Echo Bazaar: The Best Casual Web Game Yet

I'm sure, if you use Twitter, you've come across Echo Bazaar by now. It's the source of the peculiar tweets about bats, clay men, and gentlemen not using the word d--m. It is also an excellent casual game. Such that, at present, it is retaining my interest better than at least one of the MMOs I'm trying.

I've been trying to pin down exactly why it's such a good game. Part of it is the setting, a fascinating sort of steampunkish Victorian Cthulhu-ish underground London with bizarre addictions and an observatory which only employs blind men. You play a lady, gentleman, or being of indistinct gender, of morality as dubious as you wish, who wanders through this metropolis pursuing ambitions and developing various connections and storylines. Nightmares can become an issue. You may end up in hell. You can seduce various people, and indeed, the game is not heterocentric at all; you can go about seducing anyone, regardless of gender.

Part of it is the fact that it's an very casual game, and indeed, mostly self limiting. You spend actions to do things. You regain actions at the rate of one every seven minutes, until you've taken seventy actions in one 24-hour period (measured, as far as I can see, from the point at which you first took an action). You regain actions thereafter at the rate of one every half hour or so. You gain ten free actions by sending a tweet with a link to the game, which you can do once every 24 hours. You can spend Fate, one of the in-game currencies, in blocks of ten to get an extra ten actions. And you can, should you wish, buy Fate for real cash. All this means that unless you throw money at it, you can't really overplay it.

Yet another part of it is that the game genuinely gives you multiple options for progression. There are many areas of Fallen London to follow storylines in, and you can take on one of several long-term storylines called Ambitions, which will draw you through various parts of the setting and the game.

There's also the interaction with other players; you can engage in various activities, each of which can get you items that give you a second chance in the various challeneges in the game. You can also shake off some of your Nightmares onto other people, which helps keep you sane. And there's a PvP part as well, although I haven't really given that much investigation yet.

I will probably buy some Fate for cash at some point over the next month, not because I need the actions, but because I feel the people who make the game should get some payment from me for the sheer amount of entertainment I've had. You should try it.

Posted by Drew Shiel at January 18, 2010 9:48 PM

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