Passage: Path of Betrayal
Dragon Works Interactive
I couldn’t think of any better way to start off this review than with the developer, Darris Hupp’s own words (hey, I’m a contractor, not a writer)
“It all begins innocently enough, as most stories do. A young man sleeps soundly in the quaint farmhouse that is his home. He had drifted into sleep earlier that night thinking of nothing more distant than perhaps tomorrow’s chores. And yet the dreams came unhindered, the nightmare fully unleashed on his unsuspecting mind. He saw visions of terror, of death and destruction. An army had come into his land, an army of something he could vaguely see but never focus on. They were everywhere, and wherever they went, complete desolation was left to mark their passage. He saw people from his village, people he knew and talked to everyday, die screaming in agony. He saw them claw their eyes out with their own maddened hands. And he watched as the army burned his own home to the ground, his parents’ screams reaching him as if he were in the very room where they lay dying, but he could do nothing. And the sound of their cries never diminished even as the house lay smoldering in ash. It only rose in volume, and went on rising until he was sure his head would explode. And then he woke up. It took only a moment for him to realize the nightmare for what it was, and yet it didn’t fade. The aching terror remained inside him, and he could only hope, could only pray that it would remain that way. Remain as the fading nervousness of a passing dream gone terribly wrong. But it had been so real, and try as he might, he couldn’t banish the one thought that kept creeping into his subconscious. The voice that told him it wasn’t just a nightmare. That told him it was but a mere taste of a horrible future rushing headlong to greet them......”
With those words you begin your adventure. You play a 17 year old named Riff. Riff has never been out of the town of Serenity his entire life and always wished to see the rest of the world. He is about to get his wish, because he is told that his nightmare was a vision of what is going to happen at the next Passage (according to Windar, the family magic keeper). What is a passage? It is a portal into another land and it seems the one opening up onto Arcath (the prison land, which opens once every 10 years to allow prisoners to be sent there) was due to open in 2 days. And when it did, all you know what is going to break loose. It seems the Shifters have been plotting for years to invade Arkane and kill everyone they can find, including the royal family. Your mission is to warn the royals of what is about to happen and hopefully save their lives and everyone else’s.Gameplay
– point and click, 3rd person, inventory managed. The cursor highlights when you can interact with something or someone – speaking of talking – there are no voices – only reading of dialogue – some of which is rather long and slow. I would strongly recommend right clicking through most of it. At times the inventory management gave me fits and it took two or three times before I got something to combine or work properly. The puzzles are many, varied (no maze or sliders) and logical. If you pay attention, the game pretty much tells you what you need – it's just a matter of finding it. The game is played out in 6 chapters and you can’t go onto the next one until you have completed everything you need to do. There were also no dead ends.Graphics
– all hand drawn by Darris. They reminded me of the type of graphics found in King’s Quest 3. Did it bother me that Riff’s legs didn’t bend when he climbed ropes? Not in the least, because there was a story being told in this game that made you forget you weren’t looking at the latest and greatest 3D engine, slide show graphics. And I adored the music. I never got tired of hearing it – okay maybe in the mini Shifter arcade sequence because I got killed so many times
There was a different piece of music for each area – I particularly loved the musical piece at the beginning in Serenity.
Now for the only real downer – there are few bugs in the game. One will prevent you from finishing the game if you can’t work around it. I managed to get through the sequence (the game ran extremely slow at this point) and save. However, I retried the sequence and could not get around the bug – it’s an “undercount error” and comes up in Chapter 5. I also lost my ability to retrieve my last 4 saved games. I had to rename them to the first few before I could get them. There were also some players that had cursor problems and disappearing menu trees (I never did) But when you take into account this was pretty much a one man show – there are not that many. Darris has also indicated that he is working on a patch to correct them.
In conclusion - for those bemoaning the loss of the good old days when you actually played your game rather than watch it being played for you, bemoan no longer. I doubt very much you will be disappointed in this little gem. This young man has created a wonderful game and I for one congratulate him on his first effort and look forward to another one.