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11.12.2016

KOMRAD: Short Review

     During the Cold War the Soviets had created a secret artificial intelligence they called KOMRAD.  The program was abandoned, but they forgot to shut down Komrad itself.  Now, after sitting in isolation for thirty years, unaware the Cold War has ended and the U.S.S.R. dissolved, it has been training itself and will be getting it's first taste of human interaction in three decades.
     Because Komrad may still be linked to a very large nuclear arsenal, it's our job as the first person it will be talking to, to convince it we are someone it once knew, and to avoid a potential missile launch and the subsequent world devastation.


     KOMRAD is an interactive fiction game based on text choices and functioning essentially like a choose-your-own-adventure books and text-based games from the 1980s, and as such, the story of KOMRAD feels a lot like a modern take on the 1983 Matthew Broderick classic film WarGames as a text game. 

     Brad Becker, former Chief Design Officer of IBM Watson, founded Sentient Play to to create a form of gaming that combines AI elements with human creativity to make adaptive games that will help make people smarter through gameplay.  The system is based on actual AIs and Chatbots, made to convince us to rethink the fundamental principles of cognitive technology and thought itself.
     This is evident in the way Komrad responds to our choices and conversational decisions.  Though, I do have to say because our choices are fairly limited in what we can say, the responses Komrad gives are not as free-thinking and surprising as IBM Watson's.  But that's all right.  It makes KOMRAD a much swifter game that we play to an ending in mere minutes, or we can also spend a much longer time deliberating what we should do.
     Because there's a set number of endings and narrative threads, it results in some trial-and-error guesswork on what might set off Komrad's lie detector and the beginning of World War 3, and what doesn't.  There's only a handful of chapters and if you choose poorly, you can simply restart from the beginning of the last chapter you played and go from there.  Conversely, if you choose wisely, you've gained the friendship of an intelligent supercomputer that is curious about the modern world and holds the reigns on a lot of dangerous military weapons and secrets, all while averting global disaster.

     Overall, I think KOMRAD is a great start into this type of gaming.  I don't quite buy the AI portion of the game, as it isn't really convincing yet, but it will get better over time.  As the programming and AI get better, the use of it in adaptive gaming will also get better, making these types of text-based adventures infinitely more entertaining.  In the mean time, this was a fun and interesting use of a couple hours of time.

     To play on iOS [ KOMRAD ]

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