|I'm a Rocket Maaaaan. ROCKET MAAAAN! Burning out his fuse up here alone.|
- Reviewed by: Mark Goninon
- Developer: Dejobaan Games/Popcannibal
- Publisher: Dejobaan Games
- Release Date: 10 December 2014
- Time played: 2.2 hours
I tend to get a lot of my games during Humble Bundles – which is good for my wallet and my conscience (you can’t say I haven’t contributed to charity this year!) but it’s not so good for dat backlog. Anyway, Humble Jumbo Bundle 7 came along a couple of weeks ago and were offering a variety of games I wasn’t interested in, so I originally wasn’t even going to bother grabbing it, but the addition of two latecomers: Agatha Christie – The ABC Murders and Elegy for a Dead World made me reconsider as they’ve both been games sitting on my Steam wishlist for some time.
Dejobaan Games have promoted the game on Steam as one where you “explore dead civilizations, write about what you find, and share your stories with the universe”. I always enjoyed creative writing and wrote many sci-fi stories in my youth, so when I discovered that this game was all about writing sci-fi stories, I knew this would be one of the higher ranked games on my Steam wishlist.
So how does the game actually work? You control this little spaceman on the screen and at the beginning you get to pick one of three worlds to explore by moving to a portal. Activating the portal will give you the choice of creating a new story, editing existing ones or reading stories (either penned by you or someone else). Creating a new story takes your little spaceman down to the world where you can explore either by walking or using your jetpack. While exploring the landscape you’ll come across writing nodes scattered all over the place where you’re able to type in some words for a story or poem. Depending on the type of story/poem template you picked prior to entering the world, you will receive different prompts; there’s even a freeform mode where you can rid yourself of prompts altogether and just type whatever your heart desires. Once you’ve visited all the writing nodes and composed your beautiful prose, you can then leave the world and publish the story on Steam so that anyone else who has the game can read your story.
What I like:
AudioThe game has fantastic audio to really help immerse you in the environment. You’ll hear the humming of ancient machinery, the sound of the wind blowing through tall grass and even the sound of your character breathing heavily (well, at least I think it’s your character, since you’re in command of the narrative, maybe not!)
ArtElegy for a Dead World has some gorgeous backdrops that are apparently inspired by the works of J. M. W. Turner who… I’ve never heard of before but Wikipedia assures me that he was an innovative 18th century English Romanticist landscape painter.
Easy to publish storiesIt’s simply a matter of clicking a button and then your story is available to all the other players of the game. Neat!
Export option for HTML storyIf you’re not content with just sharing your stories with others who own the game, you can even export the story into HTML format so that it looks very similar to what you see in the game.
A good way to teach creative writingI see this game as having great potential in a classroom setting, as a way of teaching kids what creative writing is about – i.e. taking notice of the sights, smells and sounds of a particular locale and then describing the scene in words.
Users create the contentThere are many stories and poems available for reading because the players or users are the ones that create the content. This is always a cunning move by developers as it means they can free themselves up from introducing new content to increase the game’s longevity as the users will be the ones doing that job instead. At the same time, users will feel empowered and invested in the product because you tend to feel a sense of pride when the content is created by yourself. It’s almost a WIN-WIN situation…
What I dislike:
Users create the contentNot everyone is made out to be a great writer so even though you’ll have the occasionally competent short story, you’ll find many rife with spelling and grammatical errors. And let’s not go into the comedians who think it’s hilarious to enter the word “penis” every time they are prompted to fill in the blanks…
Differing experiencesWhen you write the story, you actually control a little spaceman to explore the world and consequently you experience all the sights and sounds. When you read the story, you are not given the same experience; instead you’re just given text to read over some pretty backgrounds, but that’s about it. Yes, I can understand this might have been done intentionally since isn’t the point of creative writing being able to take your reader on a journey simply through the use of words? However, when I originally started playing this game I thought the reader and writer would receive the same experience and at least that way the reader will feel as immersed in the world as the writer was.
Only three worlds to exploreI’ve already visited three worlds and typed up one story for each of them. I’ve also read a few stories created by other users as well and after doing all of that, I’ve only spent around two hours playing this game. To be fair, there are other “challenges” or story templates you can use but you’ll end up experiencing the same landscape over and over again.
What’s the point?Is there any point to answering the prompts provided to you as part of the story template? I mean, considering there’s a freeform mode where you don’t even need to fill in prompts and just type whatever you feel like, this game becomes no different to a word processor with some animated scenes as inspiration.
Impossible achievementsThere are three achievements in this game that correspond to each of the three worlds in the game. Each achievement is triggered once you receive 1,000 recommendations for your story from other players. Now there are a couple of problems with this logic: (1) it assumes that a lot of people are going to be playing this game, (2) it assumes that there will be a lot of people reading stories in this game, and (3) it assumes a subset of group 1 and group 2 will actually bother to take the time and vote on whether they like a story or not – and then there’s no guarantee they will actually commend the story or not.
Consequently, it comes as no surprise that the top rated story for Elegy for a Dead World still hasn’t reached 1,000 commendations; a few hundred perhaps, but not 1,000.
Score – 6/10 (Okay)
Elegy for a Dead World is basically a program that enables you to write short stories or poems and then publish them on Steam for other owners of the game to read or export it via HTML for anyone to read. While the game has excellent visuals and audio, and could be used as an effective tool to teach creative writing at school, there’s really not much else to recommend if you’re looking for a game to entertain you in the traditional sense. If you go in expecting nothing more than a fun little tool to help inspire you into writing beautiful stories, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed; if you’re expecting anything else, avoid.
Is the game worth $14.99 USD?: No. What you have to ask yourself is how much would you pay for the ability to share your short stories or poems with other Steam users? I’d probably not pay more than $5 AUD.
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[ LINK: Official Elegy for a Dead World Website ]