Bower of Blood and Thorns is an interesting game that often feels like a love song written by the likes of Tolkien or Martin. The writing is whimsical with a flourish for the dramatic, most noticeable when making reference to the battles that have taken place. However, there is much more here than just a fantasy piece about a special relationship. This is a tale of everything and nothing, beginning and end, intimacy and betrayal.
Twine games are usually known for their linearity. I have played a few that have some branching paths and some that replicate the backtracking of the adventure genre but I don’t think I have ever played one that feels like a maze. Words are linked to passages without any explanation, sometimes even returning to older passages resulting in a cyclical narrative. Time does not exist in this story, and this is a great accomplishment given the medium. This focus on the events themselves, and not the order of them, give the entire story a sense of being trapped in time, like a memory. The game even opens with
“Here we are again. There’s no answer I can promise you. There’s no truth. There’s just here, now.”
asking the player to adjust their mindset, requesting they prepare themselves for this special place where time has passed before but no longer does.
The story of this game is dense, mostly told through metaphor and referential lore. Many times I found myself lost and confused, wondering if I were missing some important facts that could be uncovered if only I analyzed the work more. After playing through and seeing four of the nine endings I’m still having problems piecing everything together. There are just too many events that are alluded to but never shown. This compounded with the almost cryptic nature of the metaphors results in a work that only the most devout will understand. Which is a shame because Bower of Blood and Thorns has an obviously rich lore that I would love to uncover but which feels just out of reach. Despite this the game somehow manages to convey its tone and emotion just fine. I don’t know why the protagonist feels regret, disdain, emptiness, or joy; but somehow I know that she does. Alas, this might just be the purpose of the game. It creates a space where everything is important and nothing is important. A place so profoundly described and with such immense amount of history that it actually doesn’t have a past at all. A place that simultaneously portrays every aspect of humanity whilst exhibiting none of them. All of this creates a game where the player progresses in circles looking for meaning where there isn’t, which just might make it one of the best metaphors for life found in a game.
I did find one bug in the game. Hitting the restart button reloads the full url inside of the target frame. At first I thought this was a simple, somewhat funny glitch. However, given the recursive nature of the narrative I thought it was an oddly fitting bug that could easily be an intended feature of the restart button.
Bower of Blood and Thorns is a refreshing look at Twine games. Many follow the formula of linear storytelling and it is always nice to see someone change it all up. There is so much I enjoyed about this game but can’t help wondering if it was just a tad too profound. Despite the conclusions I made about the game I feel like I am pretty far off from the creator’s intent. Regardless, I do highly recommend the game. Not simply because it is unique and eloquently written but because it can be read in so many different ways and I’m curious as to what other people see when they play it.
Bower of Blood and Thorns
Created by: Chrysoula Tzavelas
Can Be Found at: http://chrysoula.itch.io/bower-of-blood-and-thorns