After being away for about six months I have returned to Fallen London.
Actually, I can’t say I’m in Fallen London. I’ve taken my Zee Clipper across the Underzee and have made my way to the city of Polythreme, the home of the Clay Men. I’ve been wandering the streets here while trying to make sense of the strange place in which I find myself. A place almost as strange as Fallen London has become.
As you may have noticed I played quite a bit of Echo Bazaar (as they called it at the time) last year. I managed to hit the level cap in most of my attributes and had managed to complete most of the storylines. There were a few outstanding, but breeding a beast in the Labyrinth of Tigers or getting further involved in the machinations of Mahogany Hall didn’t interest me that much and the storylines I was still interested in seemed to have stalled. So I left the game for a while, waiting for it to advance.
Then a couple of weeks ago I saw in passing that things had been updated and so logged back in to see what was up. And things had changed, but some of them in ways to make clear that you can’t always go home again.
The game is now called Fallen London instead of Echo Bazaar. The developer’s explanation is that everyone called it Fallen London anyway, but I find it a less interesting name. Hearing someone talk about the “Echo Bazaar” makes you wonder what it is. “Fallen London” seems awfully generic.
Then there are the changes in the gameplay. Most of the items I had been collecting now have some uses. For example, I could use glim to get sea stories then use the stories to get map fragments that I could use in the quest for the Screaming Map that led me to Polythreme. While this does make the items useful it also makes the game feel more “grindy”. Instead of experiencing a story I’m just grinding for items.
The game did have some aspects of this before, it just seems worse now.
Plus some of the game mechanics seem more awkward. Take my current activities in Polythreme, for example. One of the defining characteristics of Polythreme is that everything is alive there. Everything. Including your clothing and accessories. Before you can start any activity there you gain a certain amount of “Unnatural Exuberance”. You then go about raising your “Investigating” or “Fascinating” qualities, most of which you gain through actions with a random chances of success (and some that raise one will lower the other). Each action reduces your Unnatural Exuberance by one. When it gets to 1 you can perform one action based on your Investigating or Fascinating, provided they are high enough. Once you do (or if you didn’t have enough to do an action) everything is reset and you start over again.
This is slow and, since you only gain the qualities through random chance, relatively frustrating. The game does dangle the chance of buying Investigating and/or Fascinating for Fate, but that makes it almost more annoying. It seems like the game is just making the task frustrating to “encourage” players to buy Fate.
Now there have always been storylines that you could only access by paying Fate and I did several of those (The Soul Trade and Flute Street for example). One can argue that this is better in that you can get the entire story without paying, it just takes longer. To me it just adds to the “grindyness” feel I was mentioning above.
Of course, maybe it’s just that I’m still near the cap and so I’m not seeing that many options anymore. And I’m still back and still playing, so that must count for something.
Anyway, I need to go. My overcoat is getting restless and I need to see the clay man wearing the velvet coat at the docks before my shoes decide to make me run around the block again.