Preview by Peiter Anderson
The adventure genre doesn’t get a lot of visitors; if it's lucky, maybe four or five games a year, and when you look at what they are up against you can understand why. LucasArts has dominated the field for years with such classics as the Monkey Island sagas, Sam & Max and the quirky dark comic genius of Grim Fandango. Arxel Tribe’s foray into the genre is with Ring 2, which is set in the world of the Nibelungen ring, inspired by Wagner and drawn by the French illustrator Philippe Druillet. When you come with those 2 big names, you are really going to have to bring out something special.
I must admit I am a big adventure game fan, and longtime lover of the LucasArts style of game and presentation. The thing that made them great and still makes them great has nothing to do with the games' graphics or effects, its purely about gameplay, plot and above all things seeing how long you can go on without being totally confused and resorting to tearing each strand of hair from your once manly locks.
As always with the preview versions we get, a lot differs from the time we preview it and the time it goes on retail, so most of the minor bugs and errors can be excused as they will almost likely have been resolved in the final build. Taking that into account I was pleased with what I saw, the surroundings are rich and complex with high detail in even the finer objects. The indoor terrain is very dark and shady which fits in with the mood that the game initially tries to set. At first I began to think that the game would be one where you would be so stumped as to a puzzle, that it would haunt you in your sleep until you awoke in a cold sweat with what you believed was the answer. However once you ventured into the more outside terrain, you get the feeling that the game has been some what dumbed down, with the items you need to collect giving a shimmering effect making it really easy to see where the next piece of the puzzle lays.
The puzzles are genuinely hard, some requiring a lot of thought as like most games in the genre the easiest and most simple answer is often not the right one. There is also an action element to the game which means you can die, and from time to time have to defend yourself from the odd inhabitants of Nibelungen. Most games new to the adventure genre have also gone down this path of mixing action and adventure and for me personally I like my adventure games purely that, I am not stating that it’s a major flaw with the game or its one of its downfalls, its just really not my cup of tea.
Character design is also very rich and well thought out, birds chirp, weird bull-like creatures make weird bull-like sounds, giving the game an overall engrossing feel. The background sound is at some points very mixed, having you wound up in tension when you have to make an important decision or action, and at some points it seems as though it's dancing around you, gently teasing you as your latest attempt in your numerous wasted hours of trying to complete this one puzzle has failed.
Ring II is an engrossing and magical foray into a world of fantasy and fiction, but that’s only when it lets you. It feels as if they have underestimated the potential buyer of the game and in some points making the game easy, but still giving the illusion that you have solved a certain puzzle with no help. It delivers a well thought out plot accompanied by an even better landscape and character design that in certain spells engrosses you with its melodic sounds of brass and wood. The game is already out in France, and is expected to be in stores in other parts of the world in Q1/2003. Stay tuned for a full-features review from us then.