IFcomp 2016: Quest for the Traitor Saint

Next: “Quest for the Traitor Saint”. This, it turns out, is actually a subtitle–or else it’s one of a series–and on the game itself, the name with the bigger font is “The Saints of Horses”. Horses, you say? You mean, like, ponies…?

Ahhhh, Ponies! Well, “Horses” in the game setting, but the illustrations bear a striking resemblance to the “Friendship is Magic” Ponies. (Of whom Applejack is still the best.) I did catch one instance of “Equestrian” as referring to the race of Horses/Ponies, so maybe this started out as a sort of fanfiction and then evolved … which is a legitimate way of creating original fiction, in my opinion. Take away the illustrations, and there is really nothing left to link this world with the MLP franchise; so who cares how or where it started?

There’s quite a bit of worldbuilding. Almost an overwhelming amount of it, in fact, so much so that a bestiary is required to keep track of all the flora and fauna we come across. That said, I don’t know that a lot of it is really relevant. It’s enough to know that we have a few alien plants and animals: we don’t need everything described, especially as not everything is relevant to the plot. It helps occasionally to have an off-hand reference to an alien thing, in order to reinforce a sense of place and setting, but I feel there was perhaps a bit too much of that going on here, and the explanatory links drew too much attention. It distracted a little from the really important alien concepts, like the existence of a fourth dimension.

Alien though the world was, I do not feel that the Horses were sufficiently alien in nature, in spite of the introduction’s assertion that their way of thinking was sufficiently different from that of humans to make diplomacy difficult. These Horses have a peculiar attachment to the invocations of their saints, which I would have expected to see play out in our interactions with the various Horse characters we meet; but this is not the case. I get the sense, instead, that saintly invocation is a matter of formal etiquette rather than one of day-to-day life. It’s a pity: sorting out a way of getting on the good side of the Horses we meet along the way would have made for some interesting puzzles, and a way of giving us some direction on a smaller scale while we work on the larger, overarching, eponymous quest.

A series of little quest puzzles would have helped to maintain focus, too, since it’s very easy to lose sight of the greater goal. The story often felt a lot more like just me and my Horse friend exploring an island and experiencing whatever it had to offer. And perhaps that is the problem. There’s the “Macguffin quest” sort of game, and there’s the “explore and discover” sort of game: “Traitor Saint” is trying to do both, and each thread is distracting from the other.

The ending is, on the one hand, realistic in that the discovery of the Macguffin doesn’t actually solve all our problems; but it’s also a little frustrating in that it doesn’t seem to solve any problems at all. I feel as though we should have been working up to a “the journey itself is the answer” conclusion, something to tie in with our adventures along the way, but I don’t feel we really get that. Well, maybe we get a little bit of that in the ending where we choose to think about it ourself without our Horse friend’s input (strange, considering the context) but it feels a little hesitantly put, not like a conclusion aesop at all.

Pancakes, a little undercooked. I know we have the best of ingredients going in there, but somehow it’s come out a little bland … perhaps a hint of salt would be in order? Or berries? Well, there’s a side of fried mushrooms, and then cold milk to finish.

Edit: Oh look, there’s a coded message right in the beginning, in the game menu! How did I miss that before? Now I must solve it!

2nd Edit: I have just cracked the coded message. It wasn’t too hard, but I think I spent way too long overcomplicating things. Well. THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING.

3rd Edit: Well, okay, maybe it doesn’t change THAT much. But knowing the content of the coded message puts a slightly different perspective on our adventures, without actually changing our options. I get the sense now that this is part of a much larger story–part of a series, perhaps. Breakfast? It’s still pancakes … but now I’m more in the mood for it. And I can see a whole lot of ingredients ranged across the kitchen counter, ready for Second Breakfast.

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