Paul reviews Siege of Treboulain, an interactive novel by Jed Herne, out on April 14th!
You can find out more about it at https://jedherne.com/treboulain/.
|Genre: Interactive Novel, RPG, Fantasy
|Date of Publishing: 14 April 2022
|Trigger Warnings: Death, Violence
|Page count: N/A
|Publisher: Choice of Games LLC
Rule a magical city and defend it from an enemy army! In this epic fantasy game of swordfights, warfare, politics, and romance, can you prove worthy of your throne?
Siege of Treboulain is a 280,000-word interactive novel by Jed Herne. It’s entirely text-based, without graphics or sound effects, and fueled by the vast, unstoppable power of your imagination.
You’re the young ruler of a magical city, trying to lead your people to greatness. When a ruthless army besieges Treboulain, you must martial your troops, rally your people, and defend your city!
Will you take to the walls yourself, using your magic and skill with a sword to inspire your soldiers? Or will you command the defense from a distance, using your sharp tactical mind? Should you fill the moat with traps, train elite magicians, or recruit mercenaries for a surprise attack? With rival politicians attempting to usurp you, what will you sacrifice to maintain order?
Manage your population’s morale – and your dwindling resources – with wise leadership. Expose deadly conspiracies, find love and friendship amidst the turmoil, and prove your worthiness to rule.
Can you save your city against overwhelming odds – and forge a mighty legend?
- Explore a magical city filled with rich history, fascinating lore, and arcane secrets.
- Find love or friendship with a brave warrior, a wise priestess, a cunning merchant, or a talented artist.
- Become a powerful arborturgist and master the magic of the plants.
- Command soldiers, plan tactics, and fight in everything from one-on-one duels to massive, history-shaking battles.
- Defeat enemies with swordplay, enchantment, spectacular speeches, or trickery.
- Manage the city’s internal politics and balance the demands of the army, priests, merchants, and commoners.
- Choose from three unique backstories – magician, warrior, or scholar – and learn about your enemy through flashbacks.
- Play as male, female, or non-binary; gay, straight, bi, or asexual.
- Win the respect of your people…or become a tyrant who demands their obedience!
- Leave a legacy that will affect your city – and the world – forever.
“When you can absolve responsibility to others, it’s easy to pretend that there’s a perfect way to do things. But when you’re the last one in charge, you can’t pretend anymore. You see life for what it is. A game of sacrifices, where every pathway leads to sorrow. All that remains is to find the sorrows we can endure without breaking.”
You’d think picking a song when the author has curated a 120 song playlist would be easy, but it wasn’t. The Last of the Starks is one of the songs on the playlist and I think one that touches upon all of Siege of Treboulains elements as it swings from slower sombre moments to powerful crescendos.
The Spotify playlist can be found HERE and is a fantastic orchestral collection that would enhance any reading or writing session.
Being a fantasy-loving child of the late ’80s and early ’90s, Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone’s Fighting Fantasy books were a massive part of my formative years. At a time when I was too young for D&D, and my Atari lacked any decent RPG games, these “choose your own adventure” books were my ticket to being the hero and kicking buckets of eye-jelly out of vicious Bloodbeasts.
Fast forward thirty-odd years, and my collection is still on the shelf, pages yellowed, spines well-cracked, and every one a reminder of a thousand deaths and far fewer victories.
So when the supremely talented author Jed Herne asked if I’d like an early review copy of his interactive novel Siege of Treboulain, it felt like I’d dropped a six on my luck roll.
In Siege of Treboulain, you find yourself as the new ruler of Treboulain, a magical city full of interesting characters, competing factions, and a veritable web of politics. It’s not a spoiler given the title, but soon you find yourself under siege and having to balance all of these internal interests while also attempting to stave off death and destruction. Every page offers a choice, and none of them are easy.
The levels of accessibility and inclusion are impressive. The UI itself is fully customisable with the option to both increase the font as well as colour options allowing you set the background as white, black, or sepia. You can also create your character exactly how you’d like with multiple gender, pronoun, title, and sexuality options. If these set options aren’t a fit for you, there’s the option to add your own. ‘You are the hero’ is a phrase associated with Fighting Fantasy, and never has it been more true than here. Unless you want to be the villain. Because you can!
You quite literally shape your character from the first word, and while there are no graphics, there is a stats page that allows you to see exactly who you are and the state of your city. Individually, you have personal traits and a leadership style, all of which fluctuate based on your choices. Crack the skulls of some ne’er-do-wells and see your strength and intimidation rise, or offer clemency, and your piety and idealism may benefit. But these choices affect the opinion of your advisers, the priests, and even the nobles who, if you anger them too much, may replace you. There’s full information of what everything is on the stats page, along with a list of characters that updates as you progress, adding important people as you meet them, so there are no spoilers, and you’re never lost.
There are so many choices and paths that can be taken, every experience will be different. This coupled with possible forty-four achievements – I managed around twenty-six – makes for a game with an enormous amount of replayability.
In my play-through, I was a wise and charismatic ruler but a terribly incompetent fighter who fell off the battlements and later lost an eye. I solved crimes, struck amazing deals, nearly lost the respect of the nobles but won it back, I loved and lost, but I survived. Next time? Who knows, maybe I’ll be a tyrannical magic user.
Given the narrative nature of Siege of Treboulain, the mechanics and choices are nothing if the writing isn’t good. Have no worries, Herne is a wordsmith, and the writing here is just as good as in his novels. Everything is fantastically descriptive, the city is beautifully realised. The characters have more than enough about them to make them feel individual and, more importantly, make you care. There is lore in abundance, hints of foreign lands, a unique plant-based magic system, and it’s a setting I would love to explore through full novels and more interactive fiction.
It can’t have been easy to make everything flow and feel quite this organic, given the word count limits on each page and the myriad variables feeding into each one. But Herne does it spectacularly; I was engaged throughout, never bored, and always excited to see what came next.
Siege of Treboulain is the perfect blend of story and game, hitting all of the notes you’d expect from these mediums with glorious aplomb. Think of it as a text-based Dragon Age or Mass Effect and you won’t be wrong or disappointed.