Unauthorised Termination by Richard Otter (ADRIFT)
I’ll start with a disclaimer that I was a tester for this game so reviewing it was complicated by the fact that I had already seen what it had to offer, yet had to play it through again just to see what had changed. I won’t list the changes I noticed between the first version I played and the finished IFComp version (that wouldn’t be fair), except to mention that they improve the game play side of things quite significantly. A number of annoyances I noticed have been fixed and another aspect of the game changed entirely for the better.
In “Unauthorised Termination”, you play the part of Epsilon-Beta, a senior examiner at the Centre of Examination on the planet of Morbian. A senior examiner seems to be some kind of investigator/executioner for those who break the law and need to be punished. And this is in a society where almost every crime is punished by termination. The ‘unauthorised’ termination of the game’s title involves the death of one Gamma-Sigma which you are assigned to look into. Only when you start to investigate the death, you find there’s more to it than meets the eye.
Where the game excels is in its depiction of the aliens who, for a change, actually seem genuinely alien and not just thinly-disguised humans with silly names. In appearance they are robotic and have little warmth and personality, but rather than hinder them it made them seem all the more believable. Their strange liking of simple personal belongings, appropriate to their level of achievement, is another nice touch. In a world where even the powerful seem to make do with nothing more lavish than a single, barely furnished room, I guess a pebble or rock seems like something to aim for.
Travel is via teleporters for the most part, as the game is broken up into many smaller parts making conventional travel only possible in a limited number of locations. Using the teleporters is easy, though can sometimes be frustrating as, for example, the teleporter from one location will only allow access to certain other locations, and the teleporters from there only allow access to certain others, and so on… So it’s sometimes a pain finding the teleporter you need to reach location X when you’re at location Y and quite often you’ll need to visit A, B, C, D, etc, before finding the teleporter which leads to where you want to go.
I preferred the setting of this game to that of the writer’s IFComp entry of 2005 – “Escape To New York” – and found myself preferring the main character as well, even though I was playing the part of an emotionless robot. Uncovering what has happened to Gamma-Sigma, and the larger conspiracy that you stumble on during the investigation, is quite straightforward to begin with, though gets difficult further on in the game. The more of the game that opens up via the teleporters, the harder it is to find your way around. I wasted more than a few moves at one point in the game going back and forth from one teleporter to another trying to figure out what I needed to do next. Fortunately, help is provided and this gives you just enough information to get past the harder parts.
“Unauthorised Termination” wasn’t my favourite game of the IFComp, but it was a nice enough game in its own right and the setting was certainly a refreshing one after the rather mundane settings of so many of the other entries.
6 out of 10