Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Sub Rosa: The Seven Deceits of Confessor Destine (a review)

"Sub Rosa (The Seven Deceits of Confessor Destine)" is a parser-style interactive fiction written by Joey Jones and Melvin Rangasamy for the 2015 interactive fiction competition.

"Sub Rosa" is part mystery, part spy intrigue set in an alternate meta-verse.  The writing is remarkable for the detail and uniqueness of the alien culture it describes.  From the moment I checked my inventory, I was sucked into this game.

>x llama suit
From feet to appendages to head, your form is completely covered by a thin-weave suit made wholly from the wool of the pellucid llama. It renders you undetectable to all the senses that matter, including your own.

You wove it yourself under the tutelage of the master weaver, White Widow. For her knowledge and silence she only asked for the whereabouts of her seven wayward sons. As you wove the invisible thread, she slowly and solemnly sapped each one, all the while instructing you on how to avoid dropping unseeable lines.

Your lower legs are splattered with mud from the trek through the Mambling Plains.

>remove suit
Merely wearing the suit would be pointless, anyone would see straight through to the person beneath. No, in order to make use of it, you had to weave it into your own skin. In time, the suit will peel off as your skin is shed, but not today.

As the blurb suggests, the goal of this game is to infiltrate the compound of a corrupt theocrat and uncover evidence of his deceitfulness.  The puzzles are clever and approach a level of difficulty I have not seen in modern IF, perhaps not since "Spellbreaker".  There are only seven points (seven deceits to discover) but each one requires pulling together information or using tools gathered from multiple different source locations.  But the game is so solidly coded that I felt the puzzles were fair, and I did not turn to the walkthrough until halfway through the game, well after the two hour judging period had ended.

In a game this large there are, of course, a few minor bugs in the implementation, but overall I was impressed by the professional quality of the writing, programming and game design.  The Confessor's compound includes a library with over a hundred books.  And unlike so many of the libraries I've run across in past works of IF (where reading the tomes individually returns a default message 95% of the time) the Confessor's books have been individually implemented, each one with a brief, interesting and often useful piece of information.  I will say, however, that I wish the library had not been at the center of quite so many of the puzzles.  Reading through every one of those books, some of them more than once, became a little tedious and non-interactive after a while.

Really a great game.  One of the top in this year's competition.