Should I Buy? – Echo Bazaar

Technically, you can’t. Cause it’s free. Mostly. Y’see, Echo Bazaar is an award winning browser-based game by an independent studio called FailBetterGames. Apparently this game (still in beta, and new content being added constantly) is an experiment to develop new game mechanics and story telling techniques in online games.

The premise of Echo Bazaar is simple. In the late 1800’s London has been stolen by a mysterious race of beings called ‘the Masters’ and plonked just down-river of Hell. London’s adapted to life here quite well, in this strange land where devils and dead people roam the streets to bargain, seduce and relax with the living.

You start the game having just woken up in the Neath, specifically as a prisoner in New Newgate Prison. Your task is to escape, and can be done by using one of four stats, your Dangerous, Persuasive, Shadowy and Watchful. Choosing options and playing opportunity cards works a little like Mafia Wars and similar games, though this is infinitely superior.

When you escape, it’s up to you to find fame and fortune in the Neath. In terms of plot and backstory, the game’s got plenty of that, but you have to piece it together yourself. Some missions offer clues as to what different characters and factions are up to like the Topsy King or the Affectionate Devil, or the past of another person etc. This is a fantastically realised world, and personally I liked their method of storytelling, as they never expected me to read half a damn history book to understand what was going on.

So you spend your time on this game clicking options and cards, earning money and items and raising your stats so you can do more impressive things. Being Shadowy starts off with running messenger errands and eventually makes you an agent of the ‘Great Game’ of spies and counterspies in London. This is all very fun but slow moving. They intend you to be playing this game for months. I’ve been playing it since last year and I’m not even half way through the game’s content.

To encourage this, you only get 40 actions a day. You can buy an additional 40 with cold, hard cash if you really want by becoming an Exceptional Friend, which also gives you access to a secret club-house owned by Mr Chimes. Also available for purchase is Fate, which you can expend to open up unique options and stories.

The different story threads are a nice touch. They’re unique and only playable once, and the hope of another one being just around the corner often kept me playing when just having to raise my stats was boring as Hell. Some of them just seem to disappear halfway through though, and others seem damn near impossible to start.

There’s so much content in this game that I could easily spend hours writing some epic, multi-page ZOMGUMUSTPLAYTEHGAMEZ type thing. Instead I’ll just give this a hearty recommendation. It’s just the sort of thing you can run in the background while you browse the web. Or do ‘work’. You know the kind of work, the kind where you start playing Farmtown with a blank Word document silently running untouched on the taskbar.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Follow up Review – Echo Bazaar | buythatgame
  2. Trackback: Should I Buy? – Twilight Heroes « buythatgame

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