Game Review: Echo Bazaar (Fallen London)
Echo Bazaar (also known as EBZ or Fallen London) is an RPG browser game connected to your Twitter account. And really, just when I thought all you couldn’t do a browser game that didn’t involve Flash, someone makes this and I am happily and deliciously surprised.
So for me, it all begins with a combination of Twitter and work (as 80% of all my time is wont to be allocated between those two things). Elizabeth Bear, an author I am currently following, tweeted a snippet from EBZ, and being bored and curious, I clicked and found myself at the site entrance. It was all downhill for me from there, and I find myself still obsessively waiting for the moment my actions refresh everyday.
How to explain it. Well, to quote the Failbetter Games website:
Failbetter does startling things with casual games and narrative, using simple, unsexy technology and buckets of ingenuity.
This. Exactly what it said, word for word, no exaggerations. Essentially, all you really do is click options with your mouse. No mad skillz with the space bar and directional buttons involved, no fancy pants motion clips, no groundbreaking Flash animation to wow you. Hell, there isn’t even background music. EBZ runs on pure story, and each one is tailored in particular ways depending on the choices of the person playing.
Everybody starts out as a newly escaped criminal in Fallen London, but as one begins to work one’s way through the chosen Ambition and the unlockable Storylets, more things about the history of Fallen London become clear, and the player starts to get exactly why and how things work in that place, how the mythos drives the current culture, and how the people are coping with the change. Monsters and unique characters abound; some are cute, some are cute and scary, some are just plain scary, but they’re all fun and intelligently written, which is more than I can say for the hundreds of games the Internet churns out every day. And given that most of Failbetter Games is made up of writers (I mean, how cool is that?), all the pieces of information you find fit together, no matter how small or seemingly inconsequential, in more ways than you thought they could. And if they don’t fit, well don’t worry. They will. You just have to keep playing.
But I digress. I have a soft spot for narratives. I’d eat anything up that contains a story I can’t finish, and every day playing is like a cliffhanger moment for me. But I do suggest you try it first, just to find out if it’s your cup of tea. You need a Twitter account to play, and if you don’t have one yet, the game is worth getting one, in my opinion.
EBZ is like the one totally unexpected and awesome find you have at a flea market sale that you’re so happy you took the chance to go to even though everybody and their dog told you to just go to the mall and buy a burger and be happy with that. Actually, I’d go as far as to say I want to bang Square Enix over the head with a pan and tell them “This is how you do an awesome narrative, you douches. Take some notes and stop selling your souls to the nearest buyer.”
I believe in the greatness of this game. I believe you don’t have to be high-tech to be awesome. I also believe in the power of content, in the power of stories, to make a difference. How GMH is that?