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SummaryHow dare they tease us like this!!!?!!!
The GoodThere's so much to like in Zelenhgorm. Like the prologue of a great novel, this first chapter introduces you to the main character, his heritage and homeland. The introductory movie whets your appetite with scenes of mystical, magical places and ancient evils yet to be discovered.
Arrikk of the Dreyec is a good-looking young man of about 19 whose only living relatives are his grandmother and uncle. He seems ordinary enough - a gardener and an inventor in this small but thriving community. However, Arrikk's "disability" makes the people of his homeland taunt and fear him - he is left-handed. Because of this, he is automatically blamed for the appearance of the huge ship docked in his back yard. Folklore, superstition and the writings of the prophets about "south paws" make Arrikk the subject of gossip and ridicule. If he's not very careful, the Council of Elders could sentence him to death by drowning - the worst possible fate.
Within the game, I was impressed with the realism made possible by the actors and actresses in full motion video. Even though the graphics lack a certain clarity, the atmosphere as a whole is lovely and pleasing. You get a real feel that you are exploring a bustling farm like community with families that have lived there for centuries.
The soundtrack sounds original and is well orchestrated. However, it doesn't play continuously throughout. Rather special music plays to let you know when you've done something important. Sound effects are good too and are kept to a minimum. The portrayals of the characters by the cast are very good, although their accents are inconsistent. The tones and inflections of their voices, the content of their conversations as well as their costumes are great. The main character, Arrikk, does not sound as natural as most of the others, though, especially while asking questions.
Saving and loading games is easy and the "point and click" interface is clean and neat. The ESCape key brings up the main menu where you can watch the introduction again at any time. A right-click of your mouse opens and closes the scrollable inventory window or conversation with an NPC. It is necessary to combine things in inventory to solve some of the puzzles.
If you make mistakes during conversations, you can get thrown into "the stocks". Such punishment is an interesting interlude, but do it too often and you could die. You can also die while diving for pearls (the local currency) if you stay too long underwater.
Finally, the ending does leave you with much anticipation and makes you want to play the following episodes.
The BadThere are several aspects of the gameplay that need improvement.
You'll notice right away that panning around the 3D environment can be disconcerting. In fact, you don't even see the cursor right away. As you swing around, a virtual "hot spot" will become visible. I can imagine that the designers wanted the scenery to be unobstructed by cursors, thus adding to the realistic quality of the exploration. But, for the average game player accustomed to being shown what to look at every step of the way (especially while hunting for an illusive item), this can detract from enjoyment of the game.
Zelenhgorm: Episode One is way, way too short. In fact, in my opinion, they should have released this as the "demo", since you can literally complete it in one day (less if using a walkthrough).
This first episode ships on 3 CD-Roms, I assume because the full-motion videos take up so much space. (A good candidate for a DVD release.) Let's hope the next episodes will have a Full Installation option, lacking in this one. Depending upon how you explore, there is quite a bit of disc swapping as a result. (The Readme.txt instructions on how to copy the contents of discs 2 and 3 didn't work for me and instead caused the game to dump to my desktop.)
There are several puzzles to be solved, which aren't really difficult, but clues are very hard to find. And, because of the invisible cursor (see above), you may not even know what you're looking for no less where to find it. Looking in Arrikk's journal helps only minimally because his drawings are a bit hard to understand. Even a little bit of text would help.
I had a little problem running the game at first. On my WindowsXP system, I had to set it compatible with Windows 2000.
The Bottom LineThis series has so much potential, and this first episode is like a teaser of great things to come. Just remember that this is the first episode so don't expect a full blown game. I certainly wouldn't suggest buying it at full price since it's so short.
After you've finished it, I'll bet you'll be itching to get hold of the rest of them (like I was). I've read that in order to finish the entire "The Great Ship" chapter, you must purchase all 3 episodes since none of them are "stand alone" offerings. T'would be a mighty shame not to see the rest of the story!
P.S. After I wrote this review, I was informed by a distributor that that this series is dead. Moloto went defunct before finishing other chapters.