Are you tired of immaculately designed graphics engines presenting you with the newest levels of graphic fidelity? Would you rather use your *own* graphics engine, the most powerful engine of them all: Your imagination? This might just be a dramatic way of telling you that Choice of the Deathless is a text-based choose-your-own-adventure game without any graphics, imagery or sound, but who cares!
Choice of the Deathless is a text-adventure developed by 'Choice of Games' and it is honestly a bit hard to describe to the uninitiated. You start out the game in a bit of a pickle, and the first thing you get to do is die. As you shatter into a billion pieces, you look through your own eyes, into the past, and go through your choices and how your existence has been progressing through the years.
You find yourself in a very interesting world which is very fleshed out. It takes place in an alternate universe where gods have walked the face of the earth and ruled mankind, but mankind revolted, and magic-users (known as craftsmen) started a war with the gods. Men won that war, but much of the world has yet to recover.
There is also the underworld which is inhabited by demons. These demons can cross into 'our' world through contracts, and it also goes the other way around when humans wish to pass into the realms of hell. This is where you come in: Your character is a part of a demonic lawfirm called Varkath Nebuchadnezzar Stone, and you work as a craftsman, manipulating laws and magic (known as Craft) alike. Over the course of the story you get to work on several different cases, from pro-bono work to higher profile cases, in your pursuit for (whatever choice you make in the game. It is YOUR adventure, after all!).
The game clocks in at around two hours on your first playthrough, and by the time you are done, you'll feel like you're only just getting the feel of the setting, but alas, the story finishes and while it seems to open up anew, it shuts the door in your face. The adventure is short, but sweet. I would not call it unsatisfying, though its length is a drawback, however, anyone who is used to choose-your-own-adventure titles will surely recognize this as a common part of the genre.
You get to make some choices on what kind of person you are: Were you brought up in a rich/poor/middle-class family? How were you in school? Did you study all day long, were you more of an athletic person, were you a party animal, or did you try to trick your way through the system? You also get to choose your sexual orientation which comes into play later, as you can romance some of the characters you meet on your journey.
You also get to choose your name, either from a list of presets, or you can write in your own... But why would you write in your own, when one of the presets for your demonic lawyer is Xueyou (which I, of course, couldn't steer my cursor away from!)
The writing is good. Really really good. I found myself laughing out loud several times, and the story is very well written and it really is "novel quality". This isn't just some random guy typing up his fantasies. The writing is organized, the language is very diverse and very fleshed-out while still remaining easily readable. And it's just really funny at times, which I don't know if I really expected it to be.
As a choose-your-own-adventure game, you'd expect there to be a fair number of choices, and through the relatively short-lasting adventure, there were decent number of choices to make. Some have more of an effect on the game than others, while certain choices have no impact at all. Depending on the paths you go down, the ending and the events leading up to it will change, though not as dramatically as one might have hoped.
As I previously mentioned, the adventure only last roughly 2 hours (quick readers will find themselves finishing quicker than that), but there is some replayability, though I must say that this aspect is perhaps the most disappointing thing about Choice of the Deathless: It's on the short side, and once you finish it, there aren't too many reasons to go back. I think it warrants a second playthrough, but once that's over, you probably won't find yourself reading this one again. It's a bit of a shame, but the choices don't have all that much weight too them, and there are too few that actually significantly change the course of the story.
Another weird thing about the game is that it has no save option. It will automatically save when you quit, but if you don't do that in the middle of the playthrough to check if it saves (which I did out of curiosity) you'd never know. This is a bit strange, especially if you're like me, and you want to see what happens if you go for different choices. The only way to do this is to actually go through the whole thing again. This is really bad, and shouldn't be happening in a game of this day and age.
With the absence of a finely detailed 3D world (instead replaced by what you see in the screenshots: A grey background with text on it, some choices at the bottom an a button to send you flying through the pages) and a soundtrack, there isn't much to discuss about this. It's a clean game, if not somewhat primitive and un-intuitive, but it gets the job done, and I don't really want to complain about it. The developer clearly lists this on Steam as well, not trying to sell a game for something that it is not.
The setting of 'Choice of the Deathless' is the 'Craft Sequence' universe, in which the author Max Gladstone has written several novels. It is definitely interesting to see an author like Gladstone turn to this format and expand his universe in this way. The developers have made several games with some very good authors, and it will definitely be interesting to see where they will go in the future.
Overall, Choice of the Deathless is a good choose-your-own-adventure game, and I enjoyed my time with it. The only thing weighing down my otherwise high opinions of it, is the short time it takes to finish and its un-intuitive ways of handling its presentation. If it wasn't just €2.99 on steam, it'd be hard sell, but it is dirt cheap, and for that price, it's worth picking up.
Disclaimer: This game was obtained from the developer and reviewed on PC.
For what Choice of the Deathless does, it does it quite well, serving a somewhat memorable, yet painfully short adventure with some great writing. It's just a shame it isn't any longer!