Backstory is hard. Either you lace your game with it like hemlock, shove it all in a codex, or resort to the bad editor’s best friend - the tie-in novel.
Perihelion Interactive didn’t particularly like the sound of any of those options, so they made a text adventure instead. Today, ahead of their Baldur’s-Gate-in-Space game proper The Mandate, they’ve released an interactive tale of star-piracy: Scourge of The Mandate.
The backstory in question concerns one Jameson Howth, a notorious pirate captain with a long list of atrocities to his name who disappeared into Fringe space along with his ship, the Deathless, before the events of The Mandate.
What sort of crimes did he perpetrate, precisely? That’s up to you. You’ll define the events that immediately precede those of Perihelion’s “Tsarist space opera RPG”, zipping about your browser via the medium of Unity and cleverly arranged words.
“Scourge of The Mandate ties in with our design philosophy and the very definition of the name Perihelion, which is the closest object orbiting a sun,” said executive producer Ole Herbjørnsen. “We are developers orbiting the sun and, in this case, the legendary games that have inspired us, including classics such as Zork.
“We are very careful to look at the past, present and the future when designing games like The Mandate – we feel that we are standing on the shoulder of giants.”
I’ve had a bit of a play with it. It's like a properly grim Hitchhiker's Guide. I briefly became a sort of intergalactic MP, before a heady mix of idealism and directness saw me banished to space-Siberia and picked up by, you guessed it, space-pirates. I guess the pirate’s life has a way of catching up with those suited to it.
The midi-electro soundtrack is laudably ridiculous, and every decision you make brings its own consequences, as well as one of several different endings. That bodes well for The Mandate, which looks terribly ambitious in its own right. It’s coming to PC, Mac and Linux in early 2015.
Click here to play Scourge of the Mandate. And do let us know how you get on, won’t you?