Online Features Editor Jessica Stanier takes a look at British based Inkle’s world travelling storyteller, 80 Days.
You may be too skint for a holiday this year but don’t let that steal your wanderlust this summer! I discovered this gem of a game in the latest Humble Bundle release and can promise it’s far cheaper than a round-the-world air ticket. A variation on a theme from Jules Verne’s famous book, you play the part of Phileas Fogg’s loyal valet, Passepartout, helping your master win his wager of £20,000 by attempting to circumnavigate the globe in 80 days.
Winner of TIME magazine’s Game of the Year award and named “one of the best novels of 2014” by The Telegraph, this is the best interactive fiction game I have ever experienced. The gameplay is deceptively simple. By funding your travels through purchasing items to trade along the way (or by simply visiting a bank), you must also tend to your master’s health and pick up as much worldly wisdom as possible along the way. You choose how you respond in a situation or conversation from the options presented, any of which can drastically change the direction of your journey.
Developing your character like this, gradually revealing elements of your past, you can shape your relations with the multitude of characters you encounter along the way. Fogg himself is a subtle character, to whom you may become a respectfully loyal companion or a royal nuance at times, and he is sometimes inclined to impart useful titbits of cultural know-how. As you learn about possible routes and modes of transportation, they appear on a world map, so that you can plan the next leg of your adventure.
However, this isn’t a 19th Century universe that you’ll be familiar with. You’ll discover an automaton army, mechanical horses, artificial intelligence or walking cities – all creations of the notorious Artificer’s Guild. The developers have dusted the globe with a little steampunk. By intelligently framing the game simultaneously in the eccentric past and in the future of AI, all manner of interesting plot lines are brought to the fore. They have also, refreshingly, cast off gender roles at the same time. From industrialisation to indigenous rights, drone attacks to globalised trade, a full round-the-world trip is guaranteed to get you thinking.
But it’s not all serious – my explorations have led me through a love affair in New Orleans, flirtations passing the North Pole, an encounter with a Mexican highwaywoman, and much more. The game makers estimate that in one circumnavigation, players typically only experience around 3% of all the possible tangential stories. That’s over 500,000 words to discover in total. On your return to London, within 80 day or not, you’ll be itching to find a way another, faster or more adventurous, way around. And who ever said West to East was the only way to go?
That’s really the wonderful thing about 80 days. There are so many branches to explore that the odds of you sharing an identical trip with another player are pretty slim. The result is that you feel a sense of discovery and ownership over your journey.
Jessica Stanier, Online Features Editor