A Dark Room doesn't look like much. A few words show up on your screen. You make an action. Then more words. More actions. Soon, you get to make choices. You meet a woman. She wants you to stay. You have itchy feet, and a burning ambition you never suspected -- and soon you're exploring an ASCII forest searching for something -- anything -- to figure out who and what you are.
For something so minimal, it's deeply and strangely compelling. The game itself was created by developer Michael Townsend as a Chrome Experiment, and ported to iOS by developer Amirali Rajan. It is Rajan who has built the prequel, The Ensign, which Townsend has called "a brutally difficult take on the Dusty Path segment of A Dark Room" -- the section of the game where you explore the ASCII world.
Like A Dark Room, the story is a vital part of the game, and Rajan has said very little about it so as to avoid spoilers. You start in a dusky swamp with a mysterious admiral after a battle, and the the only thing you can do is strike out to explore, once again, an ASCII world, fighting for survival as you slowly unravel your story.
"I really loved traversing the Dusty Path (more so than balancing an economy and upgrading gear). This prequel is a brutally difficult rendition of the Dusty Path that covers the events directly before A Dark Room," Rajan wrote in the app description.
"I wanted to make a strategy game that had high replay value, as opposed to a game about discovery. Best of luck to whoever attempts this game. I imagine few will succeed in completing all of it."