Harbinger - Kenna May

Unlike most other entries, this one doesn’t have a play-time estimate. It’s fairly substantial, and I’d say about an hour. (Playing with a review in mind like I do, it’s more.)

You play a crow in this, a good story (choice-based in Twine) in a comfortable setting despite imminent danger. The writing succeeds in conveying the story’s world without any long, descriptive paragraphs getting in the way. It also flows very well in general despite a plethora of typos (even a casual proofreading would easily net 50 corrections). Not all is as clear or consistent as it should be given a fairly simple set of concepts, and the prose struggles at times to remain adequate, but the story stays fairly strong throughout.

What I really missed here was a strong characterization, or even a substantial one, of any of the main characters, especially the PC crow. That lack resulted in a more detached feel than one would expect for the events at hand, inducing less emotional stress. That might not be a bad thing, but I felt some opportunities were missed for some really juicy writing here and there.

When playing as a crow, one expects either an emphasized animal-point-of-view thing or a deliberate opposite. Here, being a magical crow, we get neither, which I liked. But the PC characterization just feels too under-developed, without enough emotional connection to events or general motivation. The exact relationship between a magical crow and the rest of the world never gets fully established, so it’s hard to judge whether we as players are given options that make sense or how NPCs would respond.

This game’s choice structure seems to prevent any long-term changes to the story or alternate endings. That’s not a problem in itself, but it will sometimes allow you to skip significant backstory elements, and the story seems to expect you to know them later on for things to make sense. There’s probably a technical term for that, it’s so common.

I may not have seen all the backstory, but the game did not really address a couple of the most interesting angles that were presented early on, and that was a disappointment. I would guess the author had the ending in mind first and wrote backwards, because the story didn’t stay on track for me going forwards. I think what happened is I was seeing things that weren’t there, and that is hard to catch.

Two things hanging in the air for the entire tale were very interesting to me. First, the relationship between the crow and the demon, including the “deal” that was made, and how the demon got loose. From what I saw (playing 1.5 times), the resolution to this stuff is only hinted at, and only in one branch. So perhaps it wasn’t given enough emphasis.
The second thing was the idea (possibly an unintended result of my particular choices) that the crow can’t decide what is his relationship to the crisis: the cause, the savior, or merely an unwitting harbinger of a fate that cannot be avoided? Now there’s a story I’d like to see. But the “harbinger” angle was not played up to any extent. The story turns out to be fairly straightforward.

I’ve posted a review here: blog.templaro.com/review-harbinger/

  • Jack