I have a confession to make. A not-so-long time ago, in a galaxy that is very much the one you're present in, a games journalist was working on a confessional article about Furcadia and her thoughts on the sequel which recently achieved success - we'll get to that one of these weeks - on Kickstarter. However, that got sidetracked by an afternoon with Fallen London. Ahem.
A browser-based title set within the subterranean reaches of what may have once been a proud English city, Fallen London is a little bit of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, a lot of Lovecraftian mythos, a touch of the creators' personal brand of humor and a whole lot of good writing. It's not the kind of game you keep on plugging at and, in all honesty, it barely constitutes as an MMO (your friends will only play a vague supporting role here). Nonetheless, Fallen London deserves playing. In an era informed with throwaway games and questionable writing, Failbetter Games have done something than a lot of big-budget titles have failed to accomplish: build a world worth discovering.
Dance with devils. Plot revolutions. Seduce artists. Wrestle tigers, congress with cats and acquaint yourself with tentacle-faced creatures from the deep. Get sucked into terrifying nightmares, endeavor to escape and do it all without spending so much as a cent. As an added bonus, you won't be doing this the usual way. No, instead of acting as the chosen one, you'll first begin life as a helpless fugitive from the questionable law.
It escalates from there. There are four main 'stats', each of which correlate with a different assortment of characteristics, that will determine where your story will go: watchful (observation, deduction, intelligence), shadowy (stealth, subtlety, cunning), dangerous (strength, ferocity, soldiering), persuasive (wit, charm, plausibility).
Of course, there's no reason you can't have it all. It just takes time. Like so many browser-based titles, Fallen London will only allow you to take so many actions within a certain time frame. If you want more, you'll either have to wait or purchase the aforementioned actions some other way. Nonetheless, the focus is not building a potent empire or a thriving farm. With Fallen London, it's the story that matters.
To give you an idea as to what you might expect, my own character has acquired a bit of a sordid history. Over the last year or so, she has grown intimately familiar with the demonic denizens of the Brass Embassy, made friends with rooftop urchins, assisted unscrupulous papparazzi, struggled to uncover her past and avoided both rivals and old flames from the surface. There's a small menagerie of creatures within my lodgings as well. At all times, a sorrow-spider accompanies my character while haunted-looking beagles commiserate with drunken brethren and sullen bats back at home. I might even have a pocket full of stolen souls but you have no proof of that little indulgence.
If you've ever lamented the absence of good writing in video games or have longed for a bite-sized experience that you can investigate in work, give Fallen London a chance. You probably won't find a more absorbing read anywhere else.