it is worth exploring at least a few of the different sections, it enriches the overall experience of the story. 

The First Act

Note: This isn’t the way the story is structured (it doesn’t actually use the three act story structure), but just how I organized it in my head. 

The first branching choice occurs when the protagonist can choose between heading back to his village to find survivors or searching for his friends. I suggest choosing the latter. In my first playthrough, I believed they were completely separate paths whereas in fact, clicking the first choice just means you miss out a sizable portion of the story.

Now, there are several locations to explore, each with their own puzzles and challenges. If you’re someone who doesn’t like puzzles, then this story is probably not for you. They’re an integral part of unlocking the ‘true’ ending. Though I guess in some parts of the story, brute forcing your way through them could work (not so much in others, unfortunately). I must note that one of the hints after an ending did mention ‘saving all your companions’ and unless I missed something, I don’t think that’s possible. 

Once again, when the protagonist reaches the town, there are lots of places to roam around. All of them have completely separate subplots. If you have time, I recommend checking out a few different ones. I was surprised by how in-depth they all were. 

In one of them, there was a fight scene where the reader would pick each move as the choices were blow-by-blow (literally and figuratively speaking). Depending on the type of reader, this might get a bit annoying or it might even be fun. This mechanism is used later in the story a few other times. Personally, I wouldn’t have minded too much had there been more foreshadowing of the consequences of choices. At times, there was seemingly no rhyme or rhythm as to what would and would not kill the protagonist. 

In another part, there was a fun potion-making puzzle where the protagonist remembered a moment back when he was a kid. While this appeared somewhat random at first, having no special significance to him, it was later revealed to be an important part of unlocking the secret path. There was also another part where you could go through a dead man’s house, snoop around his secrets, find his corpse, and give a speech that goes hilariously wrong. Fun stuff.

The Second Act

This is where the protagonist leaves the safety of his village and ventures out in his quest for vengeance. The choices here are all either death endings or bottlenecks back into the main narrative. Also, I will echo what Urnamo’s comment said: do not go to the tents or you would be stuck in an infinite loop of tent hopping (unless I missed something there).

Most of the choices are mainly what to do in a given moment, with shorter pages and more emphasis on reader agency. Usually, I tend to see this most in amateur stories, since a lot of the time it means really short pages which may as well be joined together, but in this story, there were instances where this worked really well. (Light spoiler). For example, there was a part where you have four choices and even though they repeat you have to choose them in the right order to survive: tie a rope to an arrow, tie the rope to the tower (or vice versa), then fire the arrow, so you create a zipline. It was very creative and I enjoyed figuring that out. 

(More spoilers: I really can’t pick an audience for this review, lol) After sneaking past all the goblins, the protagonist does have another fight scene with one of the antagonists. This was a fencing fight. I did fencing as an extracurricular in high school, but I must admit, I didn’t understand a lot of the terms that were being thrown around. There wasn’t any context given either; I’d have appreciated a page which explained how it worked, or if the author didn’t want to break immersion, perhaps the captured character the protagonist was trying to save could have provided some advice. (Speaking of advice, I seem to somehow keep switching back into ‘advising the author’ mode, oops). It felt a bit repetitive at times; maybe if there were more details about the fight, it would have been better. Still, I really liked the cool detail where the protagonist asked a riddle and the answer connected to the way they defeated the villain. Those who read the story will probably know what I’m talking about. 

The Third Act/ ‘Epilogue’

On my first readthrough, this epilogue did not really feel like much of an epilogue. Part of this was the new information that was revealed and a conflict that was introduced suddenly without being resolved. Although it did answer one of the questions raised at the start—why Lyestra, an ordinary village, was attacked—it raised more questions than answered. Furthermore, none of the endings seemed satisfactory. One of them did briefly mention the bravery vs foolishness portrayal of the protagonist, yet I did not see much of a strong a character arc.

Only then did I realize: there’s more to the story than I initially believed.

The True Path

It was amazing how all the different branches and paths interlinked. In one of my first epilogues, a treasure is mentioned almost as an afterthought. Then, on other paths, the reader can discover more about this. There was also a part where the protagonist can read books about worldbuilding. I loved how this connected to the different sections, some of which occurred before this event so it’d be impossible to use that knowledge unless the reader replays the storygame. In fact, replayability might even be necessary: it is by taking notes of the details of previous playthroughs—even ones that appear unsuccessful—that the true ending is found. I enjoyed the character’s realization that vengeance isn’t as great as it may seem. Overall, there appears to be so much effort put into this storygame, that even now, after having found all the numbered endings, I wonder if there’s still more I missed.

TL;DR

This was a fascinating storygame, with equal parts ‘story’ and ‘game’. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy quests and engaging puzzles. For the best experience, I suggest multiple playthroughs as there’s so much to explore in this story. 

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one month ago

Well, that was my CYS reading for the day.

I still can't tell if you like puzzles or not lol.

Thank you for the review.

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2 months ago

Je ne sais pas parle en francais

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2 months ago
Well, as you are being kind enough to offer reviews, if you are not too busy, I would be grateful if you could cast an eye over The Reign of Terror (https://chooseyourstory.com/story/the-reign-of-terror) and offer your opinion on it :)

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2 months ago

Thank you taking the time to review these storygames. There are others that got submitted for the prompt that certainly deserve and need more attention than mine. But if you ever get to it, I'd greatly appreciate it.

https://chooseyourstory.com/story/the-boy-who-would-be-duke-~2d-the-journey-to-agincourt

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one month ago

Reminder to self: Review Reborn 

(This challenge will be continued. However, I'll be posting reviews a lot less frequently, maybe more like twice or thrice a week.)

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one month ago
yo anyone want a review?

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one month ago
I'm sure people wouldn't mind if you picked up where Mystic left off

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one month ago
Well, I'm offering, at least this once. Just waiting for someone to reply with a story.

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one month ago

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one month ago

You STILL didn't give me a review...

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one month ago

I want you lot to go rate this story (If you haven't already):

https://chooseyourstory.com/story/a-tale-of-a-white-lie

Thara needs at least 7 more so it can be properly ranked in the CYS library.

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one month ago
I second this, one of the best stories I've read on the site.

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one month ago

I'd love it if you could properly review this one, Mystic:

https://chooseyourstory.com/story/fake-it-'till-you-make-it

It really got overlooked by everyone, and it's at least a 6/8 story imo.