Authored and designed by Art LaFrana and released as Shareware in 1993, also known as simply The Abbey, The Abbey of Montglane is one spooky and pretty damn hard Text Adventure or Interactive Fiction.
You play a 14th century scholar sent by the Pope to recover the Ten Treasures that have been lost in a fire that has razed the Abbey.
One interesting feature of this game is being able to choose the colour of the text. Though why anyone would want to choose black on black is beyond me…
As a sort of sequel to LaFrana’s Hampton Manor, there are a few references to the earlier game and it’s a solid piece of Medieval Thriller, even though it does lack an awful lot in the Character department, having only one NPC of any relevance to the game, and some of the solutions to the problems are just bizarre.
The plot, however, is satisfying and well thought out, all flaws aside. One thing which any proper English speaker is going to struggle with (I was tearing my hair out until I read another document about the game) was the verb “PRY”.
If you’re American, you may have no issue with this. For the rest of us, it doesn’t mean “look into” or any of the other usual synonyms, but “Lever” or “Force Open”. Using the verb in the latter context does make a lot of sense, but it’s not the first thing most people would think of first. Or ever.
I don’t consider that a spoiler, as it’s an oversight on behalf of the author and library complier.
The game’s descriptions are wonderful – very good reading. You’ll have to have a good memory, too, as a lot of the more complex problems (especially towards the end of the game) require not only logic and application but also very detailed investigation of the scene set in the text. I had to track down and refer to a Walkthru in order to make progress at a few stages. Prying aside…
As with all Interactive Fiction, it’s a good idea to make a map of the areas you explore and keep a few notes for later reference.
This game breaks the usual convention for Interactive Fiction and Text Adventures in that it doesn’t have a score. The scoring system is kept by achieving Ranks. There is a document for download that elaborates upon this and also gives you a little information about the game, setting the scene. I recommend reading it before embarking on the adventure.
Using the HELP command every now and then is a good idea to remind you of the verbs you can and should be using. The game becomes basically “Guess the Verb” at some points, which is rather disappointing.
Don’t let that put you off though. This game is well written and, despite the clunky interface, is absorbing and creates a suitably tense and eerie atmosphere. Later in the game, the puzzles become more complex and are more rewarding. Though expect to die when you first meet the first, and only, NPC.
This is one of the most unique and frustrating Interactive Fiction games I’ve ever played. I still haven’t finished it. But I want to! And that is really what matters, eh?
Overall, I’d like to give this game a higher rating because of the elegant and well thought-out plot. It’s just the game’s engine, lack of NPC’s and interface that lets it down.
If you can live with these, though, I highly recommend it to any fan of Text Adventures or for anyone who enjoyed In the Name of the Rose, The DaVinci Code or anything by H P Lovecraft or Aleister Crowley.
The Imagery conjured is fantastic. The Puzzles suitably hard (perhaps a little too hard at times) and the plot, as I’ve said, is great, developing and maturing into a thriller that will keep you wanting to know more as it resolves previous hooks and sparks revelations that break open your suspicions.
And that is, in my book at least, very satisfying.
Runs fine in DosBox on any platform or simply as a Windows executable. I’ve included the Unix files just in case anyone can convert them into universal document format. I think that they are damaged, so there’s no Hint-book for this game, just the Walkthru.
I think that a remake of this game is deserved, using a better engine such as Deep Space Drifter’s TADS (Text Adventure Design System) which is found at http://www.tads.org. Definitely worth a look at, in my opinion, though this is one Hard game.
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