I suppose most of us have read, or at least heard of the story of Arthur and Morgana ? good and evil. It has been made movies of, and even several games. In fact, this is the second time I review a game called Arthur?s Quest for Gamer?s Hell. The first time it was for a text based adventure game by Infocom, but this time around it is at least somewhat more advanced technically speaking.
The game starts with you, being the valiant Arthur, have to rescue your lovely town from the vicious dark dwarves. These little fellows, who are in fact very weak early in the game, attack in large groups, so ?obviously? the tough men in the village have to rely on a single man with a regular sword. Regardless, after having saved the village you are told to find your good friend Merlin, who would offer more guidance. On your way to him you will have to go through legions of dwarves, wolves and whatever happens to have a grudge against you. Merlin, the powerful kind wizard, happens to live in a small cave, right next to a bunch of wolves, informs you that the evil you have experienced is the working of the gruesome witch Morgana. So, killing her and rescuing the kingdom is ultimately what this game is about.
I was under the impression that a game that was powered by the Lithtech engine would almost in ever case look good. The Lithtech engine may not be the most advanced, but it has been used with success in several popular first-person shooters, but it?s obvious that in those cases the art department has also done their share of the work. First off, the environment in Arthur?s Quest is centered on forests. These past years we?ve seen a good bunch of realistic forests. The first that comes to mind is Gothic. However, years ago a popular trend when creating forest was to just slap a tree texture onto something and it would be ?a forest?. This is in most cases what has been done here. It does not look good, but the character and weapon modeling on the other hand looks better. The villains do look clumpy at times, but it looks at least as if modeling is one of the aspects that have been prioritized. What annoyed me, and those who watched me play, was how MANY of the villains looked completely identical, and the only sense of diversity was when a monster?s textures, color or size had been changed. They wouldn?t have to include a ton of different monsters, but more would definitely be appreciated.
Performance-wise Arthur?s Quest is a weird cookie. Most of the times it would run very well, which I thought was natural since the gfx-card obviously didn?t have to push as many polygons as games like Morrowind. What puzzled me was in some more open levels the performance would drop significantly. At 1024x768 the performance would drop below what I got at 1600x1200 in Morrowind; a game with significantly more beauty and complexity.
Sounds / Music:
You might remember at first when I told you about the village that was being attacked by the tiny dark dwarves. After killing all of those the first dialog with a villager started. More or less to my shock there were no voices what so ever, only text. The Gameboy Advance game Golden Sun didn?t have real voices either, choosing some more or less cute noises. Golden Sun however did it successfully, and in a way where you never really craved voices.
The music however; while not top-notch, was decent. Arthur?s Quest doesn?t offer a varied musical score, but it does have a catchy tune that helps to set the mood, which in my opinion is sorely lacking. It?s not often I press Mute on my surround receiver when playing games, but this time it was needed. You see, like the lack in character diversity the sound effects are also as boring. Killing a dark dwarf takes somewhere around 3-5 hits with a sword. Each time the dwarf makes a weird, yet annoying sound. Through the game you will meet A LOT of dark dwarves, so unless you like listening to that annoying sound you will most likely do what I did; the right thing ? pressing mute.
Arthur?s Quest, which is a first-person shooter / role-playing hybrid, is played completely like a first-person shooter. When some games like Morrowind, or even Daggerfall (Morrowind?s predecessor) had a huge array of cool weapons; Arthur?s Quest has 4, plus a couple of variations to them. When you start you will use a basic sword, and after progressing a bit you will be given a bow. After that you will get a mace, and finally the badass Excalibur.
Moving around is done the basic FPS way of W, A, S and D, plus some keys for jumping, crouching and the left mouse-button for firing. It shouldn?t take you more than a couple of minutes to have mastered the controls.
Unlike most role-playing games there is no experience gaining here, no skills and generally no depth at all. However, since you gain no experience from killing villains you can at least in the beginning run like crazy, not killing anyone, and still finish the levels. A bit farther into it you will run into villains that are armed with bows, so when you get to that point you will finally need to incorporate a bit of strategy. Even though Arthur?s Quest is a basic game in many regards it still isn?t easy. Replenishing life is done by pressing Use on a red fairy, but they are not exactly scattered everywhere, so a tip from me would be to try to look for secret areas, and to load a savegame if a monster takes more of your health than you can afford. In the second half of the game you will need whatever health you can get, so be a bit careful and you might save yourself some aggravation.
I didn?t expect a multiplayer option, and neither did it offer any.
Some games simply don?t offer anything remotely exciting and innovative. Some games are just best to avoid. Arthur?s Quest is one of those. A game that has almost no personality, no gameplay depth, no cool weapons, or even a half-assed multiplayer mode, is not a game I can recommend to anyone. Arthur?s Quest only costs $20, but for even less than that you can Daggerfall, which while being older and not as good looking, offers a lot more depth and replayability.