Legacy - Dark Shadows
Release date: 11/2004
Publisher NA/UK: Tri Synergy/GMX Media
ESRB: Teen (Alcohol Reference, Blood, Mild Language, Mild Violence)
A review by slydos 29th December 2004
Legacy - Dark Shadows is the first adventure game of Croatian Razbor Studios. You can read now, how professional this Science Fiction title is actually made.
Even if already the intro informs us, that our story has to do with the events of the year 1941 during the encirclement of German troops by the Russians in Stalingrad, the rest of the game takes place in the future of the year 2138, predominantly in the populated Mars colony or somewhere in a not named North American big city.
Ren Silver is a good-looking private investigator, just arriving at the Mars holiday enclave by shuttle and high-speed railway to spend some relaxing days.Tex Murphy fans and Total Recall lovers will prick up their ears!
But just when Ren wants to curl up, has become acquainted with the local places of interest, shopping and entertainment facilities and already prebooked one of the trips to the Mars surface in demand, she gets a call from her buddy 'Hacker' to return to earth - because their friend Ted, a reporter, has disappeared. Apparently he was kidnapped together with a scientist. Whom or which Ted was probably sleuthing?
Of course Ren doesn't hesitate a second to break off her vacation. Friend Hacker, who does his name credit, has directly plugged his head 'to simplify matters' with a computer network and seems to be condemned to immobility. He already did some research and sends Ren to several locations. We find out about the machinations of a big company and accompany Ren with her investigations, which continue to lead her back to Mars and beyond.
Many things, which are talked about or shown us, as for example Hacker's delphinarium or the causes and effects of the explosion of Tschernobyl are not specified. The young Ren can still remember the explosion, so it can't be about our Tschernobyl, but there is no explanation, why an explosion in Russia also produced a 'forbidden zone' and various mutant monsters in America.
One can only guess that Ren, while en-route by taxi, is in the North American area, because she has to fly over the Atlantic for a trip to Stalingrad, with a flight progress indication á la Indiana Jones. Stalingrad again, which is located by far more near to Tschernobyl, has a dense forest and a clear sky, which cannot be found anymore in Ren's homeland. Strange!
An abrupt ending leaves the players rather frustrated, while the ridiculous Rap song in the end nearly sounds like a mockery.
Ren, who deals pragmatically and not very diffident with her environment and sometimes peppers her comments with dry humor, is the likable heroine, while the other characters - around 25, that talk to her - are seldom more than cue feed, as the Sheriff of the Mars colony with his jealous fiancee.
Warning! Who doesn't want to be spoiled about the end of the game should read on after the marked text ...
All story-relating ambiguities nevertheless leave still some space for fun with Ren's investigation of Ted's disappearance. But the end of the story disappointed me. If we ignore the motley story, finally something completely essential is missing: the rogue, whom we keep tracking the whole time! We don't see him, we cannot speak to him and also couldn't really balance our account with him. We don't learn much about him or his accomplices - e.g. the written orders to take over global power were signed by a woman, whose name we cannot find in the detailed directory of the company. In this confusion one could still suspect different people, since one never comes into contact with any responsible person. One could have omittted the framing story (intro and end) about the rogue, Stalingrad, the Japanese and Dr. Mengele, it wouldn't have actually changed anything in the remaining plot. And honestly said, I'm wiped out by stories, in which Mengele is credited for all possible superinventions and medical discoveries.
Installation and start
I could install Legacy on my computer in approx. 45 minutes from 3 CDs, so that one doesn't need any more data disks in the CD-drive. Yes, you haven't misread, it could have even been 50 minutes, and one must rein oneself in a little bit, in order not to interrupt the installation, because of a progress bar, showing no progress for half an hour.
The CDs come in a beautiful mini box, but unfortunately there was no manual supplied. This has to be be downloaded from the internet - was there no more space for the 1.6 MB on the CDs? And what do player-customers do, who don't have an internet access?
If you've done all the clicking to get through the intro logos, you finally reach the main menu. From here one can visit the option menu first to adjust the settings, e.g. switch on/off sub-titles or text descriptions. Afterwards you can start a new game and get into the black-and-white scene of a Russian trench shelter in World War II. If you've solved a small puzzle here, the intro movie starts and we observe Ren's arrival on Mars, this time in color. As soon as our heroine steps out of the train, we can take action.
Legacy - Dark Shadows is a 3rd-person-game, mainly controlled by mouse. Black bars frame the game screen top and bottom. In the upper black bar we find - always visible - the icon of Ren's PDA on the left, on the right the menu icon. In the lower black bar you can read Ren's comments or the multiple choice dialogues. We move Ren with mouse clicks on the play screen, where we notice a reduced area to move, limited to the programmed paths. On this paths Ren sometimes runs through a wall standing in her way. A short, but noticeable delay is remarkable when sending Ren on her way. She runs faster with a doubleclick, the delay however remains.
The cursor changes its color to green, if we can get more than one description from a hotspot, open a zoom view or touch a scene exit with the mouse. All hotspots are described with a text line on mouse contact, as long as this option is switched on. Simple hotspots are only briefly commentated by Ren while a click on spots that are capable of different actions, opens automatically a small context menu, where we can select one of the verbs 'Look', 'Talk' or 'Take'.
Ren's PDA can be used either by a click on the appropriate icon or simply by right-click with the mouse. Besides the scrollable inventory, Ren's PDA also contains a camera, a gadget to preserve evidence á la CSI and a useful small tool, with which one can crack electronic devices.
Inventory objects can be used with left-click at the screen and also combined with other inventory items. In contrast to the game description on the box I could not discover anything new in this inventory system. Since there is unfortunately no manual, I didn't know about the zoom-function of inventory objects/maps by L-key or mouse wheel for some time. One won't find this function by chance, since it can only be applied with special objects and only when the objects are selected and dragged outside of the inventory. Likewise not documented, by the way neither in the downloaded manual, is the exit from dialogues or film scenes with space bar.
Beyond that there is also Ren's logbook in the PDA, giving us many a helpful hints, if we shouldn't know what to do next. Back on earth Ren can be moved fast from location to location by clicks on a map.
The main menu with save and load functions can be accessed fast. The number of savegames is not limited. You can add some short text to each mini-screenshot. Unfortunately some problems ocurred after a certain time during saving. Suddenly the program accepted no more text inputs from the player and assigned strange numeral combinations to the savegames, sometimes the save-slots even remained empty. Particularly uncomfortable was loading of savegames, because the first saved were always shown on top. If someone like me has 70 to 80 saved games, then browsing through the saves becomes nerving, first of all, as one has to do it so often because of the later described game crashes.
Except for the load function and the missing documentation there are however no substantial points of criticism about controls and handling.
Both background and character graphics could still do with improvements, even if they particularly tried hard with the pretty, honey-eyed heroine Ren and give her supple and realistic movements in her skintight body suit.
Background and additional character graphics are not so well designed compared to the main character. Not only the interspersed, short video scenes are rather blurred, also in the usually very dark ingame scenes I miss sharpness, exactitude of perspective and the drop shadow promised on the box, at least to our main character. One tries to put the paper over the cracks using many dark scenes, but even Ren must expose herself to full light from time to time. If one considers however that this is the first work of an independent development studio, then one should recognize the potential, which already manifested clearly e.g. in the design of the main character.
Even if Legacy didn't reach the nearly 8 years old 'Bladerunner' by far, Razbor Studios could produce at least sometimes a good futuristic-dark atmosphere, for example with the continuous rain in front of some office buildings or here and there with a change of perspective, which shows Ren e.g. in ant size approaching some skyscrapers.
Little is new and surprising, we know Hovercraft vehicles or giant ad screens from other titles. The locations give you the feeling you've seen them before or at least something like that in Beneath A Steel Sky, Vandell or The Moment of Silence. Interesting is Ren's weightless appearance in a space suit on an asteroid, where we must watch her slow up and down swinging and no doubleclick can speed her up.
The quite large number of locations with a lot of different scenes and areas is positive (the specification of 230 does not seem overvalued to me). And if one refrains from the nerving music when leaving the game, the scenes are accompanied by unobstrusive sometimes classic, sometimes modern titles. However the package blurb "Impressive cinematic musical score" is very exaggerated. The sound effects are however limited to a minimum, e.g. walking or door noises. On Mars e.g. one has the feeling to be in a film-studio from the sterile sound of it.
Unfortunately there are no lip movements at all or gestures supporting the speech in Legacy. And there we are at the weakest point of the game: the voice-overs. I assume, that we continental Europeans are rather amused than disturbed by the fat Slavic accent of all characters, but beyond that the texts are neither professionally stressed nor correctly pronounced.
Additionally there are in the subtitles and in the game graphics still a lot of mistakes - I mean not only the English spelling and grammar mistakes but also simple slips of the pen, as e.g. the tavern is called Ropa while the actual name is Roopa, then you notice how sketchily all this was probably created. There are also text bugs in certain scenes, in which on the one hand the hotspot descriptions of another scene were used on the other hand text descriptions were simply missing at all.
Besides they couldn't settle on a date for the battle of Stalingrad on the nice game box, sometimes it says 1941, sometimes 1942. It would have been better if the developers would have looked up, that the battle of Stalingrad took place between August 1942 and February 1943. In the game it's however dated again 1941!
I encountered an interesting fact regarding the mix-up of text descriptions: if you look at partly very different scenes, you suddenly recognize that interactive areas are always at the same screen spots. Thus for example on corridors always the door bottom left can be opened and on the opposite wall in a certain height one can find in one scene a waste-paper basket in another one e.g. a bottle. This doesn't attest to best efforts, to offer the players some change!
Legacy - Dark Shadows consists of mainly inventory-/object-based puzzles, which are replenished by some very easy logic puzzles, for example a Sokoban variant. All puzzles are up to perhaps one or two exceptions very easy and should be even no problem for beginners. The puzzle structure is strictly linear, you have to proceed in clear order and also have to talk to the same persons twice or more.
By the way the game box promises an emphasis on 'non linear dialogues'. I don't know what Razbor Studios understands by that, but I assume that they are pointing at the multiple choice dialogues contrary to automatically running of conversations. I know 'non linear dialogues' from "Post Mortem", where a dialogue selection affects the further action. But that is definitely not the case with Legacy - Dark Shadows.
There are fortunately not only game-relevant hotspots, but the respective broad hints by lighting up the cursor over manipulatable objects makes Legacy as easy as a children's game. After the end of a chapter Ren's inventory, in which we keep rarely more than eight or nine items at a time, is emptied. So we don't carry around anything useless, which could confuse us. There are no action-/arcade sequences where we would need capacity of reaction, dexterity or rapidity. They passed on labyrinths or time-dependent sequences. Ren cannot die and there is also no GameOver. However one should nevertheless save often, since sudden game crashes occur very frequently. The way I see it the maximum game length is about 12 hours (without the help of a walkthrough).
I already reported some of the many bugs so far. Particularly annoying was Ren's disappearing as game character in one chapter of the game. First I assumed that they'd switched temporarily to 1st-person-view, but the steps, moving from one corner to the other and the kind of display format convinced me, that my character was simply blotted out.
Without any premonition Legacy crashed very frequently, but could be continued always after such stops. Beyond that, I had problems with saving games and missing or wrong hotspot descriptions.
To misplace Stalingrad into the year 1941 is a contentwise error. In addition many info on the package were simply wrong, for example the minimum system requirements actually was the recommended configuration.
Although no fatal error showed up, the many problems and hiccups spoiled my fun - at least occasionally.
Legacy - Dark Shadows is a nice adventure game for in between, without big challenges. Who of you is 3rd-person-adventure fan and has already played what's out and hot, should try it as well. But you shouldn't look at this first piece of workmanship from Razbor with too big expectations from the start, it plays in another league than The Moment of Silence or Sherlock Holmes.
Adventure-Archiv rating system:
- 80% - 100% excellent game, very recommendable
- 70% - 79% good game, recommendable
- 60% - 69% satisfactory, restricted recommendable
- 50% - 59% sufficient (not very recommendable)
- 40% - 49% rather deficient (not to be recommended - for hardcore-adventure-freaks and collectors only)
- 0% - 39% worst (don't put your fingers on it)
Minimal system requirements according to package blurb:
Pentium III 1 GHz 256 MB RAM 1,5 GB free disk space 64 MB graphic card
- Windows 98/ME/2000/XP
24x CDROM-driveDirectX 9
Minimal system requirements according toreadme-file:
- Windows 98/98SE/2000/XP
- Pentium II 650
- 128 MB RAM
- Mouse and keyboard
- 1024x768 SVGA high color (16-bit) DirectX compatible graphic card with 32MB RAM
- Windows compatible sound card
- 1400MB on hard disk
- Microsoft DirectX 8.1
- Windows XP
- P IV 1,6 GHz
- 512 MB RAM
- 16x DVD-ROM (Ultima Artec)
- nVidia GeForce 2MX400 64 MB graphic card
- Sound card DirectX-compatible
Click on screenshots to magnify