Very, Very Early Thoughts on “Elsinore”

So, Elsinore officially had its public release on July 22. As of writing this, I’ve played it for about an hour and have gotten through one loop. Here on my thoughts on it so far.

The main issue that I’m having with it so far is that I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to be doing. Despite playing through the tutorial, it still isn’t clear whether I’m aiming for a specific ending or one of a number of acceptable endings or what would even count as an acceptable ending. My first loop ended with Ophelia being killed by a spy, which seemed so out of place in this run — I wasn’t actually really investigating the spy other than by spreading the rumour — that it might well be a scripted event that happens every first loop. Or it might be that it followed from one of the things I did in an odd way that I can’t see yet. At this point, I’m not really sure what’s going on, although there is at least one character — the player — who hints that he might explain what’s going on in the future.

But this causes a bit of a problem for me for the game. I’m an hour in and through the tutorial and the first loop, and so at this point the game really should be starting to hook me and get me wanting to see more. But outside of the premise itself, it hasn’t done that. As someone who knows Hamlet relatively well — I had to read it once in high school and obviously have picked up other details from cultural osmosis — I knew about things and events that were important and was able, then, to go there to listen in and see what was happening, like the confrontation between Polonius and Hamlet and Claudius’ prayer event. I missed the event where Hamlet kills Polonius, which I would certainly have attended if I had thought that it was going to happen when it did. This gave me some early information — like the fact that Claudius had killed Hamlet’s father — that I could share, which might have changed things and also might have triggered Ophelia’s death. And even then I’m not all that interested in trying to get to a better or good ending. If I didn’t have that background, it’s entirely possible that I would have wandered around and missed those events, and simply saw presumably the default ending (although Ophelia actually drowning would be hard to pull off). Would having that suddenly happen make someone want to keep playing to see what happened and how it all worked out? The premise is interesting, but so far what best brings that out is the description of the game. The game itself really hasn’t done anything to make this seem cool or interesting.

So far, what I’m most interested in are the hints that Ophelia’s looping has some greater purpose, with the introduction of the player character who hints at it. I really, really hope it doesn’t turn out to be disappointing.

Gameplay-wise, the game can be a little tough to navigate, although once you get used to the map and navigating that way it isn’t all that bad. One annoying issue is that sometimes the game will stop you and then take a while to load for a scripted scene, which can make you wonder what’s going on if you aren’t prepared for it and does nothing to help the narrative flow. Also, a minor issue is that there’s only a “Save and quit” option, which doesn’t tell you whether you’ve actually saved or not before asking you to quit. It says that the autosave happened 0 minutes ago, but as there’s no other save than that one it isn’t clear if it saves from you or from some kind of autosave, and what cancel would do (would it cancel that save or just the quit). A separate save and save and quit option should have been doable and would have been a lot clearer. Finally, the game is built more on you sharing information, so that when you talk to people about things you’re always sharing something with them.
This is even the case when you’re really trying to ask them questions. It would have been better to split the interface into “Query” and “Influence” options to keep the two straight and also to avoid you sharing information at times when you really wanted to find out their opinion on something without actually adding the information that might influence them. Still, the gameplay in and of itself isn’t really an issue.

There are some additional backgrounds and potentially characters in the game, whose stories you can find out by talking to them. I started out talking to everyone all the time, but this got kind of boring and triggered an odd event with Guildenstern trying to play a prank that I had no interest in whatsoever, and that after ignoring it the entire loop ended with a scripted event that actually sounded more like it was assuming that I had played along when I didn’t (although it does at least technically work both ways). It was an interesting character note, but one that simply confirmed something that the game had pretty much already made clear anyway.

Also, at the end of the first loop the game triggers a “Game Over” screen with a “Try Again” button. I’m not sure if this only holds for the first loop, but this is a really odd and immersion breaking way to do it, since if it happens all the time we know that we are going to come back in another loop. And even if it’s only for the first time it being a surprise that we loop back will only happen if we didn’t bother to read the description of the game we bought which is … unlikely, to say the least. Yes, it technically applies to the loop as well, but they could literally have simply looped back to the beginning as the screen doesn’t really seem to do anything.

Also, since the game is timed and events seem to happen at specific times it would have been nice if the pause command at least let us look at the map or journal to plan things out rather than locking everything up.

So far, it’s kinda a “Meh” game. Nothing is all that great or that bad. But I am going to make it a goal to play through it without any kind of walkthrough and I’ll have more comments on it then.

3 Responses to “Very, Very Early Thoughts on “Elsinore””

  1. Lino Says:

    So far, it’s kinda a “Meh” game. Nothing is all that great or that bad.

    This is probably the biggest indictment you can give to a game. For me, these types of game are the worst – I prefer outright bad games to mediocre ones, because at least you can have a good laugh at their incompetence and stupidity. However, there is no cure for mediocrity.

    I haven’t played the game (nor do I plan to – I’ve got a huge backlog I want to go through), but I like reading your opinions on it. However, next time you write about it, could you take some time to explain the core loop and how some of the main mechanics work, because I was kind of lost for some parts of this preview.

    • verbosestoic Says:

      Your comment ended up in spam, so I had to restore it. Sorry about that.

      I’ll try to talk a bit more about the gameplay arc, but there isn’t that much left to tell, and that was after only one loop. Being busy, I’ve only played a couple more loops since.

  2. Additional Thoughts on “Elsinore” … and a Pause | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] I haven’t really made any progress on “Elsinore”. But, as I said in a comment on my first post about the game, I’ve played a couple more loops and so think it might be worthwhile to post my additional […]

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