Versailles 1685


Developer:   Canal+ Multimedia

Publisher:   Cryo Interactive

Released:    1996

PC Requirements:  PC 486DX2, 66mHz, 8MB RAM, 2MB on hard disk.




 by Becky

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 noticeably blurry.

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 ambition.

Final Grade :  3.5 BAAGS out of 5

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