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Review | Echo Bazaar

London’s falling

Format: PC | Genre: RPG | Publisher: Failbetter Games | Developer: Failbetter Games | Release Date: TBA in open Beta | Price: Free

Cory Zanoni delves into the free to play browser game ECHO BAZAAR and has yet to resurface.

AS AN avid gamer, I routinely become obsessed with particular games. As a person with a tendency to be working on lots of different things at any given point, the video game slice of my Life Pie is rather small and often months old. I only recently bought Red Dead Redemption – making it a slice that’s mouldy yet delicious. As such, a game that can be played in short bursts is ideal for an intellectual vagabond like myself. This is where my current obsession enters the fray, web-based RPG Echo Bazaar. A game with a simple presentation and an abundance of charm, Echo Bazaar is slowly turning into a quick bout here and there, to a malicious yet dapper time stealer.

At its core, Echo Bazaar is a simple game, like many of its ilk. You make your character and name them – a male, a female or a thing of indiscriminate gender – and begin your life in the world of Fallen London. A large part of which is figuring out what Fallen London is, how it fell and just who the mysterious Masters that rules over the Bazaar are. To do that and carve your own path. You have a certain amount of actions per day – 70 at the moment, but that may drop soon – with a pile of ten available. You use these actions on storylets – actions that have to do with the Grand Scheme of Things – and opportunity cards – adventures or sub plots to the narrative. You have a set of attributes – Dangerous (strength), Watchful (intelligence), Persuasive (charisma) and Shadowy (stealth) – that you increase by partaking in tasks that focus on that attribute. Doing so unlocks particular paths and scenarios. Like so many other games of this type, you accrue special points – called Fate – that allow you to do things such as refresh your actions or even unlock new storyarchs. You can buy additional Fate with human dollars if you want but I’ve never felt the need to.

The benefits of flare

So, Echo Bazaar keeps to a familiar mould seen elsewhere but I loathe those games and verily enjoy this one. So what makes it different? Like all things, true beauty lies in the details. The game is presented extremely well, from the pictures that go with each action to the items one may collect, to the words on the screen. To describe it simply, I would call the game “terribly English”. The logo is a top hat with teeth. Terrific. If you need more than that to let the game gnaw its way into your brain, the literature bent that gilds all the text in game is also both refreshing and charming enough to draw you in. How many games can you think of that can be called truly literate? Bioshock may have made me want to write video game scripts, Echo Bazaar has made me want to write for Echo Bazaar.

This charm does have its limitations. The issue that this kind of game inevitably runs into is the grind factor. This tedium can be emphasised when the main staying point is the text, how many times can one read the same thing? And how easy it can be to ignore flavour text because you need to bump your Watchful stat up a few levels? This is a reality of the medium more than anything else, and not something I can hold against Failbetter Games. However, they appear to be aware of this flaw. My latest bout with the game revealed a second successful outcome to action I had committed many a time. More of these rare, surprise wins would be a blessing even if they only show up occasionally. Even without new ways to succeed, grind issues are only a significant hindrance if you allow them to be. Explore more than one path and you will find it difficult to grow weary. If your Ambition requires a higher Persuasive skill, don’t squander your time on one action. Follow the stats path in earnest and fight your way into High Society. Alternatively, get to the bottom of those nightmares you’ve been having. If all else fails, invite a friend to dinner.


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