Descendents in Time
Sentinel is the second real time 3D adventure game from Detalion,
following Mysterious Journey 2 (which is known as Schizm 2 in
Europe). Although the user interface in Sentinel is very similar to
that of Mysterious Journey 2, the story is structured differently
and the game is entirely in first person. Even the cut scenes are
done in first person and you never actually see your character.
Sentinel takes place on Earth some 1900 years in the future. The
game starts as the camera moves along the walkways of Tomb 35 in a
long tracking shot, while your character, Beni, does a voice over
narration about his previous experience exploring the Tastan tombs.
These tombs are some 500 years old and much of Tastan culture and
technology has been forgotten during this time.
The introduction ends with a cut scene where Beni is coerced into
exploring and bringing back something of value from the dangerous
Tomb 35 by a black market trader and his henchman who are holding
Beni's sister hostage. What makes Tomb 35 so dangerous is the
Sentinel who guards the place. In the game, she is known as the
Dormeuse. She has a reputation for being clever and ruthless. No one
save the legendary Ramirez has entered Tomb 35 and returned home to
tell about it.
Beni meets the Dormeuse shortly after he enters Tomb 35. Throughout
the game he has an ongoing discussion with her. She wants something
from him, but what? If she's only a protection program, why doesn't
she simply kill him? The Dormeuse appears to Beni as a sort of
hologram, but her power doesn't end there. She recreates what appear
to Beni to be real places. He is able to walk through these worlds
and interact with them as if they were real. The Dormeuse sets up
various tests for Beni - the puzzles you must solve in the game. Her
purpose in doing so is unclear to Beni. Is the Dormeuse really the
uploaded personality of the woman for whom the tomb was built, or
merely a very clever defense program, gathering information on human
behavior? Beni isn't certain. The Dormeuse seems to want him to see
virtual representations of the worlds in which she (or at least the
person for whom the tomb was built) lived when she was alive. But
for what purpose? Why is this important to her?
Most of the puzzles in Sentinel are mechanical types. Many of them
involve recognizing and associating patterns, colors, sounds, or
symbols. Unlike Detalion's Schizm games, there are no math puzzles
involving bases other than base 10. Nor are there any conversation
puzzles. Conversations are automatic and are usually initiated by
There are seven "worlds" in Sentinel (eight if you count Tomb 35
itself). Clues to the puzzles in any world are all found in that
particular world and not spread around in the others. So it is never
necessary to search one of the other worlds for clues and return to
solve the puzzle. But there may still be a lot of running around
within a world to find clues. Some clues are located near puzzles,
but much of the time you'll have to explore around the gameworld to
find clues. Sometimes you'll have to adjust controls, then run back
to see what effect that might have had.
Since Sentinel uses a fully real time 3D interface, you can run
around almost anywhere you want and look at things from different
angles. Some of the puzzles make use of this, even require you do
this, in order to find the solution to a puzzle. The Dormeuse makes
sure that Beni examines her worlds carefully rather than just
breezing through them.
There isn't much in the way of inventory in the game. You have to
collect a few objects, but they are automatically placed in
inventory when you click them and automatically used when you click
on the appropriate place in the gameworld at the appropriate time.
You never pick up an inventory item and click it on something and
you never combine inventory to create a new item.
Sentinel actually takes place entirely in Tomb 35. But the seven
worlds the Dormeuse creates seem like entirely separate places. The
Dormeuse explains that they are only a small piece of the original
worlds - places she loved in life - and she has altered them
slightly for Beni's benefit (I assume by adding puzzles to them and
removing or altering more practical structures, like living
quarters). There are seven worlds with puzzles that may or may not
be interrelated. There are no people in the Dormeuse's worlds. Beni
has to solve her puzzles by himself.
The Sentinel installer does a complete install to the hard drive
from 2 CD's. Once installed, you can put away your CD's. You do not
need a CD in the drive to start or play the game. There are no
options for different install sizes and the total hard drive space
needed is listed as 1.6 GB.
The controls for Sentinel are very similar to those in Schizm 2. The
default layout uses the WASD keys for movement, the arrow keys for
looking around, and the mouse for nearly everything else. But this
setup is easily changed in the game options if you prefer a
different movement system, such as using the arrow keys for movement
or using the mouse for everything. Sentinel is not a point-and-click
game, but can be played entirely with the mouse.
Using the Escape key during the game will bring up the In-Game Menu
from which you can Save or Load a game, adjust the Settings, or read
a Transcript of what was said during cut scenes.
The spacebar can be used to "hop," but as in Mysterious Journey 2 (Schizm
2), you never have to use it unless you feel like it. Beni may be a
"Tomb Raider" of sorts, but he never has to jump over lava. He uses
the bridge like a normal person.
The Main Menu screen you see when you first start the game allows
you to Continue Game, start a New Game, Load Game, change Settings,
view Credits, or Quit. The game autosaves every time you exit.
Sentinel has a variety of options available through the Settings
Menu. "Game" allows you to toggle subtitles and a hint feature.
"Display" allows you to change your gamma setting, choose your level
of details (high or low), choose your resolution (640x480, 800x600,
1024x768, 1152x864, or 1600x1200), and toggle anisotropic texture
filtering on and off. "Sound" allows you to adjust the overall
volume and toggle music on and off. "Controls" allows you to change
the walk speed and mouse sensitivity and gives you the option of
inverting the mouse. You are also able to change the default
movement controls from the "Controls" menu.
If the hint feature is enabled in the "Game" options, a hint will
appear in yellow text at the top of the screen whenever you get near
a puzzle. The hint gives you a clue about how to get started on a
puzzle, and sometimes helps you identify the objects that are part
of the puzzle.
The In-Game Menu is accessed by using the Escape key during the
game. It looks very similar to the Main Menu with options to Resume
Game, Save Game, Load Game, adjust Settings, read a Transcript of
what was said during cut scenes or monologues, or go to the Main
Menu. The Settings Menu is exactly the same as in the Main Menu,
allowing a quick way to adjust controls during the game.
Sentinel is a real time 3D game. It uses a tweaked version of the
Jupiter game engine, the same engine used in Detalion's previous
game, Mysterious Journey 2 (Schizm 2).
Like most 3D games, the graphics will look better if your computer
and graphics card are capable of displaying them at maximum
There is plenty of surface detail and realistic texturing. I found
myself admiring the different types of wood surfaces used in the
Eska world. The dirtied snow in the path in Sanselard also looked
quite real. Some areas have better detail than others, so I don't
know if I can say that Sentinel's graphics have improved
significantly over those in Mysterious Journey 2. But there is
certainly a lot of interesting stuff to see. Anyone who's familiar
with Mysterious Journey 2 will see some similarities in the features
of the gameworlds in Sentinel.
There are plenty of background animations in Sentinel. Wherever
there is water, there is water movement. Objects will sway in the
breeze. Wind machines will turn. In Corabanti the volcano will
occasionally spit out chunks of lava as smoke rises from its cone.
Lava fields move and occasionally throw up sparks. Goda has sea
turtles swimming around and large sea plants undulating in the
current. In Maru you can look down and see the machinery churning
around. Don't miss seeing the Detalion Blimp in Maru, with its
propellers turning as it floats slowly around the main installation.
Glowing insects circle flowers in Tregett. Snow drifts down from the
sky in Sanselard. Every world has animations unique to it. There
were so many animations that it seemed strange to get to Argannas
and find that the large black beasts out on the prairie never moved.
Maybe it wasn't their nature, but it made me curious to get a better
look at them and find out why they were standing so still.
The animations of characters in cut scenes were done so as to be
unique to the situation. The Dormeuse did not recycle the same
movements over and over every time she spoke. During her
conversations with Beni, she assumed various postures according to
the tone of the conversation, sometimes crossing her arms or turning
her back on him, sometimes lounging on virtual furniture or playing
a few notes on a virtual piano.
There were very few characters in the game. Except for the
introductory and closing cut scenes, there is just Beni and the
Dormeuse. I thought the voice of the Dormeuse was very well done -
sometimes soft, as she "remembered" the places that meant something
to her in life - sometimes mocking or bitter or angry, demanding
Beni tell her what it is his people get out of robbing the tombs. I
didn't think the voicing used for Beni was quite as good. Sometimes
he made some comment that seemed out of place, or not spoken in a
believable manner. But usually he was OK. None of the characters
spoke with a noticeable accent so I assume American voice actors
Music and Background Sound
The music that played during the game was mostly nonintrusive.
Occasionally it was similar to the music in Schizm. It was generally
of the same type as in Schizm - something to set the mood and not
something you can hum along with. The music that played at the main
menu had more of a beat than what was used during the game. The only
time I really had a problem with music in the game was during a cut
scene in Corabanti, when the Dormeuse was fiddling with a virtual
Victrola while talking to Beni. The "music" emitted from the
Victrola tended to drown out the voices. Also it didn't seem like
something the Dormeuse would be likely to listen to considering how
she talked about meditation and being one with the spirit of the
The background sounds were very well done. In some locations, like
Eska, I liked the background sounds so much I turned off the music
so I could hear them better. One of the tweaks Detalion made to the
Jupiter game engine was done so they could customize the background
sounds and you can hear the result. As I moved around the piers of
Eska, I could hear creaks when I got close to the ammonite spirals
that were swaying in the wind. I'd start to hear the sound of the
water spurting from the fountain as I approached it, then fading out
as I moved away. All the while I'd hear the sound of the water
lapping at the piers as well as other sounds that you might hear in
such a place. The other worlds had similar sound layering, but I
noticed it most in Eska because I had the music off.
The minimum specs as listed on the game box are
Windows 98SE, ME, 2000, XP
Pentium III 1 GHz (2.0 GHz or
128 MB RAM (256 MB for XP)
1.6 GB hard drive space
64 MB DirectX compatible 3D video
card (128 MB video card recommended)
24X CD-ROM drive (or faster)
DirectX Compatible sound card and
(note that the video card must be
capable of hardware T&L, though this isn't indicated on the game
Windows XP Home SP1
Pentium 4 3200 MHz
1024 MB system RAM
ATI Radeon X800 SE 128 MB (PCI
SBLive 5.1 (OEM version from
Windows 2000 SP2
Athlon 64 3200+
1024 MB RAM
Geforce FX 5700 256 MB video card
AD1980 onboard sound identified
by Windows as SoundMax
Bugs and Potential Problems
None encountered on the Athlon. With the P4 there was an occasional
glitch where I would suddenly find myself looking straight downward.
I'm not sure if I was displaced from my location, but if I was, it
was only a couple of steps away. It wasn't a big deal to look back
up again, but was sort of disorienting when it happened. This glitch
happened at random. It didn't happen all that much, but happened
often enough that I knew there was a problem. It didn't happen while
I was playing Uru, but I haven't played enough real time 3D games on
the P4 to know if it happens with any other 3D games. I think it's
to do with the ATI X800 video card in the P4, which is a new model.
It never happened on the Athlon, which has a different video card.
Sentinel is very resource-intensive for an adventure game. Although
the minimum specs call for a 1 GHz Pentium III, I'd recommend
playing it on something much faster. Also, though the specs on the
game box only call for a 3D video card with 64 MB of video RAM, the
video card must also be capable of hardware T&L (transform and
lighting). The box for Mysterious Journey 2 listed the T&L
requirement, but for some reason the Sentinel box does not.
The story of Sentinel is based on the short story "The Ichneumon and
the Dormeuse" by Australian science fiction writer Terry Dowling.
Gameplay is nonlinear, but you will have to solve all the puzzles
was not too happy to see so many sound-based puzzles with no
alternative method to solve them. In the future, I hope Detalion
includes some provision for people who have difficulty
distinguishing sounds. For example, when something makes a sound
when you touch it, there could be subtitles that would describe the
sound. I've seen something like this in a Nancy Drew game.
I'd heard that Sentinel was going to be easier than Mysterious
Journey 2. I didn't find it easier, just different. There are at
least two puzzles in Sentinel that I found very challenging. I still
haven't figured out the first puzzle in Sanselard, not because I
can't hear the sounds but because I keep losing track of where I am,
lose patience, and end up looking up the answer in the walkthrough.
It's the only puzzle in the game that I give up on like that.
I'd recommend Sentinel to almost any adventure gamer who enjoys
first person puzzle-oriented adventures, as long as their computer
is up to the task. There is no dying in the game and you can't
accidentally walk over the edge of a precipice. So you can work on
solving the puzzles at your leisure. There are quite a few
sound-based puzzles, so those who have difficulty distinguishing
sounds will probably have to consult a walkthrough for those
Overall grade: A-
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