Saturday, March 30, 2013

Follow up: Sword and Sworcery EP

I recently completed this game, and decided to do a follow-up to my First Impressions.  I felt that the ending of this game was strongly affecting in a way that warranted further attention here.  

Sword and Sworcery EP is weird.  Weird and unique; truly this game is very much itself.  It doesn't really resemble anything else in my library or memory. Weird and beautiful: the sounds and graphics are finely crafted, original creations, custom to this game.  There's something so great about the impact of the sword swings during combat.  The sound has a real punch to it.

The themes are strange and perplexing.  The willingness to mix fantasy with random bits of modern imagery make it really hard to pin down.  However, playing through, from start to finish, this game has a sense of coherence.  This is actually aided somewhat by the habit of breaking of the fourth wall.  The characters speak directly to the player, and even the Scythian, the character controlled by the player, uses the royal 'we' whenever speaking.  It seemed clear to me that the Scythian did this to acknowledge the dual nature of the player and herself. The other characters will refer to the Scythian, but speak directly to you.  It feels as though they live in this game and acknowledge that there is a player outside the game.  

There is a theme of the inevitability of death, which is mentioned directly within the dialogue, and also through animated behavior.  This theme coupled with the breaking of the fourth wall, drew my attention to the fact that I was in no danger, however, I was taking part in putting the Scythian in danger.  And while the game never blamed me for it (as the player), I shared in a sense of dread and inevitability, as the Scythian carried out her 'woeful errand' with my assistance.  But more than that, I had an awareness that I was 'sharing' these feelings with the characters, who are merely pieces of fiction after all. 

As the game drew to a close, I felt my own connection to the characters drifting away.  I was left with a feeling of watching fish in a glass bowl.  The events of the story ultimately have a greater impact on the characters within, and I have  only second-hand involvement.  I will go on with my life, go to work, the grocery store, play another game.  But these events will have lasting effects on the characters within.  

I guess, in a sense, immersion is never really broken, but more put in its place.  The player is outside, and must remain there. We can only watch, and have a small influence on what happens within.  Which makes for a weird and beautiful experience.

So yeah, rad game.  I highly recommend it. Click the >Read More> link below for more info.

Other Notes:
I appreciate the way that the game doesn't hide its progression.  There is a progress bar, and the game is very clearly split into portions.  The ending is not a surprise, it is clearly coming.

I would like to have another play-through of this game.  Some of the puzzles were frustratingly hard, and I sought assistance from walkthroughs.  Overall it took me about 5 hours to play through.

I didn't link to them in my previous post, but you should check out the SuperBrothers website.  These guys are weird.  Arsty.  Fartsy.  Everything they do is weird and beautiful.  I really appreciate how 'off' their work is.

When I was doing research for this post, I stumbled upon a really nice little eulogy written by SuperBrothers:  Art Legend Ascends to Valhala.  With a title like that, don't you want to read it?

The eulogy is for Frank Franzetta, a fantasy artist whose groundbreaking work in the 1960s were highly influential on Superbrothers and the entire genre of fantasy.  If you click his name, I've linked to a google search of his art.  If you've ever trolled the fantasy section at your local bookstore or comic book shop, you should recognize this artist and his style.  


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