If Comp 2009: The Duel that Spanned the Ages Part One

I was late to the party on this one.  I admit it was a hundred-percent because the title kept putting me off. Despite the fact that each of these games is only supposed to take two hours apiece, and this one came to about 1:45 for me, “The Duel that Spanned the Ages” says to me, “wait and put this aside because whoa epic.”

I’m sad I put this off because I really dug it. More spoilery stuff below the cut as always.

So there are two things I don’t like about this game, and the first and foremost most important one is that the title sucks.  Not just because it made me not want to play it, but because I don’t really see what it has to do with the game, anyway. I didn’t really get in to a duel until the end and that particular duel did not span the ages.  Now I guess that what this alludes to is that there’s going to be some actual age-spanning going on in future parts of the saga… like some kind of Eternal Darkness inspired plot where I take on a bunch of different roles fighting this otherworldly menace, maybe going back in time and battling spider robots in antiquity next, and if that is the case then I am already geeked out at the prospects.  But for this particular game, for this particular version, that title doesn’t really do it justice and maybe it should’ve been submitted under something that felt a little less like I was getting Part One of a half-baked concept.  Which… I was, but don’t put underlines and exclamation points by it.

Now the other thing I hate is killing the protagonist at the end.  Hey, I told you there would be spoilers. But, anyway, that irks me, because it means the whole thing that I did back there with the trying to survive in this harsh environment was totally pointless.  I died in insta-gib ways numerous times during the story, so why didn’t any of those deaths count as “the end”? Because I had to get that one really specific death.  Which is Emma-Emerson-level frustrating.

Now that I’m done bitching: I like space marines and the aesthetic thereof and so, where the Duel in the Snow was probably not “for me,” for example, this one was definitely more so, and sometimes I’m happy to feel personally catered to. This is some serious Mass Effect, 3:16 type stuff and I dig that. I can tell the author has probably played numerous video games that I also liked and borrowed little bits of those things.  I like video games, so sue me.

Under the game’s “Trivia” section it does mention several video games and also suggests something totally amusing happens if I remember Doom.  Remember it? I still pop it open now and then.  So, screw the rules, I have


*** You have died.***

Can’t say he didn’t warn me about that. Never would’ve thought to implement that though. I mean xyzzy is practically a requirement, but there’s just one more to add to the list, er, at least if your IF is kind of like an FPS.

I like the way things work in this world. The puzzles make sense. I resorted to hints a couple times admittedly but any time I did it was obvious what the solution was and I felt dumb for not seeing it (like in the second laser corridor).  The feelie for the game was really useful for the first part in the rock fields – I was happy to have it and probably would’ve been pretty lost otherwise.  It cracked me up when I typed ‘duck’ and the game said ‘you will automatically use all available cover.’  I liked the spiders that randomly attacked me and the different situations I could get in to. I liked that it kept track of stuff like what you were carrying if it was too heavy to carry – when I first saw that I ‘had’ the Demolisher I thought it quite odd that I might be able to carry around something with that description, and was pleased when the game didn’t allow me to leave the room with it.  I like that I didn’t have to guess how to use the recorder, “Listen to file01,” first thing I tried, actually worked.  Maybe there was another way to make it work but the fact that it was not verb-guessy for me was a happy moment.  Actually I didn’t really find any verb-guessy parts in the whole game.

So I guess most of the stuff I’ve liked so far has been the SF stuff in this comp. Not to say I only like SF stuff though, I’m just seeing that pattern here.

Oh, although I guess I would like to ask if authors could please go lighter on the dream sequences. This one wasn’t as bad as these things have gone but there sure have been a lot of them!  This being the first time I’ve played an entire comp’s worth of games I have no idea if this is typical.

One thought on “If Comp 2009: The Duel that Spanned the Ages Part One”

  1. I finished playing it a while ago and this is the first review I stumbled on while searching for a sequel. This game is not perfect, it still needs (a bit of) polishing, but it worked flawlessly, the story is pretty good. It’s great, actually. Just not the best there is, but a fine piece of IF.

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