A Declaration Of War: Lies And Seductions

By Kieron Gillen on July 31st, 2009 at 11:40 am.

She totally looks like my Phonogram character Emily Aster
When the press release for Lies And Seduction – a free PC and (er) Macintosh PC game – arrived in RPS’ communal inbox, Alec noted dryly “For you, I suspect”. Sometimes, I’m so stereotyped it hurts. Just because a game’s a seduction-’em-up loosely based on an modernised Les Liaisons Dangereuses, it’s filed in RPS’ pervert-in-residence’s “To Play” drawer? Unfair, I say, unf… okay, I’m playing it.

For a free game, it’s a pretty hefty thing, involving full 3D-cel-shaded graphics, multiple endings and people with previous credits (For example, Mike Pohjola who was involved with the Emmy-award winning “Sangen om Marika” and the Dollplay online-companion to Whedon’s Dollhouse. At which point you should be glad that Walker isn’t writing this post, as he’d have said something like “the indeterminably terrible Dollhouse” here and the comments thread would just be people saying that the last episodes were really good. Me? I’m just annoyed I didn’t bother going to the party at San Diego where Joss Whedon ended up drunkenly dancing).

You play Abby, who is challenged by her long-term sexual foil to seduce a famously virginal Christian Rock star on a four day cruise. To do so, you’re forced to use any and all of your whiles, seducing either of the two band-hangers on and using their secrets to leverage contact with the Rock Star. So, eaves-drop, wheedle out secrets (via conversation menus), get them drunk, impress them with your dancing or beat ‘em in poker. Or just let them – er – poke you. Which is illustrated, like so…

You can mock his headband, thankfully.

In other words, it’s a sexual game, but a relatively tasteful one. Like Les Liaisons… oh,fuck it. I’m calling it Dangerous Liaisons from now on in. Anyway, like Dangerous Liasons, it’s much more about the fucking people over than the fucking. Manipulating the older gent into buying you drinks which you then give to other people to get them drunk is a particular high point. Or getting him to give you gambling chips. Or… well, it’s an interesting marriage of actual mechanic-based play (the card games, the rhythm-action dancing, the eavesdropping by listening to conversations, the Sims-esque affections levels) and traditional adventure (the conversation trees, the “solutions” to “problems”).

Sadly, I found it mostly unsatisfactory. I suspect it’s actually due to lack of polish. Which is something of a shame. On one level, it’s one of the more attractive indie-games I’ve played in a while – the JPG compression on these grabs have reduced their sheer POP! appeal a little. The cel-shaded graphics make the most of the world, the cut-scene cartoon art is lovely and reducing all the other passengers on the ship to iconic-coloured shapes with ironic-Sims-esque speech is a fun way to cut to the essential cast. On the other, there’s a lot of times – at least for me – when I found myself in a broken chain in the dialogue, where selecting an option ends the conversation with no explanation. The dancing especially is a little rough, with the instructions disappearing before you even have a chance to read them. There’s also something awkward about how it mashes the two genres together, with trying to max-out the affection bar on some characters appearing a mix of repeated analogue-actions and more binary-adventure-elements. You’re occasionally left a little uncertain which route you should be pursuing, and I wonder if it’d be more successful going one way or another.

By which I mean 'You look like a man who needs a viagra-drip before you'll be any use to anyone, but I want your money'

But it’s a really interesting experiment. I’d certainly like to see more, and for people interested in adventure games, there’s a lot to think about here. I think what saddened me most was that it didn’t actually do anything significant with your partner in crime who sent you on this particularly cruel errand, as a Dangerous Liasons without the blood-of-the-heart conclusion lacks its tragic core.

(Seriously, I love this. As Trainspotting is to heroin addiction, Dangerous Liasons is to philandering.)

That’s, I suspect, a matter of scale. This is a small game and that’d be a larger endeavour. But I think it’d be a larger endeavour worth pursuing.

The intrigued and the immoral can download Lies and Seductions here.

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33 Comments »

  1. nayon says:

    Dollhouse is awesome. Especially the unaired 13th episode.

  2. 1nightstand says:

    In the last picture it looks like she’s got a HUGE Adam’s apple.
    Is there a “surprise” twist in the end?

  3. Kieron Gillen says:

    I didn’t notice that. I worry about my dating now.

    (It’s someone behind her elbow)

    KG

  4. Gap Gen says:

    Backlash from Christian groups inevitable?

  5. espy says:

    Should we not rather use our wiles?

  6. The Fat DM says:

    Small note; I think you mean Sanningen om Marika, not Sangen om Marika. I guess it would be translated into The truth about Marika.

  7. Kieron Gillen says:

    I cut and paste from their mail. I presume they know what they wanted to say. Unless they typoed too.

    KG

  8. Him says:

    Pointless technical trivia; with limited palette pictures, .png is a better file format than .jpeg.

  9. mandrill says:

    OT: I liked dollhouse. It took some time to get going but, oh boy, once it did… I really hope they make a second series (and we get to see the unaired episode)
    /OT
    Doesn’t look like my kind of thing this. Intrigues, manipulation, and general underhandedness are usually very badly simulated by machines. I much prefer the real thing (a la EVE).

  10. Ben says:

    Dangerous Liaisons c’est magnifique! The fact that its got Uma Thurman’s boobies in it is just a bonus!

  11. Pags says:

    @Mandrill: Masq does intrigue, manipulation and general underhandedness very well; granted that’s a result of great writing rather than intelligent AI, but nevertheless there are definitely games out there which allow you to be a right bastard in clever ways.

  12. Tei says:

    First image.
    The guy (with the big blue chat bubble) is commenthing:

    “Snow comunism, early cristianism happy with anarchism”

    He is into something. Quick, call the CIA!

  13. sinister agent says:

    Dollhouse had better improve. I’m obligated to watch the rest of the series in return for my housemate’s watching all of Monkey Dust, and so far, after two episodes, all I can focus on is how irritating the main woman is, with her dappy prissy face and variety of awful walks. And the ‘english’ american woman’s voice is ever more horrendous than most.

  14. Vandelay says:

    @mandrill

    They are making a second series. I loved the second half of the first season, but even found some enjoyment in the early half. Obviously made to appease the Fox gods and not up to Whedon’s usual standard, but they certainly set up what was to come later on and raised some interesting issues. Once it did hit its stride it became exceptionally enjoyable. Bar Firefly, it was probably Whedon’s best first season.

    As for the unaired 13th episode, it is being broadcast here in the UK a week on Tuesday and it has already aired in a couple of other places. There are no plans to air it in the US. Personally, I’m going to wait for the DVD (out in UK in September) and watch it along with the original pilot. Both are meant to be very good, with the 13th episode supposedly being very representative of the style they want to use in the next season (e.g. shot in HD, more cinematic.)

  15. Vandelay says:

    @Sinister agent

    err… Olivia Williams IS English.

  16. sinister agent says:

    Whatever. She puts on a hideously awful accent that about four actual english people in the world speak naturally, compared to about 95% of ‘english’ people in american films and telly.

  17. Markoff Chaney says:

    Masq was the second thing I thought of when reading this. The first was a type of flash game that probably shouldn’t get too much mention on a respectable website, but the objective of the game is ostensibly the same – even if you usually don’t have 4 days to achieve that objective. The way one achieves this objective, however, seems different than the standard fare of that genre. I look forward to grabbing this when the storms pass and my lightning magnet of a home can have power coursing through its veins again.

    OT – Dollhouse really gets in to the swing around episode 6 or 7. Excellent series, really. The wife and I are anticipating the next season greatly.

  18. Kieron Gillen says:

    I like Masq a lot actually. Well worth playing. This is totally different to that, admitedly.

    KG

  19. Gutter says:

    @sinister agent : Yep…

    The main character looks more like an high school biatch than some super agent. It’s sad that Dollhouse get compared to Firefly.

  20. Diogo Ribeiro says:

    Masq was pretty cool. I never found out how to reunite the guy with the blonde “office girl”, though. And never found out how to get her all tied up – as suggested in the ending slides – either :’(

  21. Markoff Chaney says:

    I played through Masq a good ten plus times and am convinced that some of those ending slides aren’t achievable in game. It is a quite enjoyable experience and I loved how inaction as an action was incorporated. I hope the full offline version makes it out soon.

  22. Kanamit says:

    @sinister agent: Keep watching. It becomes an entirely different series on the sixth episode. The third episode is terrible though.

  23. sinister agent says:

    This is what my friend assures me. Ordinarily, I would suggest that anything you have to watch for six hours before it starts being enjoyable can go tickle a hornet, but I am honour-bound in this case. Woe.

  24. Kadayi says:

    Heh seeing this instantly made me think of Masq as well. We should add a link for all the people reading this going wtf is masq?

    http://www.alteraction.com/

    Play it, its cool. I shall check this out as well.

    Also Walker is soo wrong about Dollhouse. The problem is that the suits at FOX are meddling gits and interfered with the first few episodes before someone finally saw sense and said let the man (Whedon) do his thing. If they’d allowed the original pilot to be broadcast and then allowed the show to follow from that, I think overall people would have a very different take on the show. The ‘this weeks personality’ spiel of the first few eps, gets in the way of the bigger story, but its worth pushing through that initial pain.

  25. Railick says:

    Is this Masq game something I want to play at work if I value my job?

  26. Nick says:

    No, no it isn’t.

  27. Stu says:

    So let me get this straight; you have to suffer through 5 rubbish hours of personality-of-the-week tedium before Dollhouse gets any good? What is this, the Darkfall of telly?

    (I kid, I kid; I thought DH was fantastic. I even quite liked the earlier eps, too.)

  28. Muzman says:

    Dangerous Liasons has its stiffly mannered melodramatic charms I uppose. But book purists generally agree that the oft ignored Valmont is the superior version. Not being a bookie, I agree its a better film. It seems like the lighter take on the material at first, but once things get complicated that joi de vivre is exactly what makes it so tragic and unsettling. A-grade cast all the way down the roster too (no Keanu apologism necessarym in other words).

  29. Kieron Gillen says:

    I admit, I dig DL’s melodrama.

    KG

  30. Muzman says:

    Oh it’s a masterstudy of overwrought intensity, to be sure.
    But fans of the story should give the other one a go as well. It’s very good.

  31. Testicular Torsion says:

    Actually, I thought Keanu was the perfect choice for Dunsany in Liaisons… pretty, shallow, and vapid, just like in real life. In such a case, his lack of acting ability is a genuine benefit!

  32. Stu says:

    Oh, nobody took the bait :( I was convinced my Darkfall trolling would have some success, as well. Ah well. Cruel Intentions was a better film than Dangerous Liaisons, anyway.

  33. Muzman says:

    You should leave a post or two before trying again, dude. Seriously.

    Anyway, regarding Keanu: it’s not as good as the kid they got in the other one. Keanu’s vapidity might work on one level, but he’s not a credible threat on more than a plot-mechanical level. The other guy at first elicits a “Aw, ain’t he cute! He wants to be a musketeer!”, which later becomes “Oh shit! He wants to be a musketeer!” when what it means to be young, dumb and a determinedly honourable male in those times sinks in.