The galactic expanse beyond our planet is seemingly limitless, and so the human imagination considers anything beyond our solar system to be utterly fantastic and almost beyond comprehension in its expansiveness. This is where the inherent linearity of interactive fiction intersects with reality; within the scope of The Treasure Seekers of Lady Luck by Christopher Brendel (hosted on Choice of Games), the possibilities are limited despite the nearly limitless surroundings that envelop the events and locations of the story. You begin the story as an unnamed and gender-less figure on-board a transit vessel in space. One thing leads to another, you sort out your gender and name with a translucent alien that gives you the “Professor Oak” treatment, and you end up rescued…laying on the deck of a pirate ship that prefers not to be referred to as such with a slave collar around your neck. The story seems teeming with possibilities early on, with new characters to meet and new places (even just within the ship) to explore. The promise of non-linearity does not last long, however. *Spoilers Ahead*
Soon enough, linearity rears its head into the narrative and the player is forced to play along. On the major hub world that the player’s ship lands on, you are basically forced to encounter the persistent lawman Detective Garce. There is no avoiding him, since it appears that encountering him is a necessary element to advance through the story. This happens twice on the same planet during different points of the story, and both instances lead up to the same conflict: Detective Garce vs. Captain Isan Cehnta. This standoff on the volcanic homeworld of the Shadow Fiends is the climax of the story, as the player is given the ability to choose between the arrest of Captain Isan, the death of Detective Garce, or some neutral position in-between. There are several smaller decisions leading up to the standoff that can tip the scales in the favor of either combatant (tracking devices come into play) but on the playthrough being analyzed, tracking devices were not used.
After completing the story, it somehow feels hollow. Not to say that the story lacked substance, but it feels 3/4 full. Aside from a few spelling and punctuation errors and some inconsistencies, the game appeared to be fairly sound technically. The linearity of the story in terms of exploration and story progression was the real issue. Having to find and talk to Detective Garce (even when the version of the player character in a particular play-through wanted nothing to do with him) was tedious and it did not do good things for immersion and being “into” the narrative.
There were also several occasions when the game assumed I had made certain choices and those assumptions were evident in the exposition and dialogue boxes. Having to play around those issues took away from the immersion slightly but it was not a deal-breaker.
As far as the innovation and ingenuity of the story, it was one that I had not played through before. The puzzle-solving and item usage was designed in a satisfactory fashion, if slightly under-utilized in the long run. The abilities that were presented during the character development phase made sense, but they could have factored into the story more. Relationships between the player character and the NPCs was decent, although it seemed like getting close with one half of the crew distanced the player significantly from the other half. The only neutral character was the captain.
The experience is not a bad one overall, but if feels unpolished and somewhat incomplete in retrospect. There’s something to be said for the story and linearity, however; it does some things right and others wrong. The ability factor was employed well enough for an enjoyable first play-through and relationships with other crewmembers made enough sense that I didn’t question them much during that first play-through. This work of interactive fiction provides an opportunity to explore space and the potential characters that lurk out in it, but not much else.