When I first saw the Lords of Aswick thumbnail in the Google Play Store, I was excited by the prospect of an interactive novel designed for Android. I love a good fantasy, and I love the Choose Your Own Adventure book series; Lords of Aswick promised to combine those things. I also love my Galaxy S5; Android devices are so versatile that I expected a modern electronic interpretation of the paperback form to take advantage of the possibilities. Unfortunately, Lords of Aswick did not meet my expectations.
The game opened with an intro to the fantasy setting, followed by my main character’s birth into a poor but noble line from Aswick. From then on, I was able to make major decisions, like my family and given name, and my focus – such as on combat training or religious ritual. There’s no “Previous” button that allows you to reread pages or change your choices – a poor oversight that I hope Hosted Games fixes with an update, especially since the choices have more import as the story progresses. It would have been helpful to be able to review my decision tree and choose a different path for my adventure. Such a feature would have added more flexibility to Lords of Aswick, in the vein of a hard copy book.
As far as the text goes, don’t expect brilliant writing. Early on, the tense changed from present to past with no explanation, and literary devices were few and far between. While there is a lot of work that goes into writing the multiple outcomes required for a choose-your-own adventure, it’s unfortunate that, in this case, quality was sacrificed for quantity. On the other hand, if you don’t mind a rough read, the story does take some dramatically different and interesting turns based on your choices.
The plot borrows familiar tropes from traditional feudal fantasy stories; you navigate foreign and civil wars, decide what to do with royal bastards, that sort of thing. Written with more time and care, the story of the noble House from Aswick could have been more interesting (if still a bit derivative). As it stood, I found myself skimming the writing, searching for plot points and pages where choices were required.
For all its faults, Lords of Aswick gets a few things right. There is an extensive index that explains the settings featured in the novel, which helps with decision-making. The design of the pages themselves is clear and easy to read. There’s no in-game store charging players for Aswick-extras. Unfortunately, I still can’t recommend this game to the average player, let alone hardcore Android gamers; even those who enjoy fantasy novels would lose patience with the quality of writing – or lack thereof.
There were too many missed opportunities here to justify the $2.99 price point. There was no artwork except for the opening image, no music even on the title screen, and the text reads like a summary in paragraph form. There were no promises of a multimedia experience, but if players can’t even review previous pages or see a choice tree as with a hard copy Choose Your Own Adventure book, what’s the point? Lords of Aswick is not so far gone that it can’t be fixed via updates, it just needs more work — if this offered the ability to undo choices with a “previous” button, I’d give it a solid three out of five. If I didn’t think the Hosted creative team could do it, I would pan the game completely. As is, I’m not totally slamming it, but I’m not willing to call a choose-your-own adventure that’s not particularly well written and offers nothing new to the genre “hardcore.” Compared to Lords of Aswick, fantasy readers would enjoy a real novel, and gamers would enjoy a more interactive game.