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Anno 1700
Author: Finn Rosenløv  
Date: 2018

Reviewed by Christopher Huang

Here's a story with a lot of potential. We've got a historic hotel with, apparently, a hidden tower room that's supposed to be cursed, and we've got pirates and ancient secrets and probably time travel....

Yeah, I think there's time travel. I never made it that far.

The writing feels a bit indifferent. It's not exactly bad or ungrammatical; I can't point to anything specifically and spectacularly awful. It's just ... doesn't quite capture the mood. The author may need more practice with expressing their ideas in fewer words.

The implementation feels shaky, too. For a game like this, one expects a great deal of immersion. Characters should come to life with interaction, details should be deeply implemented, and a vast array of potential actions should be anticipated. I felt as though I had to follow the walkthrough exactly, or be totally lost in a place with nothing to do.

Still, like I said, it's a great setup. It just wants to be developed more. Maybe the author needed some more feedback on what was working and what wasn't. It's like when you're expecting Eggs Benedict for breakfast but the eggs are actually hard-boiled and the Hollandaise is a bit too watery. Everything is there; all that's lacking is the execution.

Reviewed by Sam Kabo Ashwell

Anno 1700 is a game that’s mostly about poking around in secret passages with medium-size dry goods; in theory you are uncovering a pirate romance mystery, but it really takes its time about getting around to that part, and is way more interested in tampering with the hard furnishings in fiddly ways I would absolutely never have thought of without the walkthrough. I gave up towards the end of a puzzle about clearing an obstacle by loading a centuries-old cannon with inexplicably well-preserved gunpowder. Doesn’t do a great job of describing its Attractive Female NPC.

Reviewed by McT

A lengthy parser game, written in ADRIFT, Anno 1700 advertises itself as ‘longer than 2 hours’. It’s right. I play for 2 hours, but don’t reach an ending. I quickly turn to the walkthrough. This game is big. And very difficult. Often, I feel, somewhat unfairly.

We play as a student on a years sabbatical working in an old hotel on the Gulf of Mexico. We are a history major, and the area has been linked with pirate activity since the 1700’s.

I would argue that this game makes a rather important mis-step. There are a set of hard and (I felt) somewhat unfair puzzles to actually find the narrative. The real story of the game doesn’t really kick off until after the player has found the secrets in their room. I only found them with the aid of the walkthrough, because the game makes no effort to help the player over these first hurdles.

This is very definitely a thing in the world of the parser. The game needs to engage the player from the start. Were I just a general player, I might have wandered around aimlessly for a while, then given up. Had I not had the walkthrough to hand, I would never have seen 90% of this game.

The game really needs to direct the player through these first set of puzzles to get them into the game. In order to be at least a little bit useful, here’s what I found, with my interactions :

Potential spoilers.

Right at the start, the very first room, we have a crooked tree. Right. x tree. You see a hole. x hole. “It’s a natural hole, formed as the tree grew over the years. It looks like a squirrel has moved in.” Cool. But then, it turns out, from the walkthrough, you have to ‘get nuts’? Huh? What nuts? Others might find this a fair puzzle. I did not. Without the walkthrough, I would have never, ever found the skeleton key. Just a “the hole is full of nuts.” would have been sufficient. In addition, ‘acorn’ is not recognized. The squirrel is not carrying a nut, it’s carrying an acorn. I tried “reach into hole” “feel inside hole” “put hand in hole”.

When I meet a young woman, I try and talk to her about stuff. She doesn’t understand anything I say. I go to the walkthrough. I have to explicitly say hello. What can’t I ask her about the key? My job? Me? Her? She doesn’t do anything. The problem is, she’s asked me something “What can I do for you?” – I’m trying to respond to her question for quite a while. It never occurs to me to say hello. This is a case where a little bit of help text for the player wouldn’t hurt – just to get us into the mechanics. Other games do this – embedded in the text “When you meet new people, why not try saying ‘hello ‘ to them.” sort of thing.

I’ve examined the closet, but I really can’t find anything to do with it. There’s a hole. When I review the walkthrough, it turns out I need to ‘look in closet’ to see the thing I was supposed to see. That’s just annoying. Without the walkthrough, because examine had uncovered the hole, I would have never realized that ‘look in’ would be a different action and thus would never have done it.

I examined the candle holder. I thought it was scenery. I would have never thought to try and take it because the text doesn’t cue me. Just a simple “The candle holder feels loose.” would have cued me. Or even, as this is the beginning of the game : “The candle holder comes away from the wall into your hand.” when you examine it.

Once I find the secret passage, I become engaged with the game. However, I have turned to the walkthrough at this point. The remainder of the puzzles I engage with seem to have similar issues. But I will stop there. I think this needs a couple more rounds of testing from a really experienced Beta tester.

There is obviously a lot of work gone into this game. But it does need another set of eyes on it – the puzzles need to be fairer and more cued – I wish the people I meet had more life to them. I wish I had gotten further into the game. I would definitely play again if these issues were resolved and the game was re-released. 5/10.

Reviewed by The Xenographer

This game has a fun premise, but I kept running up against implementation issues.

It wasn’t always made clear in room descriptions which directions exits were in (or whether one actually needed to go “in” or “out”)--exits were sometimes described as “left” or “right” or “behind you,” or just not mentioned at all. There was no “exits” command and no map; as far as I could tell, the only way to get a list of exits was to try to go in a direction where there wasn’t one.

When I tried to talk to the owner of the hotel, the game (in what I assume is a default response) told me that the syntax was “tell [person] about [thing]” or “ask [person] about [thing].” What I actually needed to do was “say hello to [person].” Which I really should have tried--it seems very obvious in retrospect--but I got hung up on the tell/ask syntax and failed to figure it out, eventually resorting to the walkthrough.

I completely missed the corroded key because in order to get it you first have to “take nuts” from the squirrel nest in the hole in the tree; aside from the squirrel being said to be holding an acorn, “nuts” are never mentioned in the description of the tree or the hole and it’s therefore not clear that they’re something you can take. I again had to go to the walkthrough for this.

Guess-the-verb problems also came up a bit. In particular, “prime wick” isn’t something I would have thought of without some in-game prompting. The whole cannon puzzle was really under-clued and seemed to kind of assume you know the steps of loading and firing a cannon without being told, unless there was some optional reading material somewhere not in the ship that I missed? Anyway, that point is where my playthrough ended, because no matter what I did I couldn’t get the cannon to fire even when I went through every step in the walkthrough--it kept saying “Are you sure? You seem to be missing something.” So I gave up.

Reviewed by Thomas Mack

“Anno 1700” is a long parser-based game about a student who takes a summer job at a hotel. After discovering a pirate hideout nearby, she explores the cave and uncovers its history.

Gameplay: The game starts out with a well-written prologue and a few opening scenes at the hotel. The bulk of it, though, concerns her exploration of the pirate cave. Unlike most adventure games, this one isn’t focused entirely on the actual exploration itself; instead, it shows the protagonist’s attempts to find a way into the hideout, to recover artifacts from it, to talk with other people about the cave and its artifacts, and to reconcile its history with the present. In short, it’s about more than traversing the cave itself, a welcome change from most adventure games in this genre. 7/10.

Mechanics: Most of the game is spent exploring the hotel and the area around it using standard adventuring techniques: finding secret passages, obtaining keys and useful tools, picking locks with bits of wire, etc. A large part of the game is just finding the secret passages needed to navigate through the map, rather than the more involved puzzles in other games, and the game focuses on the experience of exploring a mysterious place as an amateur adventurer without any special tools. The first few puzzles in the game seem similar to each other, but they become more interesting once the player reaches the cannon sequence, which is more involved than the other puzzles but not particularly difficult. Although it was clear at each stage of that puzzle what I wanted the protagonist to do, it was occasionally unclear how to get her to do it. 6/10.

Presentation: The setting evokes the pirate theme throughout the long cave exploration sequence and flashback, but the contrast between those parts of the game and the initial hotel exploration emphasizes the adventurousness of the former. Both the protagonist and the NPCs that appear briefly are characterized well, especially given that the emphasis of the game is on exploration and problem-solving rather than conversation. The fantasy element of the flashback is a bit odd compared against the realism of the rest of the game, but the mechanic it allows is interesting enough to suspend disbelief for that section. There are a few guess-the-verb issues: for example, UNLOCK ROOM is not understood, but UNLOCK [room] 101 is. 7/10.

You might be interested in this game if: You enjoyed “Plundered Hearts” or “Cutthroats.”

Score: 7

Reviewed by dgtziea

The beginning gives a brief background for this ADRIFT game: I'm a young woman trying to find myself, basically: interest in history, college sabbatical, going to my new job as a receptionist at an old hotel in Mexico, in a gulf where pirates once roamed.

I arrive. I talk to my boss, get my room key. I change clothes in my room. Then my boss tells me to just, look around, make sure the guests are happy.

And I go around, and try talking to guests, who all don't respond much. Greeted the cook, tried greeting the maid, no other staff around. There's a framed newspaper article in the lobby, says this place used to be a brothel run by the current owner's great grandmother. I ask my boss about it, she tells me about secret tower that was closed off.

And that's about as far as got before I had to check the walkthrough, and from then on that was what I was basically following. Later on, there's some get some secret passages, lots of hidden objects and masked levers, with some guess-the-verb issues, like

put key in =/= insert key in
push/pull thing =/= turn thing

I stopped when the key I was using unceremoniously broke, and I looked at the walkthrough and it said that I just had to exit the room and go back, and I just had no clue where it might want me to go next. I didn't want to just follow a walkthrough step by step.

So the beginning is just straight prose. Bit boilerplate, some slightly unnatural phrasing, but it's fine, establishes a character. Then the game starts, and you turn back into Generic IF Adventuring Protagonist, and none of your character background really comes up.

I don't know if other people play this way, but if I'm told I'm a receptionist, I'm going to do my darn job, especially after the sincere slice-of-life intro. I'm not going to start poking around at trees, picking stuff up, or even wandering around the hotel; I looked for my boss, I did what she told me to do, then I tried to look around for guests to help. And there weren't any.

SPOILER: Would it have helped if a guest had told me there was a squirrel problem, or something? Maybe.

I just think this feels too undirected. I'd love if the protagonist imposed themselves a bit more, expressing interest in the newspaper article, showing surprise at the secret passage, and in general directing some motivations for me to follow. But if it isn't supposed to be that sort of game, it might still help if the description told me the candle holder looked suspicious, or the statue's hands look like they rotate. Things happen, things "rise", without really suggesting what action I might take next, and even important objects don't suggest what I might do with them.

If those things were fixed, and if more verbs were implemented for puzzle objects, I think the puzzle aspects of this would be fine. I think they'd work well to generate a sense of mystery, of delving into a secret/hidden past. The history and geography of the place is intriguing and decently established, and I really liked the setting. The backstory-focused descriptions were good; it's just the ones for interactable objects that were unhelpful, and generally it was just too hard to figure out what the game wanted me to do. (Also, it seems like this has been updated since I downloaded and played it, so some of this might be out-of-date!)

Reviews should be considered copyrighted by their respective authors.


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