by Jess V.
"The Starveling Cat? The Starveling Cat! The Starveling Cat! Quick as a ratgun! Sharp as a gnat!"
Which was strange because he had never been prone to spontaneous cat poetry in the past.
Investigating further I discovered my friend had traveled to the Echo Bazaar, a browser based game taking place in Fallen London, an alternate version of Victorian London that was for various reasons sold to hell and dragged deep underground by bats, its residents living by the light of the gas lamps controlled by Mr. Fires.
The resulting product is a cross between a table-top rpg, social networking, and choose your own adventure. As a new player you start out as a prisoner in newgate prison before making your daring escape into Fallen London to make a name for yourself however you can.
* Will you trade in whispered secrets for a place of safety?
* Wrestle a clay-man to make a name for yourself with the adventurer’s on Watchmaker’s Hill?
* Lurk in the shadowed alleyways of Spite trying your luck as a pickpocket?
* Fall victim to the tantalizing dreams and visions of the honey dens in Veil Garden?
In addition to the browser game each of the major characters has a twitter account adding another dimension of story, personality and player interaction to the game.
Of course you may be wary of succumbing to a social game, visions of Farmville servitude dancing through your head. The good news is that the number of player actions are limited, equating to about 20 mins of gaming per day for free. Additional game time can be purchased with a credit card or paypal account which should help most players to think twice before falling too far into the world of Fallen London.
Now I can already sense a certain tension or dare I say cringing when I mentioned that you can login through Facebook. Relax delicious friends, Echo Bazaar has a policy of “polite asking” which means you have full control not only over which updates you send (or don’t send) to your social network, you get full control over the content of any updates you do choose to broadcast. So no more dire threats from your friends for flooding their news feed with your latest gaming exploits.
For me, the best part of Echo Bazaar has been the story. The current content of Echo Bazaar boasts four full length novels worth of content with more being added. (A new set of islands was unlocked just this week) The characters in Echo Bazaar have a wonderfully dark sense of humor and the Lovecraftian (totally a word) – Steampunk – Victorian vibe is one that hasn’t been overused in games and provides a refreshing change of pace from the 999th WoW killer MMO or Gears of War clone. Which brings me to another great feature for all my fellow girl gamers out there in the world. There’s no worry that random CreepyMcCreeperson69 will notice you’re of the female persuasion and suddenly start chatting you up. Because your social network in the game is your actual social network you get to play the game with the folks you most enjoy spending time with, your friends.