the only thing which concerns me as far as ratings go with the Cog ap, is that it seems those games towards the bottom of the list have often simply received fewer ratings, rather than less good ones.
For example, choice of the petal throne had only 25 ratings I think, so was far down the list, where as many at the top had over 500.
I also remember seeing last monster master way down too for the same reason, and as I said in that case, that’s a rating I definitely don’t agree with.
Well speaking of ratings, I have now played choice of the vampire (well the first part anyway), and so here are some thoughts.
I confess to being put off this one slightly by the obvious Anne rice influence in having a vampire game set in 19th century New Orleans, which is almost as standard as Transylvania these days, but I decided I shouldn’t let that put me off and so gave the game a try.
I played a socialite vampire called Barbara (extra points for anyone who gets the amusement of Barbara the vampire).
I also thought this time it might be fun to try and play something outside my own comfort zone and paly a social charming vampire, rather than my usual straight forward brute force or academic types, albeit still a comparatively nice natured one.
My first problem however came with the stats.
Whilst some stats, EG compassion vs hubris, or base stats like strength, agility and stealth were easy to get, others such as coloniability vs independence or adaptability vs anachronism I didn’t understand at all, There was no explanation on the stats page or in game.
Similarly, some powers and decisions were just unclear, for example, I had no idea if your ability to talk to animals went with lore, stealth or mental powers.
So, to begin with, I was playing a game where decisions were murky.
Fortunately, there was comparatively little to decide, which brings me on to my next point.
Yee gods this game was run on rails!
So many of my decisions, I’d decide one way, and then the game would suddenly redact my choice entirely, or have something happen as if I’d chosen something else.
I won’t detail all of these for fear of spoilers, but I will give one example.
On one occasion I was given a girl by some local villagers as a kind of sacrifice. My options were feed on her, take her for sexual amusement, remain indifferent, or take her as my maid.
I took her on as a maid, on the basis that she might be a companion and ally.
My vampire was a straight lady, and though I did kill, I didn’t kill indiscriminately, plus of course I thought at the time, a well todo socially mobile lady would be likely to have a loyal maid.
However, soon she kills herself. Why I don’t know, I didn’t mistreat her, and as per my over 75 compassion I wasn't a cruel vampire, . This then caused the people to suddenly start howling for my blood, even though the text told me I’d been ruling them fairly up to then, and with my charm and intelligence things had been going well.
This is what I mean, all the way through these sorts of things happened, where the author plainly had one path to go, and I was seemingly forced along that path, no matter what I decided.
Even romantically, I was playing a straight lady vampire who was interested in men, and though I did have one romantic option with a man, all the way through I was continually told how I was fascinated with a woman’s beauty, or was infatuated with a given lady.
Oddly enough, this is one game where specifying sexual preference might have helped, or at least a little flexibility on the author’s part to let the player pursue their given interests, rather than just assume attractions at different points (I'm fairly sure the romance with a man was intended to be for a female character and would read as clunky if the character was a gay man).
Another major problem I had, connected to my characters’ lack of ability to alter her own destiny, was that so much of the writing was dry and factual.
If I play a game set in a historical period, I expect my character to interact with that period the way that a person from that time would, I want the sounds, sites, smells, the people that character meets within their own circle. I want my roman character tell me what larks tongues taste like, and my character in Victorian London to smell smog and hear the clatter of handsome cabs.
Most of the writing here though honestly read like wikipedia Articles on American history, which army in the civil war advanced and did what, what general took what city etc. Often, I honestly thought “look I don’t care! About what bills congress has passed, can we just get back to the blood drinking?”
This dry style also made it hard to care about what was actually going on, even when circumstances seemed bad, for example, I would’ve thought that anyone in a city about to be besieged would be more concerned about the army approaching, whichever political side they were for, than what the so and so bill or the such and such case had said or had won which battles miles away.
This also meant that in situations where my character was asked to take a stance on things like whether they supported one side in the civil war or the other, I honestly didn’t know, since I frankly didn’t have enough of my character’s actual experience to base things on.
On the one hand, maybe this would mean more to people who know more American history than I do, on the other, as a doctor who fan, I’m no stranger to historical fiction, and historical fiction set in periods I know nothing about, and generally like all fiction they succeed or fail on the strength of their characters and the immertion of their writing, not how well the author has memorised a set of names and dates and battles.
Here however, characters lacked extremely, even the romance was cliche ridden and uninteresting, particularly since it came with a tragedy (once again one I suspect was unavoidable), which was possible to see coming a mile away and so had absolutely no emotional weight at all.
Oh, and it also didn’t’ help that the ending was an anticlimax of the worst kind, with no resolution and not even a cliffhanger, it just felt as if the story broke off in mid flow.
All in all, one of the worst Cog games I’ve played, right down there with city of the clouds.
I scored it a 3-10 on the rating scale, and would definitely not recommend it, indeed while I own the second part and have imported my save from part one, I don’t know if I’ll ever be moving forward, not with how disappointing this one was.
Btw, if for rent, haunted house is worse than this, it must be pretty terrible.
I have some long car journeys tomorrow, and likely some waiting around hospitals too, so probably time for choice of broadsides next.
With our dreaming and singing, Ceaseless and sorrowless we! The glory about us clinging Of the glorious futures we see,
Our souls with high music ringing; O men! It must ever be
That we dwell in our dreaming and singing, A little apart from ye. (Arthur O'Shaughnessy 1873.)