More than a standard tour,
Versailles 1685 is a total immersion in a fascinatingly luxurious time and
place. First and foremost, the entire game is a feast for the eyes -- room
after room with every surface from floor to ceiling filled with
extravagant details. You can also wander through what surely was one of
the most unusual garden mazes ever created. A later Louis had this maze
razed to the ground (after seeing what he destroyed, I think THAT Louis
actually DID deserve to lose his head).
The Adventure aspect, unfortunately doesn't quite live up to the promise
of the graphics. Versailles is a traditional click-on-every-hot-spot with
every-inventory-item game. Although it has its share of "aha!" moments
(plus a couple of interesting red herrings) the best part of the game is
the insight it gives you into the varied characters that populated the Sun
King's court -- ruthless schemers, arrogant aristocrats, loyal advisers,
haughty princesses, merchants, artists, entertainers, servants -- all in
some way or other motivated by power, privilege or greed.
So is this game really "educational"? Well, it IS easier to beat
Versailles if you relax and allow it to teach you a little French history.
And your interaction with the characters will be more meaningful if you
take time to read about each one in the game's online encyclopedia.
More entertaining, though, is the playful way the game encourages you to
gape at the lifestyles of the (historically) rich and famous. Versailles'
"take" on voyeurism perhaps explains why one suspiciously out-of-the-way
door opens to an intimate view of the Royal Latrine. Louis XIV's dinner
includes a gleeful blow-by-blow description of the meal (a highlight: the
Sun King's consumption of an entire chicken). The game gives details about
Louis' current and former lovers, while providing plenty of close-ups of
the plunging necklines popular with the fashionable women of the time. And
then there is that delicious moment when you discover that Louis XIV has
secretly married just to assuage the conscience of his favorite Priest;
meanwhile, because she is a commoner, the entire court goes on pretending
that Louis' wife is really just his mistress.
The Downsides: if you like your gaming fast and furious, you may be
frustrated by Versailles' calm, stately pace. Also, the characters you
interact with are unrealistically stiff: though this does not seem out of
place in these extremely formal surroundings. Last of all, this game,
which was published in 1996, uses a (then state-of-the-art) graphics
engine that enables 360-degree panning. As a result the graphics are often
Versailles 1685 allows you to observe court intrigues, to banter with
famous artists, converse with princes, and snicker at the folly of kings.
In the end, though, I think what makes this game so unusual is the humor
slyly lurking behind its so-very-serious facade. It's an entertaining and
wryly amusing morality play, foreshadowing the ultimate consequences and
the dangers of fabulous wealth, limitless power, and blindly destructive
Grade : 3.5
BAAGS out of 5
copyright © 2002