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The Final Question Reviews
Author: David Whyld
Date: 2005

Reviewed by C. Henshaw

1. Does it set the scene? 
The Final Question starts off with a dialogue between two conspirators, although you don’t know what they are conspiring about until the 3rd or 4th paragraph. The dialogue sets the scene well – two personalities are in league over something, but a certain friction is also present. There is a bit of a hiccough with the very first sentence though – Markham’s ‘The question… is whether or not you will really go through with it or not.’ This wording set me up to expect some comedy element, silly dialogue or something. But no – read further and the impression is that this story is actually quite serious. Luckily that first line is forgotten in the continuation of the dialogue. 

The opening is all about mood – the character’s mood (a scientist about to self test a Machine of immortality) and the game’s mood (self-reflective, a bit macho, and with anyone else I’d say gearing for surreal, but having played a few other games by David, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some gritty realism). 

I have to admit that by the beginning of game play I was having a strong sense of déjà vu – the premise so far was very similar to Unravelling God in which a driven professor of science chases immortality, and whose name is Markson. So this in itself gave me some preconceptions of what this game would entail. Sure enough – at a certain point there is a flashback to a scene of the PC, Anton, in a hospital bed. Then we move forward again to Anton’s study, where (unsurprisingly like Markson’s house) it is described as a reflection of Anton’s personality and lifestyle. 

Despite strange feelings of having read this before, this intro does a pretty decent job of setting up the back-story, getting the player involved in the character, and arousing interest in the plot. Passages from books like The Theory of Immortality give further weight to the interests and aims of Anton’s exeriment. The very ending, Anton’s dramatic plunge into… immortality? Something, anyway... rounds off the introduction and made me think – Ah, here’s where the game really starts. 

2. Is it well implemented? 
In general, this game is well put together, with lots of text broken up by waitkey commands, which are an excellent way to keep you reading – put in a pause at a particularly interesting junction in dialogue, or at a cliff-hanger, and you’ve got the player (or me at least) hooked. 

Game play isn’t an issue much in this game, most of the introduction is back-story and working up to the cliffhanger at the end of the prologue – when Anton enters the Machine. The countdown (a real countdown) to entering the machine gives the player time to study the surroundings, although the description of the room could have been a bit more coherent (you can only examine the Machine and the cables). I was happy to see that PC description was implemented, and you could look at Markham even though he wasn’t there (as a remembered description by the PC). 

In the study, the descriptions fall a bit short – walls, floor and door are mentioned in the room description, but you can’t examine them (you can however examine the carpet). There’s not much to do in the study except read passages from the books mentioned above, which are interesting, but once you’ve read them, you sort of stand there, waiting for something to happen. There are a lot of things you can’t do – open the door, open the curtains (and thus look out the window), light the fireplace, drink anything in the drinks cabinet, and while you can open the drawer in the desk, there’s nothing in it (and you can’t remember if you ever put anything in it). Okay, so this room is for reading books only. ‘Take books’ or ‘take a book’ comes back with ‘Sorry. That is not a command used in this adventure. Try something else.’ But I’ve already tried everything else! 

Aha! I’d missed that last book title at the end of the line. Story progresses to the end. 

3. Do I want more? 
Yes, as long as Anton doesn’t end up mimicking Markson too much. I’d like to see some really surreal situations, something unique and fascinating, after that great build up. Unravelling God is one of my favourite ADRIFT games, so it’s not a bad one to imitate. If the writing can hold up to its former example, then this is set to be one of the better games I’ve played in quite a while. 

Score (each out of 10): 
Scene setting: 8 
Implementation: 7 
Appetite whettage: 8 
Bonus points: 2 for the best prologue in the comp 
Total: 25 (should have a pretty long shelf-life) 

Reviewed by Stefan Donati

This entry of the Adrift Intro Comp 2005 is written by David Whyld, the most prolific Adrift author. It finished second, equal with 'Murder Mansion' by Reelyor. 

'The Final Question' is a game about Anton Ryder, the player's alter ego with a rather unusual passion: trying to find a way to live forever. And although we see an engaged discussion between the ambitious scientist and his partner, Markham, we soon find ourselves in a room with a machine, designed to bring eternal life to whomever enters through its gateway. After we examine the machine a little bit, Markham starts the countdown for what could be a historical landmark of humanity. Given this impact, I can understand why the author has chosen to let the countdown go down one by one. Nevertheless, typing 'wait' several times didn't really increase the tension for me. Maybe there's another way of doing this, like an automatic countdown or a sound file? 

After the player has entered the machine, the game takes us on a flashback to a scene seven years earlier. It gives us more information on the lonely and unemotional life Anton has, and we witness how he even isn't able to show emotions in a moment of great grief, as he learns of his parents death in a car accident. 

The scene changes again, and Anton, unenthusiastically as you'd expect him, describes his workplace. Except for the door and the ceiling, everything in the workplace can be examined. The most interesting objects by far are some books, which, upon reading, show some excerpts about death and life; they add a strong sense of suspense to the story. The books have to be read one after one, as 'read books' isn't a recognized command. 

In the final stage of the intro, we're back in the present and Anton is experiencing strange feelings as his trip through the machine unfolds. The end cuts in at a tensing moment, when we only know that he is safe, but nothing more about the future fate of his journey. 

Apart from a few missing commands and objects, I enjoyed this intro. It established a good and enthralling storyline, and the pacing at which new information are given is very well arranged. The experience this author has with game writing clearly shows. I was a little bit disappointed about not being able to explore more on my own, but that's not that surprising for an intro. 

So, will a game follow this intro? In a recent thread on the Adrift forums, David Whyld hasn't included it on a list of his working titles, but maybe it will reincarnate in another one of his games? I certainly hope so. 

Reviews should be considered copyrighted by their respective authors.


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