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Fallen London app review

fallen-london-title“Thirty years ago, London was stolen by bats. Now, Hell is close and immortality is cheap, but the screaming has largely stopped…” In Fallen London (Failbetter Games, 2015; iOS and Android), I — a shadowy being of unspecified gender, just escaped from prison — stalk the streets of a Hell-adjacent Victorian London with an Alluring Companion for a cohort and a Reprehensible Lizard as a pet. It’s no surprise that the browser version of this “literary RPG” launched in 2009, during the height of steampunk fervor: the game’s gothy-steampunk setting and narrative twists and turns are sure to delight fans of steampunk novels like Soulless, Leviathan, and Airborn.

Fallen London is notable for its inclusivity. It is a rare RPG indeed that provides non-binary gender options and involves little character customization (your character is represented in silhouette). People of any gender, race, ethnicity, or background will likely be comfortable immersing themselves in the world presented by the game. The only traits that truly define you in this world are the four basic personality attributes that your character develops through choices over the course of the game. You become increasingly Watchful, Dangerous, Persuasive, and Shadowy as you use these skills to complete tasks and interact with NPCs (non-playing characters). All interactions occur via narrative, and you move through the world as if you are reading a story. This makes the game particularly appealing for fans of steampunk novels — the game is a novel you create, a choose-your-own-adventure book with new plot lines added each week.

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One frustrating element of the free version is its action limit. You are restricted to a set number of actions per play session, and it takes hour and a half of waiting to get back to a full twenty, the amount generally required to see a single storyline through to its conclusion. These built-in moments of wait time can be disheartening; you keep coming up against dead ends that can only be avoided by paying for the more streamlined version of the game.

Ultimately, Fallen London is engaging and exciting, with a vast, diverse world that continues to gain new quirks. But curling up in bed with a good steampunk novel might be an equally satisfying (and more cost-effective) option.

Available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch (requires iOS 9.1 or later) and Android devices (requires Android 4.0 and up); free trial version, with upgrades and monthly subscriptions ranging from $4.99 to $49.99. Recommended for middle-school users and up.

About Kaylee Anzick

Kaylee Anzick is a former editorial intern for The Horn Book, Inc.

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