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Written by  :  Terrence Bosky (5459)
Written on  :  Jul 20, 2001
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3.25 Stars3.25 Stars3.25 Stars3.25 Stars3.25 Stars
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The End of Commercial Interactive Fiction

The Good

Once and Future is a curiosity. Text games (or Interactive Fiction) were once the rage. There was a time when game players wanted to enter a book, with the graphic revolution, they now prefer a cinematic experience. Just like video killed the radio star, graphics killed the parser. In the mid 90's, Once and Future was set to herald the return of Interactive Fiction. Now in 2001, Cascade Publishing is dead, Once and Future is shareware, and their website provides a link to porn.

Once and Future no doubt holds great appeal for those of us who enjoyed the old Infocom games. It's value is more nostalgic than anything else. It tells an interesting story revolving around Viet Nam, Avalon, the land of Fairies and... WHERE IT ALL WENT WRONG.

The characters in Once and Future are probably the best part of the game. There is a loveable mole, the odd assortment of knights, Merlin and others who answer questions, follow you, interact with their surroundings and fellow inhabitants. When it came to character interaction, Once and Future is one of the more impressive games I've played.

The Bad

How far has Interactive Fiction come? Not too far. Once and Future wouldn't stand a chance against the Turing test, and as good as the parser is, I quickly learned it's not what you say, but how you say it. Verb choices seem awfully limited.

The overall story was good and typical descriptions are good, but there was one segment that annoyed me. It took place in an unnaturally confined area but the author seemed to pay no attention to scale. And the author tended to forget the time setting. It's distracting to have the main character bummed because of Nam and then reminiscing about a computer game he played as a child.

The puzzles either were completely logical or came from left field. Sometimes they contributed to the plot, other times they seemed to be padding.

Finally, the game uses a ranking system based on the Army, but promotion sometimes seems arbitrary and for the uninitiated- confusing. There are several different endings, but it is not apparent what choices determine the outcome.

The Bottom Line

Once and Future is interesting but it cannot resurrect a dead genre. If you played text games before, Once and Future's nostalgia, referential pokes, and parser-based gameplay are for you. If you've never played a text game before, then give it a shot. You probably won't understand what the deal is.