Chivalry Is Not Dead

By Alec Meer on January 11th, 2008 at 4:55 pm.

Here’s a charming free thinger to help you through the weekend. Chivalry Is Not Dead (apologies if you’ve seen it before, I know it’s been around for a few weeks already) is a non-linear point’n'click adventure game. Well, it is linear, in terms of having a start and an end, but you choose that end, and the line that takes you to it. And when I say line, I mean squiggly, mishappen, cheerful scribble.

Rather than each of its puzzles having a single set solution, there are multiple options for most, which in turn affect your potential hi-jinks from then on. Yeah, much like a Planescape or a Deus Ex, but far more unfettered (and, as is obvious from the screenshot, far less serious), and with entirely optional baddie-stabbing.

So, at the start you’re asked to kill the Queen of Everything by Lord Horrible. If you want, you can complete the game in about 30 seconds by stabbing the queen’s guard then stabbing the queen. Just like that. And so it ends – no hugging, no learning. Or instead, you could bribe the guard, convince him he’s got better things to do, or probably a whole bunch of other solutions I’ve not tried yet. Then you go talk to the Queen instead of making with all the knifing, and she duly tries to convince you to head off on a quest to turn the tables on Lord Horrible. Which you could do, or you could just stab her again. Or, part-way through the quest, you could suddenly decide you don’t like her anymore. And so on and so on. There are, admittedly, a few lynchpin sticking points where the choices dwindle into almost no choice at all, but you won’t spot ‘em until a couple of plays through.

Greg Cositkyan, over at his ever-bounteous Play This Thing!, describes Chivalry Is Not Dead as “bushy” – rather than point’n'click’s traditional branching dialogue and decisions which ultimately force you into one place, here you’ve got a whole mess – or a bush – of choices available to you at any one time, each of which leads the rest of the game down an entirely different route. You can play through Chivalry multiple times without ever encountering much of the same dialogue or even locations.

You’re not playing to get to The End, you’re playing to get to An End, and one that’s based on what you want to achieve. Kill the girl, ask the girl out, ask the other girl out, kill him, help him, bribe him… The replacement of anything like a real brain-teaser with, basically, just an on-the-spot decision sticks this in a middleground between interactive fiction and traditional point’n'click, but turns out that’s quite a comfortable place to be. I’m not going to say something foolish like “this is the future of adventure games”, but it is a take on them that I’d love to see a larger or even commercial game have a crack at.

Plus, it’s pretty funny. Some gags clunk or carry an unmistakable cliché stink, but there’s a relaxed irreverance and brainy wit to it. Play it now for no-dollars from here. There’s a ton of worthwhile reading on its site too, including a lengthy and frank post-mortem.

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13 Comments »

  1. Theory says:

    I’ve been playing this since it showed up on Play This Thing. It’s brilliantly executed, and I still have the urge to dive back in and find another thread (unlike Facade). I’m convinced that I can win the Queen over. If only I hadn’t started that argument with her in my last play!

  2. Turin Turambar says:

    At last!

    Nex-gen.

  3. Kareem says:

    The Chivalry website is really slow for some reason. RPS effect?

    Anyone knows of an alternate link?

  4. Kareem says:

    Thanks Theory.

  5. DuBBle says:

    Hurray for bushy games!

  6. Evo says:

    Well that was really quite some fun :D

    Thanks for spreading the word of this joy Alec :)

  7. GEOFF HURST!! says:

    Wintermute? Take THAT AGS!

    Also: It’s developed by a Girrr-illl! (said in that uppey-downey intonation kids use). Is this kind of thing no longer a Big Deal?

  8. Mike says:

    So is this nonlinearity in a Masq sense, or in a Facade sense?

  9. Dinger says:

    I was out late the other night, crossing the pond, and returning to the Confusio Helvetica. Yeah, it was better than Sam and Max. Sam and Max-style jokes require timing, and the “multiple-choice” style doesn’t give you much of that. Keeping it text-only actually works better. And, for heavens’ sake, it’s got more of a future than Facade, not the least because the artwork is quick but endearing: the people actually look likeable, and not like some clones of John Wayne from his “this girdle ain’t helpin’ ol’ Duke’s incontinence none” days.
    There’s something about it that I can actually like.

    That said, the game makes me feel really old. Still, it gets under my skin; I don’t find it irritating.

    –SPOILERS FROM HERE ON–

    I was gonna get all snarky at its shifty philosophical bits (‘cos our poor boy believes in chance), then I noticed the the perversion of the dawn-of-cinema blond/dark-haired virgin/whore stereotype. The dark-haired “prophetess”, who reminded me immediately of an Onion gag (and not because of the Sam and Max poster) will give you a good future regardless of what you propose (and, let’s face it, there can be only one order: philosophy – starting with “you know, baby,the ae-dipthong doesn’t change your root from thanatos to aisthesis”, and eventually ending up somewhere on the ropey side of the principle of individuation –, the 1000-yard stare, asserting free choice, going all out and saccharine, finishing with vids). but the blonde princess, whom everyone else openly hates (even that farmboy just wants her for her ermine undergarments) constantly whines about how hard it is to be herself, and getting only mouse-driven sympathy from me, well the queen – excuse me (for calling her a princess, not for the anacolothoun) – she needs the perfect combination of being able to put up with her constant whining and just hint of bad boy even to consider a future with Mister Baghead (let’s call him Perry Herman).

    –if I said that in-game, the prophetess would then chew me out, and I would be forced to apologize, saying something I didn’t mean. See, that’s what’s annoying about these games–

    Okay, so maybe it’s wrong that, at the key moment in the game, I thought it was better to be out in the real world, in real time, and it seemed like more fun (well everything before staring into her eyes all night. She should have added “And that was my worst-selling book ever.”).

    Alright, so there’s the philosophical bit concerning free choice, and that’s when I went out for whisky (after a few weeks in the US, I had plenty of fear to mix it with). So it did cause some concern, complete with the whole nastiness involving prophecy, future contingent propositions and free choice, but fortunately it was unfounded. There’s no follow up or impact.

    As an aside, if using the “choose your own adventure” model for your game, your position on free choice has already been defined as Augustinian: the player can exercise free will only by turning away from you, and shutting down the game. And we do exactly that with some regularilty (cf. my stellar performance in Abe Lincoln Must Die). Everything else is according to your will, not the player’s. So get over it.
    (that goes for you Sandbox developers too: if you spend so much time trying to keep the cats out, don’t be surprised if we foresake your Pelagian sands for the high seas.)

    Theory: the game has a limited number of items. Except for the cash (which you use as liberally as possible), use each item once, and in the proper order, and she’ll go out on that date with you. I still haven’t figured out how to get her to effect social change. But then, I never really was in that fight. Come to think of it, I’ve never been in a riot, either.

    –END SPOILERS–

    So yeah, thanks. Cool game.

  10. Andrew says:

    Interesting little game. Took me a few goes to get the possible date, and I experimented doing various silly things (shame there wasn’t any epilogue however to any of the endings apart from a short verse :( ).

    Still, pretty crafty how many choices there are despite the small amount of areas, and an interesting set of outcomes.

  11. phil says:

    Chivalry is short and sweater than any game featuring the possibility of princess murder has a right to be, but I don’t think it would it would be possibly to maintain that level of openness for any length of time. The ancient Bloodnet seemed have a crack though.

    It’s like an old choose your own adventure book, were a ‘wrong’ choice gets you an ending just not necessarily a particularly long experience.