The Great Machine is an allegory for thousands of years of cyclical human history (lessons unlearned, doomed to be repeated) embroiled in continuous military warfare and conflict wherever there are people; the cruel teeth of its gears oiled with the blood of young idealists and its furnaces fueled with the defiled bodies of innocent non-combatants. The function of the machine is nothing beyond self-perpetuation of its own antisocial operation. For some reason warfare is a popular theme for games -- likely on account of a sanitized presentation, playing up the glamorous aspect of saving villages by destroying them. This game does not pull these punches.
The player directs the irrelevant choices of a little man caught in the crossfire, compelled by circumstances to serve a tour of duty in his nation's military service and attempt to kill other men such as himself based on orders from his supervising officers, who must have good, albeit undisclosed, reasons for issuing such instructions. The protagonist is assigned the black operation of the assassination of a charismatic cult leader, "Los", whose group's non-aligned activities are undermining the efficiency of his unit's operations in the area.
With some ambivalence, but eager to remain on the right end of the gun, the player heads out into the bleak brutality of a tormented world gone mad, its piebald absurdity underscored by ongoing nightmares and hallucinations either the result of supernatural forces or incipient shell-shock-induced dementia.
Author Jonas Kyratzes takes a departure here from the Myst-style 1st-person graphical adventure genre informing his other works of philosophical gaming activism, instead presenting the effects (and the futility) of human agency in the face of the insanity of the trenches through an all-text multiple-choice Choose-Your-Own-Adventure idiom, yielding reams of moody reading -- occasionally breaking from prose into free verse to indicate the stark effects of sudden physical (and gradual mental and emotional) trauma -- between player input opportunities.
Like Mercy before it, the gameplay here is entirely secondary to the story being told; the author is presenting a morality play about authority and how, as Mao said, all political power comes from the barrel of a gun. The player is not an author of this story, merely a player on its stage, endlessly going through the meaningless motions, between elusive sparks of genuine hope, of an existential nightmare from which one can't escape -- Orwell's "boot, stamping on a human face forever."
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