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35

The Baron

Recommended specs: 3.0GHz Dual Core, 4Gb RAM, 720Mb 3D card

A while back Emily Short posted a link on Play This Thing to adventure game, The Baron, created by Victor Gijsbers. I’ve always had a deep-set love for text adventures (I’m sure the term “interactive fiction” makes everyone feel very intelligent, but they’re text adventures, and that’s how it should be). I remember sitting with my dad at the age of 10, helping him playtest Level 9 adveture games like Ingrid’s Back!. It would seem like the beginning of the career that was to come, if I hadn’t spent my teenage years aiming to become a microbiologist. As it was, it was planting the seeds of reality in my brain for when that inevitably failed.

I saw PTT’s link to The Baron, read that it was a game about moral choices rather than simple adventuring, and thought I’d check it out. I didn’t, however, read the rest of the entry – and I recommend you don’t either before playing. But then, at the same time, part of me wants to protect you and beg you not to play it at all.

There’s a thousand annoying cliches along the lines of “text provides the best pictures” (which was certainly proved true in the late 80s when text adventures started coming with those laboriously rendered line-by-line drawings every time you walked to a new location), and to embrace them slightly, my imagined graphics for those games still beat out the greatest employment of Shader 3.0 textures. However, with age and technology, I’ve certainly become a lot more impatient with games. Text adventures prove harder to sink into, which probably proves me to be a dreadful graphics freak.

The Baron begins as an experiment in futility – a fascinating exploration of someone’s inability to change the inevitable repeating pattern of their life. As you set off on a quest to rescue your kidnapped young daughter from the evil Baron – made all the more sinister by a note left saying he has to be with her as he loves her – you have a righteous task in place. Which makes the implications of your inevitable failure so very interesting. And then it changes.

I was so deeply affected by this game that after finishing it the rest of my day was pretty much a write-off. I was emotionally ruined. I say this because I want to put up a massive neon warning sign before people play it. But I really think people should play it.

You’ll need something like Frotz to play the z8 file. And let’s have spoilers in the comments. Post your response to playing below.

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John Walker

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One of the original co-founders of Rock, Paper, Shotgun, I'm now a senior editor and hero of humanity. Old and special.

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