Here are some facts & my thoughts:
The game, two years in the making, is the first by Swedish indie developers DreamCraft Entertainment.
First Impression: The game starts with a prologue which I initially abandoned after about 10 minutes – I got lost, couldn’t make any sense of what I was supposed to do & I hated the interface.
Determined not to waste my money, I tried again a few days later & persevered to be lured into an engaging story & an appreciation of the game mechanics.
The initial problem in the prologue is that it is in the nature of most AG players to explore. However if you resist & take the obvious route, instructions for game controls & clues as to what to do flash intermittently on-screen as you progress – a nice touch I thought. You can end up going the wrong way so a clearer map or a compass would have been helpful!
You have the option to skip the prologue at the beginning, you won’t lose too much to start with but playing it through at sometime later is recommended as its integral to tying up the story.
Story: Playing as Arthur, you arrive back in a small isolated Scandinavian village following notification of the sudden death of your father. News of your return & a strange object you find in the antique shop you’ve inherited, lead you on a path to discovering secrets about the village. This is achieved through collecting & examining items, visiting places, solving a variety of puzzles & talking to the various villagers who have secrets of their own.
In keeping with the prologue I found that exploration for the sake of it, especially in the outside locations contributed little, if anything at all to the progression of the game.
A map encountered early on is helpful in directing you to a handful of locations you need to find. Items/info are easy to spot in the simple interiors, & in outside locations strategically placed or somewhere in the vicinity that they’re needed in. In some cases you are unable to leave a place until you have found what you need so you don’t find yourself having to back-track.
On eliminating the need to diligently search every nook & cranny early on, I found that the game flowed along in a logical & engaging, if very linear, manner which came across as well-constructed & thought about.
There were few points where I didn’t know what to do or where to go next – navigating around a couple of outside locations proved to be more tricky, the more difficult one relying on a subtle clue, as in the prologue, as to which way to go.
Characters: The rendering of them gave you a good idea of their stature & appearance. As they’re not voiced conversations are carried out via choices in a dialogue box. There was no lip movement but I preferred this to bad syncing in a game that may cater for speech in more than one language.
For me, interaction with them was an interesting aspect of the game. I did get a sense of their personalities & traits, but although a couple of dream sequences gave a little more depth, I would like to have known more about some of them.
Dialogue: There’s one very intricate dialogue tree which could be described as a puzzle, but although conversation choices evoke different responses they don’t impact on the overall progression of the game.
For the most part the sentences are well-constructed but contain quite a few misspellings, typos & some bad translation on occasion – it didn’t spoil the game for me but does let it down.
Puzzles: These consist mainly of simple inventory manipulation & use, & several lock pick puzzles of varying difficulty – I didn’t mind them but there were too many, I thought, for players who do mind them. Others include solving 2 easy clock & keypad puzzles & participating in a ‘quiz’ where it doesn’t seem to matter what answers you give! One of the more interesting puzzles involves some cross-referencing & some thought to open a safe.
Interface: You move around by using the WASD/arrow keys on the keyboard & the mouse to look around/change direction. As a person that suffers from motion sickness this is the worst kind of interface for me & I had to take frequent breaks from playing the game. However I appreciated the full immersion I experienced in the game world & was very impressed with the smoothness of movement, although I have gleaned that it can be quite choppy on some systems.
Controls: Characters & items can be interacted with by clicking the left mouse button when cog wheels or a magnifying glass appear accompanied by a name or description. Unfortunately some of these drew attention to the worst of the English translations & inconsistencies. To give a few examples - stinging nettles were labelled as ‘burning nettles’, the front door of a house labelled ‘back door’, & cemetery labelled ‘cementery’ although it was spelt correctly at other times.
Inventory items & Main Menu are displayed on different pages of a notebook accessed by pressing I & Esc respectively. A ‘go back’ command in each case takes you to a Game Options page also accessible by pressing the Tab key, from where you can access both the Inventory Items & the Main Menu pages. The Main Menu page gives you the options to Load, Save or Return to Title Screen.
Games can be saved, stamped with the time, on one of the four over-writeable photo slots displayed on a notice board. Inventory items can be presented, examined, used or combined. I found the notebook system pleasing & well thought out.
A couple of features I found interesting included a swing which seemingly couldn’t be interacted with but moved about when I ‘knocked’ into it, & doors on two separate occasions which you had to repeatedly click on them to open – as I didn’t encounter glitches anywhere else I think the intention was to give a sense of having to nudge open doors that had become stuck. Glimpses, I think, of what the developers are capable of.
Graphics: Along with the subtleties of the story, I found them to be a strong aspect of the game, but to appreciate them fully I would recommend using the highest setting of ‘fantastic’ if your system can support it.
The Scandinavian village is beautifully realised with crisp details showing various colours & materials used for the assortment of brick, wood, stone & concrete structures. The surface of a cracked road, contrasts with the brick & crazy paved paths & items dotted around such as mail boxes, bicycles, street lamps & rotary driers in gardens give a sense of life in the absence of people around. The village is given an isolated feel through the realistic forests of pine trees surrounding it. These along with the pine trees dotted around within it, the grassy areas with different types of flowers growing & an impressive weeping willow contribute to a picturesque view.
By contrast I found the uncluttered & sparsely furnished interior locations less interesting visually although the same attention had been given to illustrating the various textures of the building surfaces & contents.
The mood of various locations is enhanced by an unobtrusive soundtrack, that I didn’t really notice most of the time, interrupted on occasion by ambient sounds such as dogs barking.
Overview: A well-constructed & thought out game, with lovely graphics & some interesting characters.
An engaging story, which ties up the elements, events & characters on conclusion.
Shoddy translation not in keeping with the thought gone into other aspects of the game.
A couple of locations where you can get lost & frustrated if you don’t stay focused – a map or compass would have been helpful
Not for players who enjoy a lot of meaningful exploration and/or a focus on challenging puzzles.
Full immersion in 3D environments, not for players who suffer from motion sickness.
A good first offering from new indie developers.
The game played smoothly & I encountered no glitches, bugs or dead ends, but the game did minimise on a few occasions throwing me to the desktop.
I really enjoyed the game & glad I was able to battle the interface. If I had to grade the game I would give it B, B+ if the English translations had been more accurate & consistent. The developers have, with the skills they possess, the potential to go on & produce A+ games.
The game is currently available as a download from the Adventure Shop & Gamers Gate where you can also see the list of system specs.
There’s also a demo which you can download from Indiedb.com.