(none) Quintin Stone - Interactive Fiction Review
Interactive Fiction
Role-playing Games

The Orion Agenda

Author: Ryan Weisenberger
Language: z-code
Score: 7

In a somewhat familiar science fiction universe, you, Captain Jon Stark, must somehow avert civil war. And save the galaxy. And also, if there's time, get the girl.

The first thing you may notice when playing The Orion Agenda is the first-person perspective of the game. The intention may have been to make the transcript read like a historical document or a kind of debriefing report. Unfortunately, I feel that it may have acted to restrict my immersion in the game. I never really felt a connection to the character.

The second aspect of the game that you see is that it begins in medias res, and the bulk of The Orion Agenda plays through the events leading up to that beginning point. This particular literary device can be tricky to incorporate into IF; in this case, I managed to get myself killed twice during the "flashback" portion of the game and there was no attempt to resolve the discrepancy.

Third, you will probably come to realize that the "number one rule of SciCorps" sounds an awful lot like Star Trek's Federation prime directive of first contact: no contamination of undeveloped worlds. Some players may hold this against the game. I did not, since it's a concept that surely has been explored outside of Trek (and possibly before Star Trek made the idea well-known). Much of the plot and puzzles are related, at least tangentially, to this rule.

The game incorporated its puzzles into the environment fairly well. However, the driving force behind them was pretty transparent, making them partially feel like puzzles for puzzles' sake. And while the descriptions and plot were done well enough, I found a lot of the dialog to fall somewhat flat and unreal. The conversations with the old Orionion (I can't stress enough what a poor choice of species name that is) were particularly jarring, especially with the stream of insults he tossed my way. I suppose he was supposed to seem endearingly grumpy, but writing a character like that is tricky because after a while you start to wonder if the insults are coming from the character or the author.

For the most part, the game feels pretty solid. Even the switch from 2nd to 1st person was done without any hiccups that I could see. There were a few minor issues that could be improved in later releases, however, such as breaking up some of those very long infodumps and recognizing spoken names with quotes around them. One bug in particular forced me to turn to the hint system: when the medscanner wouldn't scan the vines in the garden because they weren't "organic", I made the mistake of thinking it would only work on NPCs.

Even though I couldn't really immerse myself into this game, I found it a pleasant diversion. It flows fairly well, with only one major roadblock, and the puzzles weren't hard (even for me).

Final score: 7

High point:
The solution to the old man's "honesty" requirement. It's one of those moment where both solution and result just feel right.

Low point:
Had to resort to hints to solve the sick girl puzzle because trying to scan the plants in the garden lead me to the conclusion that the game did not consider non-animal life scannable. Unfortunately, this wasn't true. Not a major bug, just one that can create confusion.
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