The Secret Vaults of Kas the Betrayer (A.E. Jackson) is a CYOA fantasy cave-crawl made in Twine.
As you’d expect from the title, we’re talking full-on high fantasy here: constructed geography and history, a backpack full of dungeon-delving gear, a powerful artifact with an oddly generic-sounding name. This is not a genre that excites me per se. If you’re doing genre fantasy, I want to know what is different and interesting about this one. Secret Vaults gives every indication of being written by someone for whom basic genre-fantasy elements are exciting in their own right. Which I can understand; that was totally me in my early teens. But at this point, I’ve been exposed to so damn much of the stuff that I can’t get excited about it unless there’s something special going on.
The game shows strong signs of wanting to be something like a traditional parser-IF cave crawl or an RPG gamebook; there is a persistent environment that you need to poke around for clues to puzzles. The implementation is weak: for instance, repeating a certain passage describes you finding and taking the same item over and over. The writing is not much better:
You put the full extent of your strength into pulling on the leather strap in an attempt to open the wooden door. With ease, the door slides down and embeds itself into the stone floor.
Somewhere in the dark hallways beyond a slamming sound is heard which echos throughout the vaults.
There are some spelling and punctuation errors, fine, but not so many as to ruin things; the real problem is that things are phrased awkwardly. And there’s a sort of attention to the mechanical details of objects which might seem at home in the more traditional kind of parser IF, but feels really odd in Twine.
The first thing you have to deal with is a combination switch puzzle. There is nothing very interesting about it – either you figure out that the clue applies to this puzzle, or you don’t. More to the point, the puzzle didn’t actually work: I got a success message after solving it, but then nothing changed and I just returned to the room. Other people have mentioned getting a little further than this, so I assume that something broke in an update. Shit happens, I know. But at a minimum, your game needs to be playable.