Westward Dystopia is a gamebook from Greek Winter Media. While it started being an application for the Android mobile OS, after a recent and successful crowfunding in Kickstarter, it will also see the light as a printed book and an ebook.
As the name says, Westward Dystopia leads us to a post-apocalyptic world, several hundreds of years after a mysterious event called “the Razing“, that turned the world into a radioactive wasteland. If, after reading these lines, we can think of well known franchises of the genre such as Mad Max, it is no coincidence. The author, Jeffrey Dean, has been clearly inspired by the post-apocalyptic fantasies of the eighties, with their ruins and their hordes of mutants. Nevertheless, the world developed by Jeffrey Dean has a good number of original ideas.
To begin with, we will find no car chases in the middle of the desert, or great arsenals of weapons. The Razing arrived long time ago, and most of the technology of the previous world has dissappeared. The few who still preserve and learn from that technology, artifact seekers like our protagonist, or a mysterious organization called the Guild of Technomancers, do what they can to keep those discoveries in the hands of a very few. So, for most of the population of the wasteland, any pre-Razing object is considered a kind of magic. In this sense, the world of Westward Dystopia reminds me a bit of the role playing game Numenera, with its conception of technology as magic, and the great ruins of forgotten civilizations full of traps and powerful discoveries.
And what exactly is our story about? Our main character is an artifact hunter, who has to obtain the key that will allow him to get inside the protective barrier of the ruins of an ancient city. Those who obtain that key will have access to the whole technology hidden in the city, which means to incline the balance of power greatly for whichever faction who gets it. Initially, our objective will be to hand over this power to the High Lords of the city of Benaeron, the ruling class of said city, who have promised us enough richness to live in peace for the rest of our lives.
At the same time, other groups are trying to stop us. Some mysterious mercenaries have been hired to eliminate us at the beginning of our story, and the Guild of Technomancers, an organization we were part of but we flew from once they discovered we were a Shaper – a kind of mutant with powers of energetic manipulation -, is also behind our tracks.
The story is more than 120.000 words long. It has been designed to allow great replayability. We will be able to discover many secret places and hidden aspects for the many characters we’ll find. Another nice touch where I could see the attention for detail in this gamebook is in the endings; Not only there are 6 “good” endings, some of them radically different from the others, but also every single “bad” ending has a specific written section. No matter how good or bad we make it, there will always be an ending for our story.
I think that one of the most interesting aspects of this story is in our character. A mercenary who sells his work to the powerful in order to survive, but questions the morality of what he does and, as we can often read between the lines, asks himself if it’s worth offering such a powerful technology to those who make the life of the population miserable. We see through his internal monologues how he condemns himself for having to take specific decisions, even if they are necessary for his objectives. Deep inside, he’d like to live in a fairer world, and resents the circumstances that force him to be evil.
That’s why, even though I’ve really enjoyed this story, I think I will enjoy the next ones even more. I get the feeling that Jeffery Dean is going to dig deeper in the societies of the wasteland, and all those themes – so uncommon for gamebooks – as the consequences and the morality of our actions in an unfair world, will be developed in more detail.
In short, Westward Dystopia is a great story, well written and full of details. I have yet to read another review for this gamebook, and that surprises, because I feel this story deserves more attention.
It could be that the looks of this Android app have discouraged buyers; even if the app is well tested and does what it needs to be done, the interface isn’t as “flashy” as those of other companies like Tin Man Games, with all the fancy 3D dices. Also, the drawings by David White, even if they are appropiate and grow on you the more you look at them, they are less “spectacular” or “sexy” than those of other companies. That’s why I’d like to encourage giving an opportunity to this work to those who didn’t find it attractive at first sight. With some good stories, it’s when getting immersed in them when we discover what they really have to offer, and Westward Dystopia is no exception.
And, if reading on a phone screen is not of our liking, be on the lookout for the next edition on ebook and paper!