Review: With Those We Love Alive

(Great writing. Too opaque for me to make sense of. This piece is so far from my personal inner world it’s very hard to resonate with. A mesmerising associative, half-grasped symbolic trip though. With Those We Love Alive - Details (

The Queen requires your services.

Wait. The Queen will notify you when there is work to do.

You are an artificer of sorts, making things of glass and metal, and of substances more rare…
While you are waiting for the orders of the Queen, you are free to roam the palace and the city.

The writing in With Those We Love Alive is extremely good. Short paragraphs with a few poignant words ignite the imagination of the reader, summoning forth a world of symbols and dreamlike juxtaposition. There are minimal glimpses of a world, with slight (and unsettling) variations in the descriptions. These sparse but association-filled descriptions offer fertile ground to the player’s mind’s eye to fill in the rest, and to let the mood suggested in the text percolate through.

With Those We Love Alive opens with a rather unusual direct plea to the player: have a pen nearby and draw symbols on your own skin when the game arrives at transitional moments. Related, but less immediately fourth-wall-penetrating are cues to participate in the events and surroundings in the game, like a breathing excercise, or strong sensory cues inviting the player to imagine the location as vividly as possible.
I was all-in, pen and breathing and wide-open senses and all.

The first part of the game lulled me into a slow and soothing routine. Each day-cycle I would take a tour of the palace and city, tinker a bit in my workshop, and go back to sleep, all the while waiting for the Queen to call upon my artificer’s talents. Despite the relaxed repetition of familiar actions, there was always a feeling of looming threat.

Things change when outsiders show up. The pulse quickens, new elements and shards of backstory are introduced, intruiging but hard to connect.

The finale charges forward in a frantic flurry of impressions, a fast-propelling chase/action sequence, fragmented and breathless.

There is a notice at the start of the game: “Best experienced with headphones.” It is. The soundscapes and music are an integral part of the experience, guiding the player’s mood and heartrate through the acts of this story.

While I appreciated all this, and was impressed with a lot of elements, the piece didn’t move me in the way it obviously did others.

Despite the meditative calm of the first act’s routine, and the additional assurance at the start of the game that “Nothing you can do is wrong”, I was still put off by the seemingly endless repetition. The small variations in the text seemed to hint at events happening behind my back, but however much I visited all the locations, precious little changed. This caused a certain level of background distrust in the game. Was I missing something obvious to move the plot along? Was this routine really supposed to drag on for so long? I started to feel lost, disconnected from the intentions of the author, pointlessly flailing wandering.
Of course, in hindsight, this might well be exactly the feeling that the game wanted me to have. If so, it didn’t really take.

After the change at the start of the second act, things do start to happen. I remained quite unsure what things though. Except for the most superficial layer of actions and events, I remained in the dark about any meaning the game was trying to convey.
The associative dream-like style left me without handholds, bewildered, drowning in a sea of unconnected symbolism. I felt something deeper was going on, but I couldn’t for the life of me get a handle on it.

Having read several other reviews, I do acknowledge the impact of this piece on many people, but this deeper impact stayed largely outside my grasp. I experienced a sequence of beautifully written symbol-laden associative story-fragments, with a sense of deeper significance always out of reach. It left me with a sense of missing out, of reaching in vain for context and meaning.


With Those We Love Alive was the first Twine piece I ever experience.
A friend recommended it to me. He really loved it and called it “the best text game he ever played”.

I never finished it. I remember thinking I got stuck and was missing something required to move the story forward. I kept wandering between the locations, until I eventually quit.

Maybe I should it now that I learned I was not stuck after all…


Except for the hypnotic atmosphere, you don’t really miss much if you just SLEEP through the first act. You will be notified when your artificer skills are needed.
There’s a telescope you can make in the Workshop, and a meeting with a slimy pufferfish-boy in the City, but I couldn’t ascertain that either is of any consequence to the rest of the story.


I had the same reaction to this game. It’s always a little sad when you don’t get something that is so deeply loved. It’s like with Will Ferrell. I just don’t think he’s very funny. Everyone around me is weeping with laughter and it just doesn’t work for me.


I really didn’t like it either to be honest, and I felt like such a weirdo for a while for it.


Porpentine was a pioneer during the early emergence of Twine in how to make a choice-narrative interactive and non-linear using hubs and grind and delays/game clock.

Ultra Business Tycoon III is a hilarious quasi RPG.

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