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.