Review – The Black Crown Project
” A Deep, Perplexing and Intriguing Story…”
Black Crown is a debut browser based game by Random House publishing, written by author Rob Sherman, which takes the form of a non-linear, novel-style story. You take the role of an individual character in this story, and from the very beginning you appear to be in a rather undesirable predicament which it is beyond your power to escape. Your choices within this story will influence the way in which it progresses, but with no clear knowledge of what exactly your situation is or how you might escape it, will you be able to pick the right actions and make the right judgements to follow your path to a positive end?
Very little is made clear to you before you enter the world of Black Crown. On beginning your journey through this story, you are asked basic questions which determine the nature of your character; their gender, age and personality. You are then asked deeper questions which will test the way which you react to situations and will in turn impact on what follows. Despite your general lack of knowledge, it becomes clear very quickly indeed that you are in something of a negative situation. You seem to be under the control of unknown others and have no means of fighting this control. The conditions you are being made to live and work in for these people are not good, and yet you seem powerless to escape. The story therefore is as much about trying to learn about yourself and your situation as it is about trying to escape it.
The story is quite unlike anything which you will be used to playing in a game. In some ways its style is much closer to being a novel than a game, but the interactivity dispels this point. There is a very dystopian setting, and a very unsettling one at that! There is a great focus on understanding and emotional reactions to your situation, which is something which many gamers may find to be unfamiliar and a very new experience. An example is a situation early on in the game where you are faced with a dying pig in a room you cannot escape and you must make a judgement as to what to do. The decisions you make can confuse even yourself in these situations; you may try to kill the animal with a pen you find in the room, and yet later find yourself comforting it instead. This is not a simple story in which you are left to make basic decisions in order to influence the plot; your options will make you think carefully about what might come of your actions and even how they might reflect on you.
An example of your early decisions influencing your later ones is the system of a growing personality around your player, and the nature of the items which you manage to acquire along your way. Different actions might reward you with different characteristics which will later allow you to choose to take otherwise unavailable paths. Similarly, some paths will require you to have in your possession one or more of a certain type of item or object. If you have picked up the right things along the way you may benefit yourself later, however if you have not then you may have to find another way to move on. This is a cleverly integrated feature which will allow for a variety of unique storylines to be followed by different players, which will lead down one of a selection of different possible paths.
The game side of things works with an actions-based system; you have a limited number of actions which you can use in order to progress, after which you must wait for more of these to replenish over time. This would be a clever technique for ensuring the longevity of the story, however the option to purchase in-game currency to replenish these actions faster brings up again what is an ever controversial issue. Many gamers may feel cheated in this way somewhat and move away from what has great potential to be a gripping story were it not constrained by time and money. However if you are willing to wait in order to keep reading then your story-inspired mind will surely be rewarded for doing so.
Something which is also worth considering is how much you are willing to read on your computer, as some people find this difficult to do for longer periods of time. Black Crown does involve an awful lot of reading and the text used is not particularly large or the easiest to read continuously. In some ways this makes the action points system quite useful to make sure you draw your eyes away from focussing on the small text for too long. It might have made some sense to include a few more text style and size options in the game for different types of users to fit the text to their own personal needs, or had some sort of voice option for those who find reading difficult but would still like the experience. Naturally, as an interactive novel style of game, there was always going to be some reading involved, but at some points it can just be very hard to keep a focus on what you are reading through. With reading being at the core of this experience, a little more consideration of such issues might have been beneficial in the aesthetic after-planning of the game.
Black Crown as a whole is certainly something worth trying as a new experience to many, and is a strong positive move in the direction of interactive narratives which will inspire both readers and gamers alike through its deep, perplexing and intriguing story. Being a part of a dystopian world may be something which is a well known concept to gamers, but experiencing the feelings of a lack of control and heavy emotions may be something which they are really quite unfamiliar with. It will certainly capture their interests and will make them want to keep reading on. However, the action based system which will cause them to wait or pay in order to keep moving may sadly cause some to drop out of the experience before the story manages to truly capture them…
The Good – A story which is very deep, well thought out, and should catch the attention of many, with interactivity leading down a variety of different paths.
The Not So Good – The need to wait or pay in order to make any kind of quick or fluid, continuous progression through the story is somewhat disappointing, and the text size and style which is used may not be appropriate for all users.
Most Recommended To – Gamers who appreciate an in depth story, enjoy reading and are looking for a new style of play to experience.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.