Thursday, April 11, 2013

Demon's Tomb

Demon's Tomb was brought to my attention by a "what game am I thinking of?" thread over at the Interactive Fiction Communty Forum. The poster remembered a game that begins an archaeologist saving his findings from an inferno that he would not survive, but those saved findings will be useful to the protagonist of the main game. Someone quickly recognized this as Demon's Tomb. I believe they went on to point out that it was a deeply flawed game, but whatever, I was hooked. I thought it sounded interesting.

How it Begins

The Best Stuff

The interface for Demon's Tomb is actually pretty good. The parser, while not perfect, is better than most, and the layout of the screen has several optional configurations, including a play-by-menu mode. Several rooms have an optional graphic to check out (not that the graphics are especially nice). One of the best features is the fact that you can define synonyms, so while the game doesn't understand X as EXAMINE initially it is an easy thing to fix.

Besides regular save and restore, there are also RAMSAVE and RAMLOAD commands which do a quick one-slot state-saving thing. I probably should have used that feature more, myself.

The game also uses THINK ABOUT <object or person>. Granted, that is not one of my favorite IF tropes, but it shows some foresight as that shows up a good deal more in later years.

The nicest thing is probably the fact that the game (with documentation) is provided for free by its author on the web, easily found by a web search. It is nice to see authors appreciate their own work.

The Bad

Ok, to be honest, I have a lot of issues with the game itself. Here is the transcript:

(As I do more of these transcripts, I'm finding not every one is going to be very comment-heavy. Some of them- like this one- will have the bulk of my thoughts in the section below.)

Final Thoughts

Ok, let's break it down into sections:

The prologue
I thought the fire timer in the intro was way too tight. Not only that, but the fire's behavior isn't very logical. It doesn't come across well in the transcript, but from the room with the hole in the ceiling, there are rooms to the west, north, and east. Now, the fire is coming from the south, but for some reason, the east room becomes unenterable first, then the north room, and then the hole-in-the-ceiling room. That fire sure is jumping around a lot.

I think it's also funny that the archaeologist has to save his sandwich, too, among all his things.

The main game
Unfortunately, the main game is also a bit of a mess. There's also a time limit for that, too- one that's strict enough that one playthrough by-the-walkthrough wasn't good enough since I had done a bit of searching before using it.

Mapwise, the game is way more spread out that it needs to be and could stand to be a lot more efficient.

Worst of all, the writing just isn't very good. On a whim, I just started the game up again and restored to my save just moves away from the ending and tried >THINK ABOUT FATHER. Even after finding the father's corpse and being steps away from saving the world, it's the same message as before about dude being angry (since his dad missed his birthday).

Carrying capacity is a big annoyance in itself, but there's further confusion in that there's little consistency, it seems, about what is considered a heavy or light object.Your dog is more of a nuisance than a valued companion, the bad guy(s) aren't very interesting, and the game is just generally bland.

Ah well, it's a shame that this one turned out to be such a disappointment. In any case, I'll just have to try to appreciate the good things mentioned earlier for their own merit, and maybe the concept behind the intro can be used in a different way for a better game someday.


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