Fallen London: A Neo-Victorian Steampunk LitRPG

Review by Chris Pavesic

Fallen London
Producer: Failbetter Games
Genre: Steampunk | LitRPG | Lovecraftian | Gothic
Edition: IOS Platform
Download for Free Here: Fallen London

Blurb

“Thirty years ago, London was stolen by bats. Now, Hell is close and immortality is cheap, but the screaming has largely stopped…”
Fallen London, acclaimed literary RPG and winner of The Escapist’s Best Browser Game 2009, has been reimagined for iPhone!

Welcome to a dark and hilarious Victorian-Gothic underworld, where every choice has a consequence from the style of your hat to the price of your soul.

For those who love to read and for those who love to play, Fallen London offers you a unique narrative that evolves with every choice you make. Define your destiny through the stories you embark on and the character you cultivate.

There’s a whole world of opportunity waiting for you beyond the iron bars of New Newgate Prison. Who are you going to be?
Spoilers Ahead

Welcome Delicious Friend!

For me, it is hard not to like a game whose interface (a sort of shadowy top hat-like creature with squinty eyes and fangs) implies it wants to eat you from the first moments in the game.

The story world is a nightmare version of Victorian London, where Lovecraftian-like creatures roam the streets along with urchins, thieves, aristocrats, and other gothic monstrosities. After choosing your character, you begin in New Newgate Prison with rather sparse furnishings—basically a straw mattress–and stone walls dripping with moisture. The quest name—Unjustly Imprisoned!—sets up the fact that you are innocent of the charges that landed you in the cell—or are you? This is Hell, after all. Is anyone located here really innocent?

Not surprisingly, one of the first quests a player needs to complete involves escaping from the prison cell. You then need to find new lodgings, and quickly, because without an address, your character can be arrested and taken back to prison. (This never happened to me, but it is a warning in the game.)

As a player levels up, the type of lodging offering improves. And the types of quests, and NPCs (non-player characters), your character can interact with differs with each choice you make. The top-tier housing reminds me the most of steampunk living, especially the unusual steam-driven gadgets that fill the Brass Embassy (the place where all the best demons vacation). Something has to keep the brass ballroom floor in molten form, after all. But there are steampunk-style lodgings in most levels, including a decommissioned steamer and a cottage near a strange inventor’s observatory.

The lodgings reflect all of the literary genres reflected in the game. Lovecraft’s influence can be found in the Marsh Lair, the Once-Great Marsh House, the Deep Cellars of Old Newgate, and the Dripstone-Snared Third City Sub-Temple. The Abandoned Family Crypt, Attic Room, and Half-Abandoned Mansion are straight out of Gothic-style novels.

The characters that a player interacts with in this world also will seem familiar to those who enjoy steampunk, Lovecraft, and neo-Victorian novels. Depending upon what path a character follows, you will run into versions of Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, and Sigmund Freud. Jack the Ripper has a new moniker in hell—Jack of Smiles—and there are a few Egyptian Pharaohs and Queen Consorts added into the mix. My favorite so far is a Sherlock Holmes character—who has been driven mad by honey (yes—honey) and sends you on quests to locate kidnapped demons.

The quests are interesting and a player’s choices determine what path his/her character takes. It is a wonderful story that unfolds one segment at a time, and not quite in order. You will not know if a segment you completed a week ago is important to the overall story or not, although the game interface offers tantalizing clues.

Review

Over the last few months there has been a discussion amongst The Steampunk Cavaliers about wanting to see more “punk” in the steampunk aesthetic. In fact, fellow site author Dianna Gunn commented:

“What [steampunk authors] forget are all the other things that make the Victorian era such a fascinating one. They skip the political intrigue and religious conflicts inherent in the time. Their characters create inventions and go on grand adventures that change their lives but rarely seem to impact the world around them.” Click here  to read the rest of the article.

Fallen London’s style of gameplay includes the “punk” elements that some steampunk creations seem to miss. Yes—there are the neo-Victorian era conventions that so many of us enjoy, and yet those are tempered with the facts of living in a society that has literally gone to Hell.

Actual Victorian Era London was an unhealthy place. There were outbreaks of cholera. Ten percent of the population lived below subsistence level and about twenty percent had just enough money to survive, provided that they worked every day with no days off. Homes were overcrowded and heated with coal fires, which destroyed the quality of the air.

Fallen London does not gloss over these issues. A character moves through all levels of society, does quests and learns secrets, and interacts with NPCs in a world that, for all of the fantasy elements, seems very realistic. And the characters can make a real impact on their world; it is not just a simple adventure story. It has depth and hidden levels that continue to grow each time you play. The designers put an impressive amount of detail into the game on all levels and it is one that I recommend playing.

 

Book Review: The Earl and the Artificer

Review Photo
Conceptual Artwork by Chris Pavesic. Photo Credits: Dreamstime and Chris Pavesic.

Author: Kara Jorgensen
Release: January 30, 2016
Series: The Ingenious Mechanical Devices
Genre: Steampunk | Mystery
Edition: Kindle
Pages: 302
Publisher: Fox Collie Publishing
Buy it here: Amazon

 

Blurb

What mysteries lay buried beneath weeds and dust?

Following their wedding, Eilian and Hadley Sorrell journey to Brasshurst Hall, his family’s abandoned ancestral home. As Eilian struggles to reconcile his new roles as husband and earl, he finds the house and the surrounding town of Folkesbury are not as they first appear.

Behind a mask of good manners and gentle breeding lurks a darker side of Folkesbury. As the Sorrells struggle to fit in with the village’s genteel society, they find their new friends are at the mercy of Randall Nash, a man who collects secrets.

Soon, Eilian and Hadley become entangled in a web of murder, theft, and intrigue that they may never escape, with the manor at the heart of it all. Something long thought lost and buried within Brasshurst’s history has been found—something worth killing for.

Review

For my first post on the Steampunk Cavaliers I wanted to review an author whose work I know I enjoy. As with any genre, steampunk novels vary in quality and in style. Finding an author whose work you enjoy, whose story worlds you like to visit again and again, is something to be treasured and shared.

The first time I read one of Jorgensen’s Ingenious Mechanical Devices novels, The Winter Garden, my area was under a tornado warning. The TV was on in the background spouting alerts and I started reading on my iPad to keep my mind off the storm. The fact that it held my attention speaks volumes.

Jorgensen’s new novel, The Earl and the Artificer, is book three in her Ingenious Mechanical Devices series, but works just as well as a stand-alone novel. The novel continues the story of the two main characters, Eilian and Hadley, from Earl of Brass. The characters have married and moved on with their lives as the new Earl and Countess of Dorset, but their personalities remain on track. It is not too big of a spoiler to tell you that the first chapter opens with Hadley elbow-deep in steamer engine innards, covered in grease, trying to fix their burned-out vehicle:

Leaning into the front of the cab, she brought her face close to the boiler as the heat of the kettle stung her cheeks. The metal coils of the heating element had melted into a blackened cake that smelled of burnt hair. Using the sides of the hood for leverage, she pivoted back until her satin boots met the road’s white gravel. Staring down at her cream dress, already streaked with soot and grease, she sighed and wiped her hands across it before smoothing a lock of henna hair behind her ear.

Of course her new white dress becomes filthy and in this state she has to meet their new neighbors and their cousin, Randall Nash, who seems to judge her appearance rather harshly.

Both Eilian and Hadley are having a hard time adjusting to so many changes in their lives, and part of the novel revolves around the new dimensions in their relationship as husband and wife and, of course, setting up their household in a Gothic-style mansion reminiscent of the BBC’s Downton Abbey. Add to this a mixture of steampunk devices and somewhat magical-seeming elements that are not simply thrown-in for effect but are actually integral to the story.

There is a treasure at Brasshurst Hall hidden in the ruins, but to discover it Eilian and Hadley have to brave physical threats and overcome the emotional debris of his tragic family history.  Suspense builds as the story continues, as does the sense of impeding danger.  Without giving away too much, I will just say that the resolution will not be something most readers will expect, but it fits perfectly with the story world and the characters.

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 12.42.15 AMI recommend The Earl and the Artificer for anyone who enjoys a Victorian-style steampunk novel filled with intriguing characters, mystery, suspense, and danger.