Merk's Review: Ferrous Ring

The “official” version can be found at my website:

My reading: it emphasises the danger of the PC’s world; living in this post-apocalyptic city requires him to trust his intuition and make quick decisions about what’s safe and what isn’t. The list of things “neither good nor bad” near the end of the game suggests that the PC now feels he can safely take some time to look around and explore his surroundings more carefully.

That was what I thought. But maybe I’ve just been writing too many English essays lately.

Overall, I was impressed by Ferrous Ring. It’s very well written and has an intriguing story. It also felt very polished. I don’t think the different modes helped, though. I felt that the author took advantage of the different modes to put in puzzles that would be considered guess-the-verb otherwise. Which is all very well if the player is using the special modes, but if s/he isn’t (I wasn’t, mostly) it can be annoying.

I have to say the game felt most polished at the beginning. The early sequences, with the video camera and the explosion and then visiting Leynard’s mother, were very slick, but once the game got puzzly it started to drag. When I started poking at things, trying to figure out what my next move should be, the world-building began to feel very thin. The vague and apparently randomised error messages didn’t help at all. (If anyone has anything good to say about them, I’ll be surprised. Obviously they were meant to avoid breaking mimesis, but they didn’t work for me that way either.)

It got to the point where I just went straight to the walkthrough whenever I got stuck, but I have an idea the author expected this. It’s not the sort of game that rewards lingering, and given the plot, this makes sense. To its credit, the game mostly manages to evoke a sense of urgency; it may not reward lingering, but it doesn’t generally encourage it either. (Notice there are far more details in the room descriptions of the house, when the PC is feeling safe? This is the kind of subtle mood-setting I really, really like.)

It was mentioned in another review – and darn, now I forget where (plus I’m going on memory here) – that the ending is that the PC has basically “dropped out” of society. There’s the below-ground people (presumably safe), and the above-ground people (obviously not safe), and instead of choosing sides, the PC opts for neither.

That I’m pondering it a day later really says something. I just wish I hadn’t been thrown off by the way it was presented. As you say, I don’t think the enhancements helped. I’d have been content without them (although changing how directions work and changing parser responses were what tripped me up more than anything).

Thinking back on it, I get the feeling that the game was designed around supporting the noun and menu modes. After all, it would be a pretty difficult trick to “tack on” to a traditional work of IF that hadn’t intended to use those features all along. If that’s the case, then you may be right. The way it’s put together and the way the puzzles are done lean more towards those non-traditional play styles, making the “normal” way feel tacked on as a result. And maybe that’s another reason I was tripped up on the mechanics of playing without those features.

Surprisingly, though, I haven’t come across any review that totally pans it. I haven’t read them all (still), since some don’t protect against spoilers on games I haven’t played yet, but I do get a sense that most people do like this game, and probably rated it pretty well. It seems to have a nice shot at the top 10.