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SummaryNever let Nazis near ancient Atlantean artifacts
The GoodFate of Atlantis followed Last Crusade as the second licensed Indiana Jones game by LucasArts. While the previous title was an enjoyable, but rather timid step-by-step realization of earlier movie material, Fate of Atlantis is a much bolder game. Not constrained by rigid adherence to the plot of a specific movie, the developers were able to design a much richer and more rewarding adventure game with hardcore puzzle-solving and plenty of things to see and do.
Fate of Atlantis feels like a true adventure, in the non-genre-bound sense of the word. Everything you liked and found exciting in archaeology, ancient mysteries, undiscovered civilizations, exotic locations, dangerous caves and dungeons, and so on - everything is here, in this game. You'll fight bad guys, explore Iceland, North Africa, and the Lost City of Atlantis, decipher messages contained in Plato's works, descend into the depths of ancient ruins, and finally solve a great mystery, get the girl and save the world. Fate of Atlantis set the energetically campy, boisterous tone for many adventure games to come, with zero psychology and a kaleidoscope of locations tied by a story serving just as an excuse for puzzle-solving.
That's where the game succeeds without any hint of doubt: its gameplay system is among the strongest ones ever created by LucasArts or any other adventure game developer. The familiar inventory-based puzzles no longer have comedic value and therefore can be conceived in practical, yet certainly not obvious patterns. This means that you won't assemble giraffe-shaped remote controllers out of dog poop and superglue, but will have to figure out more or less realistic tasks that involve fiddling around with tricky mechanisms, hunting for rare items, and pretty much every inventory-oriented type of task you can think of.
My favorite aspect of Fate of Atlantis, however, is its branching gameplay. A large part of the game can be played in three various ways: puzzle-solving, cooperation (with Sophia), and action. This means not only completely different solutions to puzzles, but also different ways of approaching them in general, be it either through more intense item-manipulation, dialogue-based activity, or just plain old fistfights! That's right: if you take the action path, you can solve some problems simply by punching Nazis in the face. These fights can also be encountered in other parts of the game, and there are a few instances of multiple solutions to problems even outside of the three paths. How cool is that? They managed to squeeze some replay value out of what is probably the most unreplayable genre of all.
To top all that, there are also IQ ("Indy Quotient") points awarded to you depending on the way you advance through the game, encouraging further replays and even paying attention to subtle details such as how well you perform during the fights. Finally, the game comes with the usual LucasArts production values: crystal clear graphics, lovely soundtrack, and very good voiceovers in the CD version.
The BadLike any other type of video games, LucasArts' adventures worked because they had good gameplay. However, writing and characterization had become a trait commonly associated with adventure games even before that studio entered the scene; for quite a few years, that genre was almost synonymous with video game comedy par excellence. In that sense, Fate of Atlantis appears somewhat underwhelming. Indeed, its writing is rather unremarkable: there are a few mildly humorous responses here and there, but most of the dialogue is somewhat dry and factual, without all those funny optional branches we loved to explore in Monkey Island games. There are very few (if any) memorable characters, and the whole thing does begin to feel more like a giant playground for puzzles than a real world you can become attached to.
The game can also become tiresome due to the abundance of inventory-based tasks that lose some of their appeal towards the end. In general, I found the final section in Atlantis inferior to the exploration of real locations, if only because it was essentially a big, soulless dungeon with too many artificially placed contraptions and wearisome puzzle-solving. But perhaps that was just my short attention span.