Nostradamus: The Last Prophecy




Genre:   Adventure

Developer:   Kheops Studios

Publisher:    ElectroGames/MC2

Released:  November 2007 (download) 

PC Requirements:   Windows 98SE/2000/XP/Vista, Intel Pentium III 800 MHZ or higher, 1.6 GB disc space, 3D material acceleration 64 MB required video card, DirectX 9 compatible sound card


Additional Screenshots






by Becky


Care for a murder mystery? Set in Renaissance France? With a strong female protagonist who uses the science of that era to pursue the murderer? Throw in a twisty plot, clever clues, and well integrated puzzles. And out of this recipe you have -- Nostradamus: The Last Prophecy.

Okay, where does Nostradamus fit in?

The year is 1566. A string of unsolved murders has followed Queen Mother Catherine de Médicis to Salon de Provence. In this small French town, Catherine is seeking advice from a friend and counselor -- the famous Nostradamus. A prophecy has surfaced that fits the pattern of the murders. It points to an all but unavoidable tragedy to befall the royal family.

Nostradamus is too ill to begin an investigation himself. But he offers Catherine the services of his son, César. The only drawback is that, unbeknownst to anyone else, César is hundreds of miles away. Nostradamus secretly plans to disguise his daughter Madeleine as César and allow Madeleine to conduct the investigation.

This element of disguise, along with the game's emphasis on character and dialog, made me feel as though I was playing an interactive historical drama.

All the World's a Stage

Stepping into Nostradamus' gameworld is akin to entering a Rembrandt painting full of soft shadows and glowing light. The settings are packed with rustic detail and artistic touches. It's clear that a great deal of historical research went into the game's development. Although this is a compelling place to discover clues and unravel the mystery, it is also a fairly restricted environment.

And All the Men and Women Merely Players

Madeleine, the protagonist, is one of the game's strongest assets. She's lovely, strong-willed, smart and determined. Putting her in male guise from time to time is vital to the plot and entertainingly shows how other characters react to her dual personae. In an ironic twist, Madeleine exhibits the self-assurance of a modern "liberated" woman, but comes very close to fulfilling an ancient female role.

Nostradamus is physically frail, almost a prisoner to his own infirmities as he moves from bed to chair on the second floor of his home. He talks much less about the future than about practical strategies to capture a possible mass murderer among the Queen's retinue. He uses his knowledge of pharmacology and astrology, as well as what he knows about the human spirit.

Members of Catherine's court and of the Church -- hangers-on looking for status, power, money and (occasionally) knowledge -- also have roles to play. Character animation is a bit stiff, but not so much that it detracts from the game. Lip synch is acceptable. Gestures are subtle and appropriate.

The Last Syllable of Recorded Time

Apart from a couple of mispronunciations, the game's English language localization is very good. Dialog is rather formal, again providing something of a theatrical tone. (Or perhaps this was common in the context of a royal court.) Madeleine's thoughts are brief and to the point. Though you interact frequently in order to advance the story, I would not consider this to be a dialog-heavy game. (You can click quickly through the dialogs using the space bar). The most "human" moments occur during Nostradamus' tender asides to his daughter and in conversation with Constance, the coquettish lady-in-waiting.

The gamer is given a small amount of historical information to flesh out the story, the clues, and the last prophecy. I wish there had been a lot more historical information. I ended up researching on my own to provide a context for what was happening in the plot. It's possible that more history is included in the game and I just haven't figured out how to unlock it. But the experience would have been considerably richer if I had found the historical information easily accessible in-game.

Music with Her Silver Sound

The voiceovers for the main characters are excellent. A couple of the minor player voices are acceptable, if not distinguished.

The music in Nostradamus has a Renaissance flair, with a modern twist. Strings are featured, accompanied by unusual background percussion and (often) a clear soprano voice. The music sets the mood well, though occasionally it's a trifle overdramatic and intrusive.

Ambient sounds are most effective at night, when you hear the roar of a hearth fire, crickets and night birds calling.

The Play's the Thing

If you've played Echo: Secrets of the Lost Cavern or The Secrets of Da Vinci: The Forbidden Manuscript -- both of which, like Nostradamus, were designed by Marianne Tostivint of TOTEM Studio -- you will be right at home here. Nostradamus has a point-and-click interface with 360 degree panning. Movement is easy and intuitive, with one exception -- at times you'll need to drag an arrow using the mouse, a particularly clumsy action. This was the only interface frustration.

The game features an extensive inventory, including a multi-functioning logbook. Inventory items can be studied up close and modified using a kit with the "latest" Renaissance tools. You can also use the tools to examine the crime scenes and to actively explore the text and illustrations within the logbook -- an elegant setup for cluing and puzzle solving. I recommend reading the manual before playing the game to understand how things work.

The logbook records the dialogs. This is helpful when reviewing conversations for clues, or for refreshing your memory after taking a break from the game. The journal portion of the logbook contains a list of tasks to be accomplished, which eliminates most of the wandering-around-wondering-what-to-do vagueness often encountered in adventure games.

Some puzzles provide ingredient lists for creating medicines, cosmetics, potions and tasty dishes. I thoroughly enjoyed preparing these concoctions in the game's Old World equivalents of a laboratory and kitchen.

Crime scene examinations are conducted in close-up view, and often require the use of the tool kit. Pixel hunting in the gameworld at large is minimal, but some pixel hunting occurs within the close-up screens. A timed challenge midway through the game can be tricky even after you've figured out what to do.

Unfortunately, Nostradamus has a glitch that, if you fall prey to it, becomes a dead end. I understand that a patch is currently in the works to correct this problem. (To avoid the glitch, don't use two different ropes for the same task at the chateau.)

At game's end you receive a point total. This encourages replaying to best your previous score.

The Way to Dusty Death

A second timed challenge occurs near the end of the game. It's a continuum of puzzles, one with concentric circles that have to be (clumsily) dragged with the mouse, and one a code interpretation puzzle. And then there's more timed inventory action once those are done. In these final moments, Madeleine feels her life ebbing away -- and unless you're quick, she dies repeatedly.

If you don't finish the whole sequence in time, the game puts you back at the beginning without having solved anything. This means a lot of repetition, though saving frequently (you can save at any point during the sequence) does ease the repetition a bit. My prediction: unless the timer for this sequence is made more generous, many people with slower reflexes will have to ask for a saved game in order to reach the end.

This sequence was my least favorite part of the game. Still, from one perspective I have no argument with it. At its crisis point, the story really does require an intense atmosphere of danger and menace. Here was risk and threat and tension, all combined into one. And when I did finally complete the challenge, the resulting cut scene was startling enough to (almost) be worth the work required to get there.

Oft Expectation Fails

My expectations for this game were particularly high, based on my experience with previous games designed by Ms. Tostivint. There were moments in ECHO: Secrets of the Lost Cavern and in The Secrets of Da Vinci when I was enchanted by the originality of the puzzles, intrigued by the clever way history intersected the game's plot, or awed by the beauty of the music. I did not have these experiences in Nostradamus, perhaps because I was anticipating them so much!

Nostradamus is well crafted and smooth. It never crashes, the localization is good, the locales are authentic, the writing is solid, the performances engaging, the puzzles blend well with the plot, and the story holds the gamer's interest throughout. Still, somewhere, somehow, something is missing.

In the end, I think what's missing has to do either with the lack of nuanced, unconventional villains -- or perhaps with Madeleine herself. Our heroine makes a wonderful Renaissance sleuth and the game expertly tests and reveals her abilities. But Madeleine's personality doesn't seem to develop in any way during the course of the adventure. Is it possible to have the power to change your world and yet not be affected by the process? I'd like to see more of Madeleine in other games, and I'd like to see how her experiences have changed her.

Quick List for Nostradamus: The Final Prophecy

A murder mystery set in Renaissance France introducing a new adventure heroine -- Madeleine, daughter of Nostradamus. I downloaded Nostradamus via the online Kheops Shop.  The game will release on disk in early 2008.

Exceptionally beautiful graphics. An absorbing plot with plenty of interaction, but without long dialogs. A surprise ending. First person point-and-click, 360 degree panning. Good voiceovers, slightly stiff character animations.

Puzzles are clever, varied and well integrated into the plot (some are astrologically themed, many involve Renaissance era tools). Inventory puzzles, code and pattern recognition puzzles, dialog based challenges. One slider-like challenge, an auditory puzzle that hearing impaired gamers can solve visually. No color based puzzles or mazes. Two particularly difficult challenges -- a long, elaborate timed sequence in which you die frequently, and a couple of pixel hunts in close-up screens. I recommend reading the manual.

Installation was smooth. No crashes. One glitch that leads to a dead end. (To avoid the glitch, don't use two different ropes for the same task at the chateau.)

Nostradamus: The Last Prophecy is aimed at gamers who would like to assume the role of a Renaissance era crime solver, and who enjoy character-driven, twisty plots. Meeting the famous Nostradamus adds intrigue to the mix.

Final Grade: B

My Computer Specs:

Windows XP Professional

Pentium 2.80 GHz

2046 MB RAM

Direct X 9.0c

512 MB NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX

SB X-Fi Audio


Section headings are quotations from the works of William Shakespeare (1564-1616).


December 2007

design copyright © 2007 GameBoomers Group

 GB Reviews Index