IFReviewed by Andrew Plotkin on 2006-06-25 08:19
This cleanly sketches out the advantages and disadvantages of very large games. (And I mean large in terms of area, not necessarily in terms of plot length. Although the plot is fairly involved as well.)
Erden is huge; I spent half of the allotted time just mapping the place and trying to examine everything. It does a very good job of the "Beyond Zork" scale -- outdoor locations, ranging from forest to swamp to mountains, with lots of detail. And it doesn't fall into the "Zork Zero" extreme of having a whole forest be a single room. This is very solid background.
The down side is, there's too damn much stuff. I think, in a game this large, you have to be very careful not to ask the player to examine every single scenery object. There are too many of them. Most of them are very well described, which makes matters worse, since then you have to examine all the sub-objects. If there are a few rooms in a game, this is reasonable; here, it is not.
I wound up with a headache, and I missed several critical objects -- the walkthrough doesn't say how to get them, so I guess they're "obvious". Not all that obvious. I was unable to finish because of this. (Couldn't find any spyglass or silver coins.)
The author has gone to effort to make multiple solutions available to many problems. This is good. However, many of the puzzles are somewhat undermined by bad programming. (The behavior of the raft is rather arbitrary and crashed the game at one point. The ladder can be leaned against all sorts of things, without much clue as to what is really happening. Out of four magic words, one is critical, but the other three generate "That's not a verb I recognise.")
Fixable problems, yes. But overall I think I would have solved the game on the walkthrough rather than by play. (Even if I'd found the damn spyglass, I mean, wherever it was.) Too much stuff, too little guidance about what you're supposed to pay attention to.