Anything is Possible
The big appeal of the game is that you can do anything you want. You can do the standard “video game” thing of becoming a soldier or spy, setting up a detective agency and solving crimes, or fighting monsters from hell. Or you could also invite your friends over to your house for dinner, become a trader or a sailor, write for the local newspaper, or simply sit around your house all day and read books. And that is only a small sample of what’s possible in Fallen London.
This world plays out as a sort of text based adventure game, but with RPG elements. You’ve got stats for things like perception, intelligence, cunning, and a few other things, and like any good Bethesda game (which is to say anything before Fallout 3), you level up those stats by doing thing. You get some level of increase for failing tasks, but a huge boost if you succeed, and your chance of success or failure is percent chance based on those stats.
Beware the Microtransactions
How much you can do in any given play secession is limited by action points. You get only 20 of them per playthrough, and while they do regenerate on a timer, they take longer to regenerate the longer you play. Realistically, you can only do about 25 actions per playthrough before you have to log out for the next few hours and wait for them to come back. Worse still, many of the storylines aren’t very involved, they’re short, and never go anywhere. Here’s an example.
If you want to play some of the more involved storylines, you’re going to have to pony up and buy Fate. Fate costs anywhere from one to $50 a go, which will let you buy more action points, or let you have more points per playthrough, you can buy inventory items, and of course storylines.
So, while it may sound like there’s a lot to do in Fallen London, and there is, it’s not quite as deep as Failbetter likes to make it out as. If you want to get involved in some of the bigger storylines, be prepared to sift through a lot of unrelated filler. Whether you want to or not, you’re going to be playing as a detective in this game, trying to figure out what’s important and what’s not, and what you should and shouldn’t spend your action points on. And even when you do figure it out, don’t expect to change the world a whole lot.
If you’re interested in the Fallen London world but don’t want to deal with microtransactions, go with Sunless Sea instead. It doesn’t have quite the same level of depth as Fallen London, but the writing is just as good, and there still is a lot you can do.