Name: Unauthorised Termination
Author: Richard Otter
Date: September 2006
Availability: IFComp 2006 Entrant
Version: Competition Version
Plot: 5/10 – Plot felt reasonably weak and cliche in all.
Atmosphere: 5/10 – Supposedly a totalitarian/Orwellian regime but failed to evoke the fear generally associated with the genre.
Writing: 6/10 – Writing was decent. Descriptions, though sparse, were reasonably well written.
Game play: 6/10 – No major bugs found, teleportation system worked reasonably well.
Characters: 6/10 – Machines with human characteristics and apparent feelings. Author seemed undetermined whether to treat them as people or machines.
Puzzles: 6/10 – Reasonable puzzles. Logical with the story.
Overall: 6/10 – An ok game, though not a good representative of the Orwellian genre. Closer to space opera perhaps.
I must admit, I may be scoring this game a bit harsher than I normally would mainly because the author’s description of the game as a near-Orwellian dystopia setting excited me. 1984 remains, to this day, stuck in my mind as the most depressing, frightening and realistic science fiction novel I have ever read. Given what is currently happening in the US and here in Aus, it should perhaps be required reading for citizens so we can see what we’ve got to look forward to. The biggest failing of this game, in my opinion, is its failure to deliver on this potential. The idea of totalitarianism is used as a backdrop in the most literal way possible – it is assumed as a background then not really interacted with at all for the rest of the game.
Despite the fact that your character repeatedly disobeys orders from his superior, who is, from the start, obviously involved in a secret conspiracy, doesn’t hold water with the supposed background. By the time you are first targeted for assassination its really too little too late. This follows later when, in the end, your superior (the traitor) has a sudden change of heart, inspired by your mindless devotion to the law, and has himself and his associates terminated.
I have to admit one of the biggest problems the author has with this story is the fact that all the characters are robots of different kinds. It seems though that a decision was never really whether to treat them as robots – computerised, logical, etc – or to anthropomorphise them and treat them as humans. Instead, we are left with an awkward half and half. Our character spends most of the game as a classic robot – reciting laws by number and only interested in pursuing his duty. Most other robots we meet act the same, particularly the ones that help you.
Whilst we’re faced with mostly-computer robots, we’re then asked to believe that elsewhere other robots are gambling in illegal clubs and enjoying themselves in debauchery common only to humans, as well as starting and participating in religious cults. As well as this, our superior and his superior are traitors who seek to bring robots with weapons into the colony, the reason for which is not entirely obvious. I assume it benefits them in some way, because they are not at all worried about breaking the law and killing people/robots to get their way.
In the end you save the day, but you’re not really 100% sure what it is you saved, if it was worth saving, or why we should care. I didn’t find it particularly engaging or logical. Technically speaking, the game ran well with no obvious bugs I could see. The puzzles that had to be overcome fit with the story well and didn’t feel contrived or out of place. Except for as mentioned earlier, the characters were well characterised in that they were consistent.
Worth playing, but not brilliant.