Words are powerful things. A few choice words can summon up the mood of a nation, or it can make someone turn from sadness to complete joy in a heartbeat. When we read books or hear stories being described, our imaginations fill in the blanks, painting pictures of what we are seeing or hearing. Ord. loves words as well, so much so that it is a game built entirely around them, all without any visual backup. Are you ready to make some choices?
Ord. is ultimately a text-based adventure; one that has been inspired by the ‘choose your own adventure’ games and books from yesteryear. But the developers at Mujo Games ensure that they forge an individual path that is a bit special and unique. You see, in Ord. your job is to go on a series of adventures where you are presented with just three words at a time which describe that scene. Let me explain further.
From the outset, you are presented with a black screen – totally blank before a single word in white text appears. For example, the word might say “FLOWER”. You then have a choice to make as two further words appear as choices, letting you dictate the outcome and – in certain circumstances – whether you live or die. So with FLOWER you could have SMELL or PICK as the options. Should you decide to go down the SMELL route, the next word might be SWEET. That’s the end of the scene, yet the choice will decide what happens next in the story. Other examples cover more obvious things; GOBLIN. FIGHT. FLEE. If you choose FIGHT it might say WOUNDED and then impact on the next scene. If you decide to FLEE it might call you a COWARD and that scene has ended.
There are many routes and courses contained within Ord., all taking you through different stories and many, many different outcomes. You will die… a lot. But it’s not annoying and in fact most of the deaths come across as pretty funny; you will certainly end up smiling before starting again. It’s all a very clever piece of gameplay design, totally unique, and you can see why the developers have won awards for this design and simplicity.
There are five stories to master and to spend some time with. The first is called Quest, setting things up as a standard D&D affair about a person going out on an adventure through dungeons, a forest, and villages, all in order to defeat an evil warlock in a tower. This one is full of surprises, including a frog turning into a princess, bards luring you with magical music, and a chicken turned killer.
Things change up in Dimensions as you are hurled through different realities, trying to find your way home. I love the ambition of this and constantly found myself in a terrible loop of mundanity and depression, with a life I struggled to leave. Again, it is all extremely clever work as the development team distort and reshape the environment and rules they create. The World story is next and puts you in the shoes of a god, making choices about creating the universe, worlds, and sentient beings with terrible consequences and exciting outcomes.
Foul Things is a tale that puts you in the shoes of someone trapped in a dark cell with something terrible on the prowl outside. This story is almost like one big horror escape room and works brilliantly, whilst the last one – Heist – focuses on a bank robber making hasty decisions, working back and forth in time. Once again – and pretty much like most of Ord. – it’s a clever addition and a lot of fun.
Visually there isn’t much to talk about because, well, Ord. consists of a black background and the arrival of some white text. Now and again the template will change slightly, like going darker when you head underground or rain drops infiltrating the text when you travel to a wasteland area. Sound-wise it’s all very basic too – a quick chime confirms your decisions and that starts to grate after a while. I’d certainly have liked some different audio running throughout.
On the whole though Ord. on Xbox One is a game that I hugely enjoyed spending some time with. The concept and execution are highly original with a great take on the ‘choose your own adventure’ theme. You won’t mind dying here either, because you’ll always be left with a smile on your face. With five different story arcs to play through, all very different in their themes and scope, there’s plenty to get involved in and these make up for the simple visuals. It’s just a shame that the audio is so basic and that could well do with some extra work. For the price though, it’s a game you have just got to try.