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Have You Played… Sethian?

"What is: high-go?"

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

In Sethian you find an alien computer and, as an archeologist of such things, you must decipher the language of its ancient users. It’s a very clever piece of interactive fiction that I happily recommend despite a glaring central problem, which was summed up perfectly by a comment on my original review:

“You're essentially trying to talk about philosophy with a chatbot," it said, "while possessing the linguistic ability of a toddler.”

That’s because you have to type things in using the computer’s interface to discover new words and meanings – many of which are automatically written down for you in a journal. It can be frustrating at times. Interrogating a parser even in English is difficult enough, never mind doing so in an extraterrestrial tongue.

But there’s much to adore about the world-building in this two-hour puzzle of words. It takes features from human languages and mixes them together. Almost all words can be nouns or verbs, questions require a symbol to be understood as such, and so on. On top of that the scholars in your journal squabble over meanings, leaving certain phrases ambiguous. Is the computer asking you politely to “please go” somewhere? Or maybe it's just giving you a terse command to simply “go” somewhere, right now.

It has its faults, and isn’t as deep as it initially seems (many of the symbols don’t have translations included – they’re just there) but it was released in a busy November and didn’t receive as much attention as it deserves. If you’re looking for a cross between Her Story and the movie Arrival, it’s only a handful of bucks.

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About the Author
Brendan Caldwell avatar

Brendan Caldwell


Brendan likes all types of games. To him there is wisdom in Crusader Kings 2, valour in Dark Souls, and tragicomedy in Nidhogg.

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