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SummaryVery clever and immensely enjoyable, a must try!
The GoodLet's start with a small confession - this is a Legend fanatic here. I played all of their games, no stretch, and adore almost each and every one of them. They are true gems in the history of adventure games, the successors to Infocom, that were slightly overshadowed by Lucas Arts and Sierra in the early 90s. At any rate, Death Gate is no exception in a legacy of great narratives implemented into even greater AGs.
Let's continue with yet another confession - I'm not an avid fan of the standard, run of the mill, dwarves/elves/dragons fantasy genre. By this I mean that I'm not very excited with such a setting, simply because in my mind it's been done way too many times. But every so often I'm pleasantly surprised when I find something, in any medium, that rises above the banal.
And Death Gate is exactly such an example.
True to its place in the category of fantasy, the game is epic. It involves events of cosmic proportion; race wars and conflicts, racial superiority, evil, clandestine guilds and societies. It also features the obligatory comic reliefs, the chance companions, the casual love story and of course - a copious amount of magic and deceit. All of this is presented in lush, colourful artwork, depicting detailed and varied locations and crisp environments. There's a myriad of characters to talk to and interact with in different ways and attitudes, all rendered in large, richly detailed portraits, all voiced expertly. You get to experience first-hand a literally sundered world, as you voyage through the different lands and realms. In each of these you will encounter various denizens and monsters, and learn more and more of your quest. Huge sources of info are also books scattered throughout the game. One thing can be said for sure - nothing is as it seems, and there are many shades of black and white here. So be prepared for lots of twists and turns.
Despite all this, the story isn't the game's strongest point. That would be the puzzles. You see, in DG you have two kinds of puzzles: One, the good old inventory puzzles. The other is puzzles which are solved utilising the magic/rune system. There's a very piquant explanation to how magic works in the game's universe, relying on the possibility that everything is possible, and so the magic-user bends reality in this fashion in order to cast magic, to put it succinctly. Spells are obtained by watching others performing them, a very straightforward and comfortable approach. This is an AG remember, so no leveling up nonsense (no offence to RPG players :P). Of course, there's actually a third kind of puzzle - the combination of the first two types.The spells have very specific definitions to them, which you must follow in order to succeed. This makes it very interesting - you run into different situations and obstacles you must solve through careful engineering of a magic strategy. There's lots of good ol' fantastical logic here, and each and every puzzle relates to a specific situations in the game. So no random sliders appearing out of thin air. Gameplay is done via a simple PNP interface, with verbs used to construct sentences with hotspots on the screen. Many of these verbs are contextual.
As a final note, DG is free of any redundant combat sessions (which plagued the otherwise wonderful Shannara) - it's pure adventure, no hybrid symptoms.
The BadAs much as I love rich dialogues and texts, the case here is a bit extreme - Death Gate is simply too verbose. Yes, it's interesting, yes it's engaging, yes it's done well - but it's too much nonetheless. If you're going to try it, expect volumes of reading material and hopelessly loquacious characters.
While the backdrops are indeed good looking, they felt a bit too static at times.
The music, while adequate and mostly fitting, is a bit repetitive at times.