MINI REVIEW: Asuria Awakens

Stuart Lloyd’s Asuria Awakens, the 12th and final title in Tin Man Games’ long-running Gamebook Adventures series of apps, is a captivating mystery-adventure full of ever-changing objectives and diverse locations, featuring many exciting moments of suspense, action, surprise and genuinely disturbing horror.

Taken to the palace of Grand Duke Fernando Orlande V, and tasked with an important mission, you are sent to the port city of Casporur to locate a missing emissary. He has reported strange and sinister goings on, and told that Asuria – the god of humanity – will soon awaken and return to Orlandes. Also, a huge metal rod attached to a strange contraption has been built at the top of Lord Casporez’s castle, where no one has entered or left for a week. Travelling in the guise of a priest, your task is to infiltrate the castle, determine the fate of the emissary and discover exactly what is going on, for the outcome of your mission may decide if war with Casporur is imminent.

STORYLINE: Odd and disturbing occurences are now happening in Casporur, where a black mood plagues the city. Frequent tremors shake the earth, and bizarre black-blooded creatures attack the people, with some residents vanishing overnight without explanation. A few months earlier, a monk named Xavier found new scriptures of Asuria, speaking of the god’s awakening and how humanity will be showered with gifts on his return. Is this prophecy of Asuria’s return accurate or are the discovered tablets, and their instructions to build a device, nothing more than a clever deception with potentially dire consequences?

All of the elements are present for an engrossing narrative, and Stuart Lloyd undoubtedly delivers on Asuria Awakens’ promise with a plot layered with deep curiosity, macabre schemes and surprisingly grand ideas. Casporur is a city of secrets and uncertainty – at least at present – and the discovery of the stone tablets adds the weight of religious ideology and fervour to an already potent mix. Every key character introduced adds something interesting and worthwhile, moving the story forward or shifting the focus to encompass new information, locations or time-critical circumstances. The overall world-spanning storyline is at times rather dark and somewhat unexpected, however, it’s flawlessly implemented, delivering a sombre note that’s often overlooked within interactive fiction.

GAMEPLAY: The standard GA system of Vitality, Fitness, Offensive and Defensive scores are supplemented here by the ability to use various skills (Persuasion, Deduction, Strength and Throwing) during your adventure. These individual skills determine your success at achieving specific tasks, and can be enhanced by the choices you make during the game. The fighting mechanics incorporate the quality of your weapon and armour (giving you more dice to roll), so locating better gear is always of importance. The system is quite simple and mostly unobtrusive, which is perfect for this type of storytelling.

Always interesting, Asuria Awakens delivers new and unexpected discoveries throughout your adventure, adding further intrigue to broaden its scope. You’ll investigate a strange dark patch in the sea, meet the members of a resistance movement, visit the Tomb of Asuria in search of powerful artefacts, seek information about deadly simulacra in an attempt to halt their advance, and learn the truth about visitors from across the void who now corrupt absolutely.

Asuria Awakens rewards with many meaningful choices, offering alternatives on how you present yourself, and where you decide to search to uncover the reality of the many situations you’ll become a part of. The narrative incorporates areas where direct progress is of more importance to advance the unfolding story, yet there are many locations where choice is abundant, and you’ll also reach a hub section from where you’re free to travel in and around the coastal city as you wish.

PRESENTATION: The structure and presentation of the GA series has always been very good, functionally designed for use on small or large screens. The font size and style can be easily altered, and the game presents a 1- or 2-page view depending on your device’s orientation.

Illustrator Tony Hough, who delivers another varied set of fantastic images, provides the major visual highlight. Hough’s more than a perfect fit for a tale featuring unearthly and grotesque subject matter – his detailed approach to drawing imparts striking personality and menace to the many noteworthy characters and scenes in Stuart Lloyd’s storyline. As with other GA adventures, you can always access unlocked images in an Art Gallery on the main menu, which also highlights the number of unseen illustrations, roughly indicating the amount of content that remains unexplored.

REPLAY VALUE: The aforementioned Art Gallery reveals that I’ve missed a large amount of illustrated options during my playthrough, yet it was still a very lengthy and satisfying quest. The engaging style and general quality of Lloyd’s writing certainly makes further attempts appealing, and the nature of the adventuring options to be found in Asuria Awakens also provides plenty of good reasons to explore this gamebook world again.

In summary, interactive fiction that features a wealth of enjoyable content, as found here, certainly offers ample replay value. Additionally, Asuria Awakens has the added attraction of delivering an absorbing storyline that is both thoroughly memorable and masterfully sublime. It’s a great conclusion to the Gamebook Adventures series.

Review by Michael Reilly

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