Game Review: Choice of the Deathless

Happy New Year! If you’ve had a great year, here’s hoping 2015 is even better. If you’ve had a crappy year, I hope 2015 is amazing for you.

I’d like to kick the year off with a couple of reviews: two works by an author I’ve come to love in the past few months. I was originally going to review Choice of the Deathless along with the other Choice of Games titles on Steam that I own, but it’s taking me a while to finish them and I just finished reading Three Parts Dead, and besides, it’s going to be a new year, so that calls for an extra special review of something I really enjoy.

Choice of the Deathless was written by Max Gladstone and hosted by Choice of Games, a company that specializes in creating entirely text-based interactive fiction games. At first, I was skeptical that I would actually enjoy these games, as they have neither music nor graphics and rely entirely on text to captivate the reader/player. In that respect, they’re much closer to a digitized book than something like The Yawhg or Vlad the Impaler.

As usual, I’m so glad I didn’t listen to that voice inside me that thinks I won’t enjoy something when said thing is right up my alley.

Choice of the Deathless is a “necromantic legal thriller” where you play as the newest member of Varkath, Nebuchadnezzar and Stone, a law firm that deals with demons, rogue magic users, and contracts of that nature. Is it your dream to make partner or do you just want to pay off your student loans? Do you want to do some good in the world or are you looking out for #1?

Since this game is literally all about the story, I won’t say much about it. The writing is top notch. The world is fascinating, and you essentially get to lawyer your enemies to death with the right combination of stats. I wouldn’t say the story has very many twists to it, but in all honesty it doesn’t really need to be twisty. One thing Max Gladstone really excelled at is taking something as swamped with jargon as being a lawyer and turning it into something awesome. Negotiating an employment contract might not sound like a lot of fun, but negotiating an employment contact for a demon who takes the form of a giant praying mantis? Hells yes!

Choice of the Deathless is also (if the names of the characters are any indication) one of the more diverse games I’ve played. Your coworkers are named Ngabe, Chen, and Vega respectively. One of the partners (Nebuchadnezzar) is unambiguously described as black. Although you can only choose two genders, you can have a romance with any of the four options regardless of gender (basically everyone is bi), and you can also choose not to romance anyone. (I should note here that most, if not all, games from Choice of Games have same-sex romance options.)

Many ignorant Steam users reviews of this game talk about how your choices don’t seem to matter, and it’s true in the sense that the story plays out the same way regardless of your choices. Choice of the Deathless is more about shaping who you are as a character and your relationships to the other characters than plot altering decisions like in, say, Mass Effect. I’v played as a lesbian craftswoman who was also a smooth talker and a gay physically oriented character who liked to solve problems with his fists., Both of these characters had different relationships with the other characters and different endgame goals.

If I had any criticisms to level at this game one would be that it’s too short and I wanted more, and the other is that it’s a shame there were no graphics in it because this world is jusit begging for a comic book adaptation. It’s an incredibly well-written tale that will keep you busy trying to get all the achievements, and I would definitely recommend it to fans of urban fantasy, especially if you also like legal thrillers. Also you really can’t beat that price, it’s a fraction of the cost of most games I bu,y, and I usually buy games for under ten bucks nowadays.

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