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Rise of the Dragon (DOS)

100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  אולג 小奥 (168676)
Written on  :  May 14, 2004
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  3.8 Stars3.8 Stars3.8 Stars3.8 Stars3.8 Stars

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Hey, have you forgotten your key again?!..

The Good

It took me some time to really get into this game, and I understood something pretty important: the game should be played slowly. It's not a LucasArts adventure, where you can just click on things and people and interact with everything as long as you can, being rude and satisfy your curiousity. "Rise of the Dragon" is much more realistic. The choices you have in the game are truly important. You have to be tough where you have to be tough, and you have to be polite when there's no other way. Insult somebody - and you'll never get any information from him. Be tactful and smart - and the game will listen to you. I remember the hilarious dialogue between Guybrush and Elaine in LeChuck's Revenge, where Guybrush could insult Elaine as much as he wanted, and then shamelessly flatter her and she would forgive him his rudeness. This kind of approach won't work in "Rise of the Dragon". You are dealing with a real world here, and this world is not a pleasant one.

"Rise of the Dragon" is very innovative in terms of gameplay. It is one of the earliest (and rare) examples of an adventure game with an internal clock, with changes of day and night - a concept that is present in RPGs like Ultima or Quest for Glory series, but was (and is) quite uncommon to pure adventures. The treatment of branching dialogue system in the game is also very interesting. It became a standard for many adventure games since Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The trick is, in "Rise of the Dragon" those dialogues are not only an embellishment, but a true choice that will determine your progress in the game. Pick a wrong response, and you'll be thrown out or get killed. They are not there for fun and for experimenting, but as a part of challenge.

Graphically, "Rise of the Dragon" is very impressive, with beautiful, well animated backgrounds, which reflect perfectly the post-apocalyptic setting. The character portraits are done in comic-book style, are very nicely drawn and surely add a lot to the game's atmosphere.

The setting of the game is one that always works - who doesn't like dark post-apocalyptic cities with tough lonely heroes, and crime flourishing at every corner? Much like was in a certain sense an early version of Sanitarium, "Rise of the Dragon" is the father of Blade Runner - I mean, the computer game "Blade Runner". I never watched the movie "Blade Runner", and I have no idea when exactly it was produced, so maybe it was this movie that inspired "Rise of the Dragon". Anyway, the similarity and the spiritual connection between the two great games is obvious. Even the hero is called "Blade". And the game, much like "Blade Runner", breaths a dark, romantic atmosphere, presents a hero who is lost and lonely in a huge indifferent town, hostility coming from everywhere, and sinister conspiracies being everyday reality.

The gameplay in "Rise of the Dragon" is a fine example of logical adventuring. I have nothing against a good portion of tricky puzzles, but in a game like "Rise of the Dragon" I don't want to strain my poor thinking abilities more than it would be necessary for the hero himself. In other words - the puzzles in a realistic game should be realistic themselves. I don't feel like using a crowbar with glue and a toy rabbit in order to get a rabbit-on-crowbar, which is, strangely enough, the only tool you can use in order to open a crate which contains stuff you need, in a game where characters are real people and we deal with crime, poverty and corruption. "Rise of the Dragon" solves the problem just like I expected it to solve it: fortunately, most of the puzzles are integrated into the story, the gameplay is more dialogue- than puzzle-based, and the story flows swiftly, without being interrupted by silly riddles. "Rise of the Dragon" is an interactive movie more than it is a classic adventure game, although it does have a small share of difficult and confusing puzzles.

The Bad

The game is so sensitive to your choices, that it is very easy to die or to get stuck in it. One wrong conversation choice - and you have to restore a saved game. The game is not too difficult puzzle-wise, not too long, and often it is pretty obvious to you which dialogue lines you can choose and which not. This is especially pleasant if you think of some other games with similar difficulty, such as the impossible Return to Zork, where you simply couldn't experiment with anything, not because the flow of the story logically rejected experiments at that certain point, but solely because the designers of the game decided to frustrate the player and even to make him crazy. "Rise of the Dragon" is not likely to frustrate you as much, but it still makes simple things unnecessarily annoying. At a certain moment in the game I went out of the apartment and forgot to take the key. There was no way going back into the apartment any more, and I had to restore a game I saved long before.

The final part of the game is almost pure trial-and-error, and some puzzles unfortunately also fall under that category. I recall the bomb-disarming puzzle where I died so much simply because I had to try before I could be sure what I could touch and what not. Also, the platform sequence near the end of the game was too hard. It is nice the game allowed me to skip it and to go straight to the final cut scene, but all the excitement from fighting an enemy and achieving something was gone. An easier arcade sequence or at least the possibility to save within it would be more appropriate.

It's a 1st person perspective game, and it shares the common problem of the genre: the lack of movement. You feel like jumping from still picture to still picture instead of moving your character and actually being there. Luckily, the screens are well animated, you can see people moving on the streets, neon signs flashing, apartment shaking when a helicopter is flying around, and so on.

The weakest part of the game is the story. It starts nicely, promising an interesting mystery tale, but quickly goes downhill. There is almost no development in the story, the identity of the villains is obvious since the beginning, and the whole plot is one big "save the world, get the girl" cliché that is good for long epic RPGs, but not for a small adventure that ends very soon after it begins. The world of the game is not detailed enough and you don't really care for its characters. Once you get past the tricky gameplay system, figuring out what to do in what situations, you'll be left with a very short game that tells a story you've read, heard, or seen a thousand times before.

The Bottom Line

"Rise of the Dragon" has an original and innovative gameplay, that showed a path to the solution for the problem of the adventure genre. Only very few games followed it, such as its "brother" Heart of China, and its modern incarnation "Blade Runner". The dark sci-fi setting is convincing, and the atmosphere of the game is very well done. Some confusing and exaggerated gameplay aspects are not enough to distract the player, but the story of the game is not very strong. "Rise of the Dragon" is an interesting early adventure that was unfortunately never popular enough to make someone produce a similar game with a more involving plot.