Revolt And Romance: Fallen London

By Adam Smith on February 14th, 2013 at 6:00 pm.

When I read Alec’s salute to Kingdom of Loathing, I recognised the sentiment immediately. Although it hasn’t existed for as many years, Fallen London is a firmly entrenched feature of my waking life. I’ve written about it before and I’ll readily admit that I’ve only been reminded to mention it again because of a Valentine’s press release, detailing The Feast of the Exceptional Rose content. That’s a fantastic name for a romantic event. The Failbetter folks spin some marvellous word-threads and the possibility of discovering new parcels of prose is the best reason to revisit every day.

For those who are already playing, here’s what’s on the menu at The Feast:

This update features eight new companion-pets to discover, a myriad of romantic and horrifying gifts for lovers and sworn enemies, masked balls, tattooed intrigues and much more! Keep an eye on your opportunity deck over the next couple of weeks…

Who will catch your eye at this year’s Feast? Will it be the suave green-eyed devil? the mysterious but affable spy? The drowned tragedian? The tomb-colonist? or perhaps even the Quiet Deviless? And watch for the Woman in Lilac, whose story began long ago on Ladybones Road…

So far, I’ve dallied in the perfumed garden that borders the feast but haven’t attempted any romantic subplots. I’m too frightened. My characters is a well-known bohemian poet and professional drunk – if someone were to spurn his advances, his name would be mud (his name is actually Malachi Breeches).

Fallen London’s postal workers are braced for a flood of bizarre and dangerous gifts. This year’s must-have items include terrifying candies, a luxuriantly coiffed sorrow spider, a cat covered in pink paint and a dagger that, rumour has it, once belonged to Mr Iron itself. Express your adoration or your scorn for fellow players with these unique keepsakes!

I’ve already received a box containing a dead bat. Somebody loves me!

If you’re yet to be convinced that Fallen London is worth clicking on several times a day, read the latest snippet of random information that appeared at the side of my screen:

In simpler times, Hell would take a soul on the death of the body. Death is more complicated in Fallen London, though not unknown. So it’s not terribly uncommon to meet someone who’s short a soul. Some of them become mumbling, dead-eyed husks: some of them simply turn to occupations where soullessness is a professional advantage.

If anyone has spent any time in the other Story Nexus worlds, do let everyone know about which ones are worth the time.

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39 Comments »

  1. Drakale says:

    I played it briefly before the limited action/time mechanic and the grinding made it boring. The writing quality was good and the setting very interesting, I wish they made an actual a non-web based game with that backdrop.

    • BarneyL says:

      I felt the same, even with subscription payments to speed up progress you rapidly reach a point where it takes several days of grinding to get to the next paragraph of story.

      • SuffixTreeMonkey says:

        Indeed, and the worst thing is that paying money (which I did, for one month) doesn’t help to avoid it too much. It’s a fascinating world, and I tip my hat off to Failbetter at their creation, but frankly, if there was a game with such a world which I can play without being limited by grind or with credit-card-high walls everywhere, I’d jump at it without hesitation. Alas, alas.

        Other games using their engine have the same problem — they behave as RPGs and require grinding, even though the stories are sometimes quite captivating. Do you know of any good text-and-image based web game that doesn’t interrupt the flow of gameplay in this manner?

        • Arren says:

          Chiming in merely to agree. If only Fallen London’s gameplay respected the player as its prose does the reader.

  2. Blackcompany says:

    Oh god why can visual games we play not have this kind of atmosphere? What I would not give to explore an open city like this AC/batman/thief style….

  3. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    I’ve played Fallen London since you wrote about it the last time, almost a year ago. I’ve probably spent more money on it than on a AAA game at release, but it was worth it. At the moment I’ve exhausted every story I have access to, but I continue to visit every day so that I don’t miss new stuff. I’ve also introduced several additional people to the game who love it as much as I do.

    Regarding other Storynexus games – I’ve only played the other two that Failbetter Games has made, Cabinet Noir and The Silver Tree. I like them, but not nearly as much as Fallen London. I can’t put my finger on the reason, but I think it has to do with the weaker sense of place these games have – you are never really at any specific location like “Veilgarden” or “Polythreme”, only in the general vicinity of the cities these games are centered on (17th century Paris and Karakorum during the time of the Mongol Empire). They also seem to be more repetitive than Fallen London, but that may simply be because they are smaller games in general.

    Anyway, I hope FBG will continue to develop Fallen London a long time. I just wish they would let us discover the name…
    Because it’s important to know the name! I have to know the name!
    *begins shouting incoherently about candles and hunger*

  4. Cappercaper says:

    DOGHUNT!

    All dog must like. All dog must hate. But not all dog are like you.

    Doghunt has: detailed dog creation system! Historical accuracy.

    http://doghunt.storynexus.com

  5. Spinks says:

    Try Maelstrom, it’s kind of fun and probably the most ambitious of the games on the site. It’s kind of about being a sky pirate, but you can also make money by trading from port to port.

  6. dsch says:

    Been there, got the overgoat.

  7. tigerrenko says:

    Check out Zero Summer as well, aweseome post apoc writing for all those who loved Fallout and Wasteland!!!

    • Tagiri says:

      I love Zero Summer! Super atmospheric writing, a great community and a really approachable developer.

      • Hierophant says:

        “and a really approachable developer.”

        Well thanks! We do try. :) And thanks for helping make the ZS community so fantastic. I think you folks are swell.

        (Full disclosure: Becks likes to call you all our “dearest bunnies” when she’s feeling affectionate. Which isn’t often. But you do seem to inspire it!)

    • malkav11 says:

      Zero Summer is, I think, one of the two finest StoryNexus games currently going (I don’t count Fallen London as it hasn’t even fully migrated onto StoryNexus proper yet). Their world is mysterious and fascinating in all the right ways, and instead of having a lot of fixedly available stat grinding options with occasional randomized explosions of story, they’ve put meaty chunks of story out front with the pinned cards and tucked a few ever-shifting nuggets of stat grind into the card deck to navigate between those chunks.

    • Vrb says:

      Zero Summer is one of the best games I’ve played on Storynexus along with Fallen London. The game is still very much in progress with very little to do once you reach the current opportunity cards stat caps. Before you reach the caps however, the game is very enjoyable and has an intriguing history that is hinted at.

    • spiralx says:

      Agreed, of all the user-created StoryNexus games currently out there Zero Summer is head and shoulders above the rest. The world-building, writing and pacing are excellent, there’s a good balance between discovery and grind, and the developers are very active, both in terms of progressing with new content and importantly, tweaking existing content based on user feedback. I’m looking forward to seeing how the story unfolds!

  8. Arglebargle says:

    Are their game still filled with endless attempts to get you to facebook spam? And avenues of exploration that are unavailable without said facebook SpaM??

    I enjoyed my time in the two I played, but the incessant ‘Spam US’ grew real irritating. Especially as I don’t have an evil facebook account and don’t want one, either.

    Curmudgeonly ranting continued on the next rock…..

    • iridescence says:

      This. Loved the story and atmosphere of this game. Even dropped some real money on it but eventually I got sick of the “grind or spam” Facebook game mechanics. Wish they would just release a Fallen London single player RPG.

    • Spacemarine9 says:

      Echoing things for actions hasn’t been a thing for about a year now due to social network policy changes or something.

    • Premium User Badge

      Bluerps says:

      Nope, no Facebook spam. There are numerous ways to invite people who are not playing into the game via Facebook or Twitter, but those never do anything more than just that.

      It does have content that you have to pay for, and you can bypass some grinding here and there with money – but in both cases you actually have to pay, spamming people on Facebook is not an option. Actually, I have been playing the game for almost a year, and I don’t remember seeing any encouragement to bug people on Facebook.

    • malkav11 says:

      You don’t even have to use Facebook or Twitter to log in anymore (finally). You can create an account with just an email address now.

  9. Spacemarine9 says:

    I may have sent one Malachi Breeches a jar filled with teeth. I regret nothing.

  10. pertusaria says:

    I like the game, but I found that the need to grind broke me out of immersion in the story, so I haven’t played in a few months. It’s not so much that I mind the time spent doing repetitive actions, but in a game that’s so much about discovering the next new thing, it was more of an issue than it would be in a game that was about levelling up to kill stronger monsters.

  11. Randomer says:

    Throughout the few months that I played, a lot of my time was spent basking in the attentions of a quiet deviless. We flirted and teased one another, and I felt like we had a real connection. Eventually she asked me to give her my soul. I wasn’t sure at first – this was my soul we were talking about. I turned down her advances quite a few times, though each time I could tell I disappointed her. Finally I made up my mind – what is the point of having a soul if you don’t use it for anything? I consented and… that was it. I woke up to find a nest egg and a tidy little thank you note, and I never heard from the deviless again.

    I expected to lose my soul. I was prepared for that. But I didn’t think I’d also lose my friend.

    That’s about when I decided to leave London.

    • Arglebargle says:

      Has your return to the surface treated you better?

    • Spacemarine9 says:

      you can actually get the quiet deviless as a companion with the new content

    • alexiskennedy says:

      Actually… I’m sorry we lost you, but I’m glad you felt hurt. That’s the specific intention of the story.

      Devils do not have human priorities. The Quiet Deviless got what she wanted from you and moved on. It’s a cautionary tale, and it’s a comment on the dating-game trope of RPGs: players seduce NPCs and throw them away once they’ve banked the cheevo.

      As spacemarine indicates, she’s back, and there’s more QD content coming. But some stories in Fallen London end wretchedly, and that’s all there is to it. The advantage of being a small studio is that we can take creative risks from time to time: although we always hate to lose a customer.

      • SuperNashwanPower says:

        Sounds like my first girlfriend

        • Premium User Badge

          Llewyn says:

          She always hated to lose a customer too?

          • SuperNashwanPower says:

            I walked into that one

          • Premium User Badge

            Llewyn says:

            My apologies, I just assumed you were inviting it.

          • SuperNashwanPower says:

            I believe the term is ‘soliciting’. Which in the same parlance, would make you a kerb crawler ;)

            EDIT: Should add smileys as did not mean this to sound that snarky :)

      • Randomer says:

        Ehh, don’t get me wrong. I actually love the way that story ended – I felt so used! I should have seen it coming! You made me regret selling my soul (what RPG has ever accomplished that?)! I actually think you perfectly captured some real-world experiences with that scenario, and for that I applaud you.

        My leaving wasn’t directly related to this plot thread (though having one of the more exciting plot threads end about the time I was growing disillusioned didn’t help). What got me in the end was what seems to get most people: I got tired of the grind. I really enjoyed following the storylines, but the non-linear grind got in the way of that. I would have happily bought fate points (and indeed, I did on several occasions) if I had felt that they would have sped up my progress of experiencing the content. But it didn’t seem to speed up the fun at all.

        Both succeeding and failing at non-storyline content is interesting at first (I love the dark humor and mystique of the setting), but the necessity of spamming the “Watchful 44″ storylet dozens of times to progress really put a damper on the fun.

        • alexiskennedy says:

          Fair enough! I know it’s an issue, we’ve taken steps to address it (like the Training Professions and the difficulty rebalance) and we’ll be doing more in the next few months. Do feel free to dip a toe.

  12. Curious Fellow says:

    I’ve been playing Fallen London / Echo Bazaar since near the start; I’ve always loved the atmosphere and writing behind it, and while not all the design decisions I’ve made I’ve agreed with – what I haven’t liked has often been changed before too long. It’s an ambitious project, and one they’re not afraid to experiment with and keep changing. While (IMO) they’ve gone a little heavy with the fate/nex ‘real money purchasing’ stuff in more recent updates, I’ve generally been able to keep up with things with very little in the way of donations — and those that I’ve decided to make, I’ve been happy to do so, since I’ve gotten many hours out of the gameplay, and certainly don’t mind tossing some money their way!

    There’s also a thriving out-of-game community around the game – communities, even – and some fun RP groups have sprung up working around the prose and expanding on its ideas. I’ve made some great online friends out of FL.

    As for other Storynexus games! I’ve played several; Maelstrom has potential once it gets more updates, a fun little airship game that’s a bit of a trading simulator right now but I’m hoping will eventually get some more plot to it. Winterstrike was very atmospheric and enjoyable, but required a little too much grinding for my taste.

    The other big SN game that I’m playing right now is Zero Summer. It starts out seeming like a Wild West theme — which initially turned me off a bit, not being my favored genre — but as time goes by you realize there’s a lot more going on, and the time period you thought it was in was wrong too. The writing is wonderful, and it’s full of some great atmospheric pieces and enough mystery and enigma to keep me going. The creators are very interactive with the players on their facebook, and are always looking for ideas and opinions. The one problem that I had with the game was fixed in a recent update (antagonists/how much you lost in a menace state) and I’m looking forward to the next updates happily.

  13. malkav11 says:

    Not counting Zero Summer (which I discussed above) or Fallen London itself, I think the most promising other StoryNexus title so far is Below, a narrative dungeon delving game inspired by things like Beowulf, Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea books, some of the better gamebooks (like Fabled Lands), etc. It was originally going to be a Failbetter project but the Kickstarter didn’t take off and its creator, Chris Gardiner, instead decided to develop it as a personal project. I’ve been part of the closed beta test for a few weeks now and it’s already a really solid game, Each of the characters is sharply sketched while leaving room for your own internal interpretation of them, and sports unique mechanics. The one dungeon created so far is suitably ominous and even terrifying in the deeper reaches (you’ll encounter many of the same basic dungeon features throughout, but their nature changes depending on depth. A pit at depth 2 might just be a quickly leapable obstacle between you and some treasure. At depth 7, it’s alive.) And there’s a particularly clever mechanic where you recover your health (Spirit to keep adventuring, in this case), by recalling earlier times when you were still home, something which retroactively fills in details about your kin and motivations for coming into the dungeon on your quests.

    It’s got a long way to go, of course – there are additional characters and dungeons planned, the third quest for the current dungeon still needs to go in and additional layers of system around improving gear, crafting (for the Blacksmith’s daughter, at least), the legacy system by which dead or retired characters pass things down to subsequent characters will be expanded, and of course balance, bugs, and typoes all to work on. But an open beta version is now available, and it’s well worth a look.

    • brummieliam says:

      I was about to post about Below, but the post above says everything I was going to, better!

      Except that Below has an even stronger sense of place than Fallen London, which another poster was talking about. Try it, it’s great!

  14. Exrandu says:

    Do you like this game? Then review Zero Summer! Its a freaking amazing post-apocalyptic lovecraftian Wild West story that will blow your mind wide open.

  15. Josh W says:

    I’ve been hoping for a while that the grind and facebook spammyness were sort of adolescence issues that the game would grow out of as it became more established:

    Content development allows you to start avoiding grind, and you don’t need to talk about yourself all the time when you have a good established community.

    This seems to be coming true, so I’ll probably start putting some time into this game!