High Programmer > Alan De Smet > Rants > Reviews > Video Game Reviews > Interactive Fiction Reviews > Floatpoint


Rating: 7/10. Excellently executed, but disquieting.
Author: Emily Short
Released: 2006
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Spoiler filled maps of "Floatpoint"

(Mild spoilers follow, but you should learn most of this very early in the game.)

Generations ago, a group of humans engaged in illegal genetic engineering were exiled to another planet. Now that planet is entering an ice age that will make it uninhabitable. Meanwhile, a plague has left Earth underpopulated. You play a diplomat assigned to convince the exiles to return to Earth. Your opportunity is a regular gift giving ceremony.

Technically there is nothing to dislike here. There are lots of nice touches including automated navigation. Your interaction with the NPCs is limited by a lack of familiarity with the language, but they remain well rounded and are fun to interact with. The puzzles are generally logical within the world, well integrated, amusing, and the resulting solutions make sense. You have the opportunity to determine if a treaty of any sort will occur, as well as the rough outline of the terms.

Ultimately you're going to be picking clothes to wear and a gift to gift for their symbolism. The combination specifies the terms of the treaty, if any. The majority of the game is tracking down suitable pieces as well as learning enough to make an educated decision. Unfortunately that decision is very hard, with no good answers, only various bad ones. This leads to a game that is frustrating and disquieting as entertainment, but shines as art.

(That's the end of the review. However, for more detail on why the decision is so disquieting follows. It pretty much spells out much of what you can learn in the game. As learning these things is the majority of the game, it's a very serious spoiler.)

The decision is the hard part of the game. If the exiles were limiting themselves to modifying plants for artistic purposes, enhancing themselves, and strange cultural taboos like eating in public or physical contact, the "optimal" solution would be easy: welcome them back into the fold. However, as you learn more about the culture, it's easy to see why they were exiled. Slightly worrisome is their willingness to store records of historical events in a reinterpreted way, something that borders on revisionism. Far more worrisome is their ruthless pruning of "failed" genetic branches. This pruning applies to everything, including themselves. You can learn that in the colony's early days, when the situation was dire those individuals of genetic lines deemed less likely to surive were killed to free up resources for the remainder. You an also learn that a scientist you meet represents a line designed to please people from Earth. If you fail to make a treaty, she and her entire line will be killed. Suddenly welcoming the colonist's back isn't so clear cut. Can they be integrated back into Earth? Is their morality too alien to handle? Complicating things, not all of the exiles want to return; they fear loss of their culture. Not all of Earth wants them to return, still afraid of the exiles' morality and genetic engineering. There is a real risk that the returning exiles will eventually chafe under restrictions placed on them and may rebel.

Simultaneously, from the NPCs and video recordings, you can see that the colonists are also human in their own way. They still argue and love much like those of Earth do. Their morality may be alien, but fundamentally they want to preserve their culture and their lineage.

(2007-08-26: Spelling and typo fixes)

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