Border Reivers

@ifcomp Legit old-school parser ask/tell topic-based mystery with great writing. I wish I liked solve-the-crime mysteries and historical accuracy more! This is probably right up the misty-moor alley for sleuthing mystery fans.

I liked the historical setting, the scenario and the high number of characters, but I found the entry a bit too brief. I thought I was only beginning my investigation when it came to a sudden end.

I had guessed who the murderer was, but not how and why, and I certainly didn’t have any solid evidence. I also knew nothing about his accomplice.

A murder mystery parser game. Castle intrigue between various family clans, including your own (Your father’s the warden, and he asks you to help figure out whodunnit).

The writing’s well done. The ABOUT text cheerfully points me towards sources if I wanted to learn more about the real-life Border Reivers. Lots of characters sketched out. I do think the text was a bit dense at the beginning, with enough info thrown at me that I had to slow down a bit – I’m not good at tracking characters – and I also decided pretty quickly to grab a pen. Apparently I was maybe taking too long making my way around the rooms trying to figure out the limits of the ask/tell (well, I’m assuming tell would work) conversation system in this, and… the game just went into a final section, I was asked who’d done it, and I hadn’t realised there was a ticking clock to the night’s proceedings. I wasn’t making a lot of progress before that anyways; I think my expectation for a murder mystery game with a bunch of suspects to interrogate was that, well, I’d be told more about the murder itself, and go around asking people about, y’know, murder weapon, alibis, state of body, motives. But your dad doesn’t give you much of that type of info. Instead you’re primarily told to ask about clans by the tutorial text. But you’re also told you can ask about clues, and the body, about specific suspects, and I was trying some of those and getting not too much, especially since at first blush this isn’t just “everyone’s a suspect”; there are some people hanging around who just seem to be relatives or staff. And not everyone has something to say about everyone else.

The 1st playthrough also… told me who the killers were, since I guessed wrong. Which uh, I don’t know, should a player who doesn’t solve the mystery be told that? Just type restart, if you you’re asked to guess the killer and you don’t have any clue, unless you want it spoiled. That end part was kind of muted, because it was a forced section, but I think it was just implemented oddly? It’s an on-rails-y part that still gave me input, and maybe the location not changing and people not reacting (or existing in the scene) was what made it odd.

I think the biggest issue I had might’ve had was that I you’re told about a person you should talk to after some time, but I didn’t note the directions they gave me and I didn’t know how to find the room they were in. I played online, so I’m not sure if there’s a scrollback I was missing.

2nd playthrough, well, I knew who did it… But even going through with that in mind, it still felt a bit more like circumstantial evidence than anything more concrete, and I don’t know if there’s a way to confront people more about my suspicions. After a while, it seemed like waiting around for the final section to happen again, and even the “good” ending according to the walkthrough felt a bit abrupt.

So the mystery’s there, cast of characters and setting are there, and the general implementation is quite good, and I just think I was missing some of the murder-mystery actions and conventions I might’ve expected.

I’ve also posted a review of the game on my blog.