Mask of the Plague Doctor is an interactive fiction text adventure by Peter Parrish, released under Choice of Games on the 23rd of April. You play as a doctor sent into the quarantined town of Thornback Hollow. Working with an army surgeon and an idealistic new medic, you have to work to eradicate the plague while unrest and religious conflict erupt in the town. And you’re on a time limit – if you can’t cure the disease, Baron Morlond waits outside the walls to purge the contagion by the sword.
You start by customising your character’s gender, sexuality, mask and medical speciality. Your first task is to meet Baron Morlond, where you receive your orders; curing the Waking Death, which has devastated the town below. The town is quarantined and the atmosphere is on a knife edge. Food is scarce; their wells on the verge of freezing; the populace are ragged and frightened. A corrupt mayor competes with both local guilds and a contender for her position. The only bulwark against despair is the local Sanctuary, where monks care for the sick, risking their lives to do so.
The town is based on Medieval Europe, with a tavern, tannery, logging mill and farms outside the walls. It’s set on the main route to the realm’s oceanic trade routes, making the situation more tense. The Baron is under pressure to find a solution and it’s implied that you have been invited to cure the disease as a box ticking measure. Medicine competes with religion; with the starkest example being the local abbey’s commitment to burial over cremation. The doctors know alcohol can disinfect a wound and are contemptuous of leeches, but have to negotiate local customs with sensitivity and respect.
Timing of the Release
“For a while I worried that I’d written my ruling authorities as a bit too self-interested and cruel, but reality has since convinced me otherwise.” – Parrish
Now, this is a situation where I feel quite bad for the author. Parrish has been working on this game since November 2018. Choice of Games also apologised for the timing of the game release, explaining that they scheduled its release months before the real-world pandemic escalated. Personally, I don’t mind; I’m finding apocalyptic and plague related fiction *incredibly* comforting right now, but appreciate some may find the subject matter insensitive.
In the End
“There’s that duality of purpose where they’re (plague masks) worn by those who could save your life, but their appearance in town symbolizes tragedy, decay, and death.” – Parrish
Without too many spoilers, my highlights were the character Ioco, the deft historical touches and the evocative descriptions. The side characters and missions are interesting and diverting. If you like interactive fiction, you’ll enjoy this text adventure. It’s available on the web, IOS and Steam, via Choice of Games. You can also enjoy this author interview with Peter Parrish.