Fallen London – A Web Browser Story
Normally I do not focus much on writing about Web Browser games, because they follow certain schematics. There are the so called MMOs, strategy games and RPGs, all of which look more or less the same. Some of them will have something unique about them, but the really good “Web Browser” games move onto having their own clients… or they even end up on Steam. I know, being on Steam is not always a denominator of quality but it’s a form of distinction, I would say.
Recently I had a hunger for a Free to Play game. First I visited Steam but nothing with all the fancy 3D graphics caught my attention. So I typed in “Free to Play Games List” in Google and I found a site with a lengthy list of 50 different Free to Play games. I had a feeling I would find something there, so I started searching through the list! I scrolled through the pages, filled with different games, and found absolutely nothing I did not know of already, or that did not sound all that interesting. Then my eyes got stuck on Fallen London. Not only was the name intriguing but it was clearly one of the very few browser games on the list. Since its name and looks stood out the most I decided to give it a try, and I was in for a treat!
What is Fallen London?
Fallen London… it’s like a Story-Driven RPG. And I say that with an honest heart. Usually when I read that an RPG is story-driven the story is limited to some type of linear progression, with a start and an ending, and characters who are not influenced by the story, but more by skill points. Fallen London is all about stories. Your decisions could have multiple conclusions, giving you different rewards, but also progressing your character in a number of different directions. Even failing a task could give you something akin to a reward, since even penalties offer new story possibilities.
It’s not a game that restricts you though, not in the full sense of the word at least. You have four basic stats, Dangerous, Shadowy, Watchful and Persuasive. These are your “core skills”. You improve these by attempting stories, or solutions to stories, that use that specific skill. A higher level skill reduces the chance of failure, which in the long-run also unlocks new stories. Some story solutions can only be chosen when you have enough of “something”…
“Something” means, for example, reputation, or an advantage, maybe an unrelated past event that has triggered something to be unlocked, or enough of an item to be traded off. There are so many different variables it is almost mind boggling just how many different stories can open up, as you play along. There is also an RPG element of there being status effects that influence your adventures, and items that also influence these skills, reputation, etc.
Of course, this game does have grinding, like any RPG, mainly for the different items needed for starting or completing quests. Sometimes the amount of different items is sensible, such as when you are trying to collect rumors you heard to discover clues regarding a detective case you started. When you want to refine certain items you might have to sacrifice over a 1000 units of an item to start the action (not necessarily succeed), which is a lot, unless you have a method of quickly obtaining said item in quantity. This grindy aspect can be a bit annoying, but at the same time it suits the game in its own way.
For example, because I play a Persuasive and Shadowy character I focused a lot on robbing locations as well as writing short stories. Both of these have a series of tasks leading up to the conclusion of your entire attempt. In the case of story writing you write manuscript pages, and after you obtain your rough draft you edit it, so that its overall quality improves, but as you edit your draft you use up your manuscript pages, so you have to write more in order to eventually publish your story. However, in order to write an exceedingly good story you need to improve the quality of your story significantly, and that calls for a high persuasion skill as well as many addition items in your inventory. Even when writing a simple story you could spend a whole day worth of action points in order to make it worth a few Echoes (Echoes are your in-game currency). In the case of robbing locations I have to keep casing an area, in a number of possible ways, so that eventually I have enough data to perform the heist.
I could give you countless examples of how the different short stories and even Opportunities (random cards you draw with stories relating to your different stats) have sudden plot hooks, or how their results and conclusions can turn you in an unexpected direction. At this point I am not sure whether Fallen London is secretly challenging or is there no real way to lose in it. Even the different negative effects, such as wounds, nightmares and suspicion simply offer new story opportunities, all of which simply add more flavor to my character!
Some could critic Fallen London for being, at times, too serious, while at other times too comic. For me it was a safe blend of both, because the different situations I would be put through would in essence look like dark comedy to me.
The one thing I was tempted to test was sending invites to people into the game, which apparently unlock unique stories/entry points into the world of Fallen London, such as inviting a friend from the surface to start a lucrative business. If you would like to get one of these unique invites drop us a message on our Facebook page and I will send you an invite, as soon as it is possible (you would have to provide an e-mail address though, no other details are necessary, it can even be an e-mail just for Fallen London).
If you just want to give Fallen London a go on your own I would say it’s plenty of fun, however it is not fast paced. Most actions in the game cost a certain number of Action Points. You can have 20 action points stored, and you regenerate them at a rate of 1 point per 10 minutes. So if you rifle through your points when doing an especially challenging task you might be forced to come back after three hours for a full point pool, or keep coming back every ten minutes to use the single points you obtain. Either way, for myself it was a surprisingly unique experience, one that I enjoyed (and continue to) thoroughly.
Alex “WriterX” Bielski