Review: Elegy for a Dead World


Welcome to 2015 everyone; it was a quiet end to the year for me with ABSold, but with a new Chromebook in tow I can write articles all the time and forever. Be ready, this is going to be a great year.

One of the games I was looking at towards the end of last year was Elegy for a Dead World. A game I called Elegy of a Dead World at least 50 times in my notes for this review. Elegy for a Dead World, from Dejobaan Games, probably falls into the category for most unusual title from a developer. Dejobaan, the minds behind AAAAAAAAAA(etc) A reckless Disregard For Gravity, The Wonderful End of the World and Drunken Robot Pornography, have put together a quiet, thoughtful and introspective game about writing fiction.

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The game’s premise is extremely unique; in fact I wasn’t even sure how it would be incorporated until I played it. When you load up Elegy for a Dead World you’re given a choice of three worlds, each based on a famous poet from the past. These act as little more than writing prompts though, along with several others. You’re given the choice between things like “Bad poetry you wrote on the bus” and a completely blank slate. I chose the default for Shelley’s World “Proud History of a Dead World.”

The game itself sees you exploring a beautiful 2D world; it’s extremely evocative, with gorgeous art and beautiful music to inspire you to write. You see vistas and objects and are asked to write about them; you can fill in the blanks in pre-made sentences or write as much, or as little as you like. I wrote about the world and created a story for myself but, it was at this point that I began to understand what makes Elegy for a Dead World so special.

When you “complete” a world you’re given the choice to upload your story for other players to read and comment on. You can also read other people’s interpretations on the same scenes that you’ve just seen. This creates such an incredible sense of wonder and demonstrates how Elegy for a Dead World works on two levels.

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Firstly, this is a game about the very nature of stories. As your traveller explores these worlds it’s you who is giving them life. These long lost worlds are relying on your words to have their stories told, and to have their pasts reimagined. What you say, what you write, becomes the legacy that these worlds will be remembered by. It’s an interest comment on how histories are created, but perhaps this is secondary to Elegy’s main thread.

By allowing users the freedom of inspiration players have demonstrated supreme talent. Without the writing prompts, or indeed with more difficult and advanced ones, players have gone on to write poetry, free form or classic Shakespearean sonnets. Elegy for a Dead World is a blank canvas for some, and the push that many others have needed to write.

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Elegy for a Dead World will attract criticism from the usual quarters about not being much of a game. However, the more games that attract that criticism the less potent it becomes. Elegy is challenging gaming conventions, albeit quietly, and this is an unusual game that deserves some serious attention.