The Baron is a provocation, both in form and in content: in form, because it requires the player to choose not only actions but also an ethical philosophy; in content, because it asks what moral options remain for a person who recognizes himself as monstrous.
The design uses -- and takes full advantage of -- the text adventure format. Many parsed commands are followed by a multiple-choice question, asking us why we've made the choice we made. The motivation then colors the description that follows. Killing a small animal out of sadism is shown as a very different from killing it as an act of mercy.
Perhaps as a result of that form, the Baron often feels much more like a thought experiment than like a game. There are a few things that we might consider puzzles, but most of the interaction is about talking to characters and confronting moral dilemmas, where every choice has some bearing on the thematic issues at work. Besides, some of the dilemmas seem rather evidently contrived in order to get at the same theme again and again from a variety of perspectives, both in the protagonist's real life and in the metaphors of dream and fantasy.
Nonetheless, this in service of difficult and daring content. The Baron makes an interesting comparison with Molleindustria's Operation: Pedopriest. Operation: Pedopriest is all about institutional corruption, about the Church's will to cover up its unsavory secrets; my chief reaction on trying it was horrified disgust, which I am sure was intended. Operation: Pedopriest more or less ignores the humanity of the priests themselves. The Baron ignores the institutional problems and looks at the individual ones instead. It asks: have pedophiles crossed a line so that they are no longer people at all? At what point do humans become monsters? If someone discovers these inclinations in himself, what should he do? What is it possible to forgive? To redeem? What does it say about the rest of society if there are certain kinds of people we do not bother trying to reform? And at the same time, how can we help abusers while denying them any further opportunity to abuse?
The Baron is neither funny nor reassuring, and it refuses to provide a clear, game-like answer to its very difficult question. It does, however, present a novel approach to presenting ethical issues in a game format. It's not exactly fun, but it's worth playing anyway.
N.B.: The Baron was built using the Z-machine, an interactive fiction engine originally created by Infocom. To play the game, you need to install a Z-machine interpreter on your machine, and download the game file. We link to Z-machine interpreters for PC, Mac, and Linux above--you can probably find them for other devices, too.