User review spotlight: Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar (DOS)

Paradise Cracked (Windows)

100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  weregamer (157)
Written on  :  Mar 10, 2004
Rating  :  1.86 Stars1.86 Stars1.86 Stars1.86 Stars1.86 Stars

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A very ambitious game, but sadly just not playable

The Good

Reading the features of the game, and the developers' goals, was like a hit parade of what I like in tactical games. The first couple minutes of the game boded well, too, with an interesting if mysterious (downright enigmatic if you hadn't read the backstory) and short conversation and a sense of urgency. The artwork was interesting and evocative of the cyberpunk feeling without being over the top, albeit it needed the gamma notched up a bit on my high-contrast LCD screen.

The Bad

Sadly, the results came out pretty much unplayable.

You are *always* in turns, even when you are just trying to walk from point A to point B. This worked for XCOM because you were always in combat, but it's no accident that most games switch to a real-time mode when combat is not imminent. Alone, this would probably be an idiosyncrasy, not a game-destroying flaw. But with the big frustrations from other sources, it becomes a painful source of further frustration.

Another minor problem that gets exacerbated by its context is the poor handling of high-resolution displays. The game was laid out at 800x600. You are allowed to select higher resolutions, but the control UI does not scale up. Since the controls are already small icons - tiny enough that meanings are lost anyway - at higher resolutions they become entirely unreadable and you end up having to refer to the manual and count from the screen edge to find the one you want.

But the real game-killer is the combination of an unfamiliar world with imperfect English translations of too-brief conversational snippets. My impression is that the person doing the translations is probably fully functional using English in the real world, but utterly unsuited for the task of explaining unfamiliar concepts in the language. The result is a feeling of total confusion, as you try to puzzle out the information contained in an NPC's speech. Confusion rapidly becomes frustration, when you find yourself needing to take sides in something that might be a street mugging or a gang fight or something else - you just can't tell.

I so wanted to like this game, that after giving up in frustration after an hour or so of play, I decided to give it a second chance a few days later. Sadly, the results were the same. I reluctantly gave up.

The Bottom Line

This was *almost* a really great game. Being in turns 100% of the time isn't necessarily fatal - though it's clumsy when there's no prospect of imminent combat. Similarly, being forced to play in a resolution that looked blobby on my LCD screen or one that reduced the UI elements to pinpoints would have been only annoying if the game had drawn me in. But the combination of a fictional world that needs some explaining, with imperfect translation, just grew really frustrating.