Review: Of Their Shadows Deep

IFDB: Of Their Shadows Deep - Details

My review as I posted it on IFDB is reproduced further below, but I’d like to share a few additional editorial notes and layers that feel more reasonable to share here on the forums.

My playthrough of Of Their Shadows Deep was actually a little less than a month ago. A couple of days before, I had been sharing some ideas for stories that had been bouncing around in my head with some good friends of mine, but I was having a difficult time finding a suitable way to share the stories. It was at the behest of one friend who suggested I look into IF for inspiration.

The weekend after that conversation, I found IFDB, and then I went searching for games. My hope was to find something that spoke to me and could show me what was possible with IF. I came upon Mike Russo’s review of Of Their Shadows Deep on IFDB and it was his review that immediately drew me to play it.

Since finishing Of Their Shadows Deep, I’ve done quite a bit of reading, learning, and exploring. About Amanda Walker’s background and how she got started creating IF. About Inform 7 and Inform’s history. The rich tradition and lineage of IF. Additional titles that I know that I must play. These forums. All of it and more immensely inspiring, and it has served to help me think about my own stories and how they would work as IF (which I believe is feasible). Though I’m still in the very beginnings of my journey in the world of IF, I am keenly aware of the importance of continuing to expand my horizons through my curiosity. Experiencing Of Their Shadows Deep was such an important step for me on this journey.

I’ve never been one to feel entirely capable of wrangling brevity in the written word, so, if you have read this foreword and will be reading the review below, thank you for your generous time and attention.

REVIEW:

A profoundly inspiring and deeply moving experience

Though I have considered myself a fan of gaming, broadly speaking, for most of my life, I see myself as essentially brand new to interactive fiction. The point-and-click adventure games of the late 1980s and early 1990s were what initially captured my heart in my youth. Interactive fiction always lingered around my periphery, but never outright captured my gaming attention. That is, that was the case until only very recently. For reasons that I’d be happy to share in more detail in perhaps another forum, Of Their Shadows Deep was the first title I selected to dive into this contemporary form of the genre.

From the outset, I was struck by the conscientiousness of the accessibility options and tutorial. I could clearly see that great care and attention to detail was given to gently guide the player through the initial setup. For me, one eager to experience interactive fiction anew, but a bit rusty to the intricacies of parser-based interactive fiction, this initial tutorial immediately set any anxieties I may have had at ease.

The world and setting of Of Their Shadows Deep felt intimate and gentle, buttressed by Amanda Walker’s beautifully evocative prose. This was a world I was happy to linger and to dwell within. The riddles within the game never adversely interfered with my exploration of this world. I generally welcome all sorts of puzzles and riddles in games, even of more difficult forms like obscure riddles, brain teasers, and abstract puzzles. But in this particular case, the balance of the riddles’ difficulty felt right here, more forgiving, especially juxtaposed against the contemplative central theme of the game.

The serendipity of finding this game comes at a period of my life where I have been wrestling and toiling to find suitable mediums to express and share the stories of my own heart. The poignancy of the game’s central message-- a deeply personal mourning and processing of the degenerative loss of language and words, and the compounding tragedy of witnessing an unavoidable loss within those for whom we deeply care for, who had also held their own passion for language-- overlaid against my own struggles to express myself yielded an important and apropos aspect of the fragility and impermanence of our stowed words, our language, our expressions. Through Of Their Shadows Deep, given my own proclivities, I feel as though I have come to a slightly better understanding of the risks of heralding my own self-inflicted tragedy by continuing to keep many of my words locked away, but also the importance those same words hold. The power and beauty of the language we express and share with one another cannot be overstated, because they serve as our connections to one another. We are never guaranteed our ability to express our language, lest we lose it forever. A deeply moving and vitally important message that I needed to hear.

Of Their Shadows Deep is a short game, one that can be completed within a few hours or so. As I said before, I like to linger and dwell within worlds like this, and I was able to complete it in about 4 hours or so. Even though this world is relatively small and the experience relatively short, it was without question a treasured and cherished experience; one that I will not soon forget. It has greatly inspired me in numerous ways, especially as I embark on sharing some of the ideas and stories that I’ve been holding onto that I intend to create as works of interactive fiction (ones that feel suitable to tell as IF). I very much look forward to experiencing more of Amanda Walker’s previous and hopefully future works.

5 stars/5

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Thanks so much for this, Josh. Sharing your personal tragedy with the world-- even a world as small and supportive as the IF community-- is a nerve-wracking thing, and I’m grateful to hear that mine found such a receptive audience in you. And I’m even more delighted to hear that it inspired you. And most delighted of all to hear that you are back in the warm and loving arms of IF games, which are for me the pinnacle of gaming.

(And yes, @DeusIrae , your PR agent’s 15% check is in the mail.)

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This post made my day, too – if my review was part of getting you into the IF community, that would have been enough, but to help persuade you to play Of Their Shadows Deep as well must surely be accounted doubly felicitous. I really enjoyed your review, too; hopefully I’ll get to read more of them!

Oh, we can knock it down to 12%, on this one I more than make it up on volume.

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Thank you both @AmandaB and @DeusIrae for these incredibly kind and warm words. They’ve really lifted my spirits a lot. I’ve got a long road ahead of me and a lot yet to discover, and it feels really nice to know this community will be here as part of that journey.

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