6 Days a Sacrifice is the fourth and final game in the Chzo Mythos, released on January 25, 2007. The game was written and designed by Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw (known for his video series Zero Punctuation and website Fully Ramblomatic). Serving as the conclusion to the time-spanning epic story first expounded in Trilby's Notes, 6 Days is way, way different from 5 Days a Stranger and 7 Days a Skeptic, despite its derivative title. It is probably the least well received of the Chzo series, frequently criticized for what some claim to be a confusing story, poor gameplay and plot integration, and forced plot devices -- but still, the game was fairly well-received by the Adventure Game Studio community and won two awards. While it might not live up to the hype for some people, few would argue that it's terrible, and I in fact think it's quite good.
Yesterday I saw the Body of the Bridgekeeper engulfed in flame, and I saw the Bridge created by one-third. Tomorrow I saw the Soul of the Bridgekeeper reduced to ash, and I saw the Bridge created by two-thirds. Today the Mind of the Bridgekeeper shall meets its destiny, and I shall see the Bridge extend between realms.
It is the year 2189 AD. 196 years ago, Trilby destroyed the Body of John Defoe in 5 Days a Stranger. 196 years from now, Somerset destroyed the Soul of John Defoe in 7 Days a Skeptic. These events were so momentous that they rippled backwards and forwards through time, intersecting on July 28, 2189: if the Mind of John Defoe were to be destroyed on this day, the Bridge would be created, allowing passage between the Realm of Technology and Realm of Magick.
A bizarre cult religion called Optimology is in the headlines in 2189. All the big celebrities are members. Janine Orzechowski, a freelance journalist for tabloid magazines, decides to investigate the Optimologists' main building, looking for a quick story. But instead of your average weirdo cult, she discovers an ominous-looking underground base that looks far more sinister than the religion's front would let on. She notifies the police immediately, but before she can escape, she's captured and locked in the cult's basement herself.
Optimology, it would turn out, is just a money-making front for the Order of Blessed Agonies, a hellish cult that believes in purification through suffering. They are the same worshipers of Chzo who sent Lenkmann after Trilby during the events of Trilby's Notes, the ones who seek to fulfill the prophecies penned by Jack Frehorn. They seek to create the Bridge.
In response to Janine's tip-off, the police send a county planning inspector. The Optimology building hasn't got the permission to build an underground base, so he's there to kick ass and fill out tedious paperwork. Instead, he arrives on July 24th to find the building abandoned, with all of the cultists other than Mr. Garriott having already evacuated in preparation for the big day.
You play as this inspector, Theodore Dacabe, someone who was just doing his job until Garriott pushed him down an elevator shaft. Now he's trapped in the underground base along with Janine, barely alive and scared witless as the situation deteriorates around him.
What could happen in the next six days?
This information is taken from the special edition's commentary mode as well as forum posts by Yahtzee. Please contact me if you spot any mistakes, as I've not had the opportunity to interview the man himself.
There isn't as much to know about 6 Days a Sacrifice's development compared to Trilby's Notes. Yahtzee already had the plot ironed out while making the previous game, so it seems like it was mostly a matter of actually putting the thing together.
Mark Lovegrove was brought in again to compose music, as his original score on Notes had been so well-received. A few of the tracks in this game utilize the same melody as Notes, only slightly modified.
In some of the tunes you will hear the distinctive "5 days a stranger" melody I talked about in the TN SE soundtrack notes. Well, in this score it's only slightly modified to now read "6 days a sacrifice"...listen carefully! -Mark Lovegrove
The Optimology front used by the Order of Blessed Agonies in this game is quite obviously a pastiche of Scientology, as Yahtzee has confirmed.
6 Days is the only game in the Chzo Mythos to have no game over screens whatsoever -- instead, any time Dacabe gets into danger, he wakes up back in his bunk as if the sequence had been a nightmare. This was done for two reasons: one was to reduce frustrations caused by the save system, since the only real penalty for dying would be if the player stupidly forgot to save often, which Yahtzee deemed outdated design; two was to further the game's theme of inevitability. No matter what you do, Dacabe's fate is impossible to avoid.
Review (no spoilers!)
Although I love 6 Days a Sacrifice, I can't deny that it's rushed. The first half of the game screws up a lot of the things that made the Chzo Mythos good. It's absolutely stuffed with expository dialogue that mostly just rehashes things you should already know from playing Trilby's Notes, and there's very little to be unsettled by (Yahtzee again uses dream sequences to get a few scares in, but they're short and sandwiched between mountains and mountains of text). The worst thing is the music, which is too loud, barely fits the situations, and seems to always abruptly start and cut off at the most jarring times. It's almost as if Yahtzee threw the music in at the last minute without even checking to see if it worked.
Lo and behold, if you watch the credits at the end of the game you'll see that Yahtzee admits to having rushed it. He writes, under a paltry list of beta testers, "There were going to be more people here but I ran out of time." Trilby's Notes had more bug-testing put into it, and as a result comes across as a more polished, complete game. I never noticed a single bug in Notes, or any of the other Chzo games in fact, but in 6 Days it's pretty hard to get through the game without encountering at least one. It's sad that such an important part of the Mythos was tainted by this example of poor planning.
Thankfully, the game does bounce back from the mediocre beginning. A little less than halfway through, it's like someone closed the shitty valve -- the game suddenly gets a million times better. The music starts being used well, the scares are there again, and the characters, who are intensely annoying at the beginning, suddenly seem to have a lot more depth.
Something about Dacabe's dry sense of humour combined with his slowly-cracking sanity makes him very relatable to me. A lot of critics claim that Dacabe is the worst Chzo character ever, but I wholeheartedly disagree -- he's not quite as memorable as Trilby, but he's leaps and bounds above the protagonist of 7 Days a Skeptic, who barely had any personality whatsoever. People like to call Dacabe a whiner because he spends a not-insignificant amount of the game complaining that people aren't giving him enough information, but that's the entire point. He's a desperate, terrified everyman in a completely alien situation. Yet through all this, he does stand up for himself and Janine quite a bit, and is a stronger person than people give him credit for. Honestly, he traipses up and down hallways for days with a shattered elbow and a hairline fracture, and goes through more adrenaline-pumping terror in 24 hours than most people would go through in their entire lives. Cut him some slack.
Caretaker: You seem very confident that you'll escape this place.
Dacabe: Of course I am.
Dacabe: Because if I wasn't, I'd go insane.
The visual design of 6 Days is a little lopsided. The animation and graphical detail is definitely a step above Trilby's Notes, but the bland, grey hallways of the Optimology base get old pretty quickly. Sometimes the game can be downright beautiful, like in the holy-crap-did-that-just-happen ending sequence, but at other times you start to feel like the designer was copy-and-pasting the same rooms over and over. It definitely improves as the game proceeds and you spend less time talking in sterile rooms. It's also a bit weird to see some of the graphics from 5 Days a Stranger that have been imported straight into this game without any kind of upgrade; they work, but only barely.
Whether or not you'll like the story is a personal thing, it seems. 6 Days a Sacrifice is by far the most confusing game in the series, and you might actually have to play it twice if you aren't paying attention. Some people object to some of the plot elements which they deem "stupid", but I don't have a problem with them -- I can't go into detail without spoiling the story, but suffice to say, you'll either love it or hate it. I loved it.
If you have played the other three games in the Chzo Mythos, play this one. It's free like all the others, it ties up the story, and there's basically no reason at all that you shouldn't play it. Despite the criticism it receives from some, virtually everybody agrees that it is at least decent. Personally, I think it's great, but you might disagree; opinion is pretty split on this one.
Download 6 Days a Sacrifice here.
Analysis: What makes this series so good?
Spoiler warning: don't read past here if you haven't play the game yet. I'm going to discuss the ending and how it ties together all the games in the Chzo Mythos.
6 Days a Sacrifice is a pretty flawed game. I think part of the reason I'm willing to look past some of its shortcomings comes from the way it ties all the other games together. To me, the way the series ties itself together is very poetic. Yeah, some of the gritty plot details are a bit silly (I'm the first to admit that Trilby clones was not the best idea), but the way it all comes together makes me want to look past them. After all, did the previous games not have their silly moments? I'm pretty sure we were all chuckling a bit when the Halloween theme started playing in 7 Days a Skeptic.
This game has one scene that I always loved: it's right at the end of the fifth day, when Malcolm is running past Trilby. We see the New Prince in the background, and for a moment they actually form a triangle in the centre of the screen. These are the three main characters of the Chzo Mythos, bound in destiny, in a triangle formation no less. The trinity of Body, Soul, and Mind -- Past, Present, and Future -- has never been represented more visually than in that scene.
I am a clone of Trilby taken by Chzo to use as his plaything. Or perhaps that's simply my arrogance speaking. Perhaps I don't want to believe that the real Trilby would let this happen to himself.
A lot of people hate this game for "emasculating" Trilby. I think it's one of my favourite things about the second half of the Chzo Mythos. The inevitability of fate is a theme that a lot of people hate, but I think it works extremely well here. All the main characters are tortured in some fashion regardless of their misdeeds. Trilby and Malcolm actually did things to deserve theirs -- a life of crime and a murder spree -- but Dacabe literally did nothing at all. He was, as far as we know, a perfectly good guy. And he became the New Prince.
Yahtzee even states in the commentary to the game that Dacabe's role in the story was not intended by the Order of Blessed Agonies. They didn't believe Frehorn's Book of the New Prince to be a true prophecy; Mr. Garriott merely tossed Dacabe down that elevator shaft out of panic, fearful that the illegal basement would be discovered and draw attention to them. Dacabe is a good guy who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Sexuality in the series always leads to disaster: whether it be Chahal shifting due to his grief over Siobhan's perceived cheating in Notes, or the sex scene in 6 Days (and let's not forget Frehorn's nickname for Simone, "Thief-Wife"). Attempts at cooperation also fail in 5, 6, and 7 Days, while attempts at isolation fail in Notes. It doesn't matter what you do, you are always doomed to fail.
To me, the Chzo Mythos is about futility, hopelessness, and the utter pointlessness of existence. Destroying Defoe's Body turned out to be a bad thing in 5 Days a Stranger. Destroying Defoe's Soul turned out to be a bad thing in 7 Days a Skeptic. You have to actively choose to kill yourself at the end of Trilby's Notes. Then once you finally realize that destroying Defoe's Mind is the last thing you should do, the entire of 6 Days forces you to do it anyway, no matter how much you try to stop it. It's supremely depressing and scares me in a way few horror series have ever managed to do.
There's definitely nothing wrong with disliking these things, of course. I can understand why one might prefer the "ghost story" vibe of the first two games over the latter two's Lovecraftian epic bent. But for me, I love the Chzo Mythos exactly as it is. It kills a little bit of my soul every time I play through it, and that's what I like about it.