Review of "Order"

Order is a Z-machine version 5 interactive fiction game written with Inform 6 and is © 2004 by John Evans. It was entered in IF Comp 2004 where it took 24th place.

Review by David Welbourn

Y'know what? I was disappointed. I was obsessed with Evans's entry from last year, Domicile. Still am, actually. Not that I thought Domicile was a good game, because it wasn't, but it had potential. It had vision. It combined the commonplace with the bizarre, there were NPCs that hinted at interesting backstories (none of which were to be found, unfortunately), and you could learn magic. There were unusual things, unusual people, and unusual places, and I wanted to be there. I wanted to visit. Domicile failed, however. Domicile failed because of poor programming, yes, but more importantly, it failed because, as a whole, it didn't make any sense. There was no thought put into how the player was supposed to figure things out. There was no order. Because a player of IF can type so many different commands into a game, it's very important that the author gives hints and clues that teach the player which commands are likely to be useful. When the player tries something that doesn't work, explain why it didn't work. The player learns by cause and effect.

So, anyway, here we have Order, which is a prequel of sorts to Domicile and, as I said, a disappointment. The location is a generic fantasy castle populated by generic fantasy wizards. The castle is on a island in the middle of a chaotic dimension totally unsuited for human life, and I can't for the life of me understand why either the wizards or the villain wants to be there. You're not a wizard, but you do have one magical ability: the ability to create anything at all.

As if. Of course you can't create whatever you like; there's no way that any programmer could support that premise, let alone one with Evans's track record. No, you can only make what Evans thought of for you. So what can you create? Guess. Just guess. You either read the author's mind, or you don't.

There are multiple solutions to the puzzles, and the hint system will tell you what you need to do if you're stuck, so it's not quite as bad as it could be. For example, the hints tell you about that window in the tower which the game somehow fails to mention. And, yay, the game can be finished and won this time. Winning is a plus.

Rating: 4.

🔑️ See my walkthrough. ✍️🏻 See my handwritten notes.