In memoriam, Donald Sutherland

Murder in the Abbey

aka: Emilio De Paz: The Abbey - Du sollst nicht töten!, The Abbey, The Abbey: Hříšné opatství
Moby ID: 34318
Windows Specs
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Description official descriptions

Because of a series of mysterious crimes that happened in an old abbey, the former consultant of the royal court Leonardo and his apprentice Bruno are sent in to investigate. But as soon as they arrive someone already tries to kill them and both get caught up in obscure implications about a long guarded secret. As they begin to investigate they realize that not only the old building refuses to reveal it's secrets but also that even the guardians of the monastery from the lowly watchman to the abbot himself are very reluctant to help them.

The Abbey is a classic Point & Click-Adventure with cartoonish 3D-models moving in front of 2D-backgrounds. Every action is accomplished by using the context-sensitive mouse pointer. This way the characters pick up items, interact with the backgrounds and talk with the different characters in multiple-choice dialogues. Moving through several locations including the hospital and the library, the player needs to solve many different puzzles in order to get the NPCs to help him and get closer to the revelation of the mystery that threatens the whole kingdom.

Spellings

  • The Abbey: Мистическое убийство - Russian spelling

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Credits (Windows version)

97 People (81 developers, 16 thanks) · View all

Creative Director
Development Director
Technical Director
Audiovisual & Multimedia Composition
Dialogue Writer
Additional Design
Production Lead Sets
Character Design
Based on the works of
Additional Concept Art
Character Modelling
Storyboards
Abbey Design
Backgrounds & Layouts
Modelling & 3D Animation
Model of the Abbey
  • De Espona Infográfica
Early & Additional Artworks
  • Alfonso Productions
[ full credits ]

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 69% (based on 36 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.3 out of 5 (based on 13 ratings with 1 reviews)

No usual suspects in this crime

The Good
The Spanish company Alcachofa Soft is creating adventure games for more than a decade now. The first time I took notice of them was, when I played a game called "Mortadelo y Filemón: Una Aventura de Cine", in my opinion one of the funniest comic adventures in the last couple of years. "The Abbey" is now the first time they dared to do a serious story and the result is really worth checking out.

The plot is divided into four acts and set in a medieval abbey, where a monk by the name of Anselmo has died under suspicious circumstances. As the player you assume the role of Leonardo de Toledo, a famous intellectual friar who pays the place a visit together with his young novice Bruno. After the two were nearly killed by a cloaked figure in the introduction movie, the abbot entrusts Leonardo to investigate the case of the dead brother.

Despite the unusual setting, "The Abbey" at first glance appears like a rather formulaic whodunit story, which is to some extent true. Many of the ingredients were indeed directly taken from the recipe for successful murder mysteries: the closed setting, the different suspects, the ongoing murders and last but not least the numerous clues, which lead you sometimes on right, sometimes on wrong tracks. It's not like the whole thing was made up completely from conventional elements, however. For an interesting facet just take the dramatic entry of an inquisitor, who thinks he could save the souls of men by burning their flesh. How close religious zeal and blind fanaticism adjoin could have been hardly better pictured within a video game.

By the way: if you've read Umberto Eco's novel "The Name of the Rose", you will surely notice some similarities between the book and this game. Leonardo de Toledo clearly resembles the Franciscan friar William of Baskerville, the hero of "The Name of the Rose". Just as him, Leonardo is quite a literate person, who is in many things ahead of his time – an almost modern character, who puts more trust into his strict logic than into the bible, when making decisions. And again just as William of Baskerville, Leonardo believes in a much more rational cause, when some other monks are suspecting the devil himself to have a hand in brother Anselmo's death. However, as apparent as Umberto Eco's influence is, the plot ultimately evolves into new directions, emancipating itself from the novel. In the end, it is certainly a lot more trivial than the book, but that was to be expected.

A decisive factor for the greatness of this game are its characters. It isn't just about some guy running around killing, it's a story about human people. Leonardo and Bruno, the two main characters, are simply a wonderful duo, that's far off those cheesy stereotypes we encounter in games all the time. As the developers obviously cared for the authenticity of the setting, this is a game without female roles in it, by the way. A cast that is completely made up of monks, which are neither cool nor attractive by today's standards, is already enough to qualify as a nice oddity in popular entertainment. However, what I found truly fascinating is, how these characters kept surprising me. "The Abbey" tells one of those stories, where nothing is as it appears on the surface – and this is especially true for the characters. Almost every friar keeps a more or less dark secret, that Leonardo has to uncover in the course of the game. Thus, you fall directly into a web of intrigues, that's undermining the seemingly virtuous lifestyle of the community. Once again this is a theme also present in "The Name of the Rose": a place, that is allegedly holy, but on closer inspection no less sinful than the rest of the world.

The way you get to know those characters is, not surprisingly, by talking to them. And like every good detective, you have to speak to every suspect repeatedly. Conversations regularly bring up new topics, about which other characters may know more. You will spend much time walking around from person to person, asking all kinds of questions. Fortunately the designers didn't forget to add a map, which can be used to jump directly to the next location, as long as you aren't inside a building. And the interrogations never turn into a bore, as the writing is most of the time convincing, often witty and sometimes even funny. (Actually I can't comment on the quality of the English translation. I only played the German version, which left a good impression in that regard, including competent voice actors.)

Worthy of note is further, that the time of day frequently changes during play, which is a cool idea. Probably it would have been even nicer, if it had been done in real-time like it was seen in "The Last Express". However, it still is a nice feature, even though time only moves on, once you trigger certain key events. Altogether the four acts span three days with the third act standing out for playing entirely at nighttime. Instead of interrogating suspects you spend much more time solving puzzles during this part, which often involve understanding and operating mechanisms to open secret passages. Puzzles during other parts are less frequent and mostly of the traditional kind, which means you basically have to combine various objects.

When it comes to the presentation, a lot has changed since the days of "Mortadelo y Filemón", which was decidedly old-school in that regard. "The Abbey" now combines two-dimensional backdrops with characters rendered in 3D and offers many cinematic cuts, especially during conversations. Despite its rather dark theme, the game embraces a cartoon-like style, which many critics deemed unfitting. I bring into opposition that the graphics may often be warm and colorful, but never too cute. On the contrary, the game pretty much succeeds in shifting to darker vibes in the appropriate moments. It also is refreshing to see, how the "camera" isn't just always placed at eye level, but frequently provides nice low- and high-angle shots to capture the ornate architecture of the church, the rustic furniture of the hospital or the messy writing desks in the translator's room inside the library. Every location in the game has a unique atmosphere, brought to life by a truly imaginative artistic vision. I absolutely don't agree with the people who think, a more realistic look would have improved things.

A lot of effort (and money) obviously went into the soundtrack, which was recorded with a full-blown orchestra. Apart from string, brass and woodwind sections you frequently listen to organ sounds, while more dramatic scenes usually have percussion and choirs joining in. What I really liked, however, were the more gentle and warm themes. Maybe this is because it doesn't happen so often, that you get to hear an orchestra playing something peaceful in a video game. Anyway, there are numerous cues for characters as well as locations, each and every one underlining the atmosphere perfectly. Surprisingly the music wasn't written by an external composer, but by Emilio de Paz, the creative director of this title. Be it in a game or a movie, he delivered one of the best scores I've heard in a while.

The Bad
At the start of this section: some words about bugs. The first release of the game is said to have been beyond all bearing. The version I bought, however, was already patched from the outset and worked like a charm, without a single crash or other serious problems. Occasional glitches appear, when people are walking through each other like ghosts or look into weird directions during conversations. There are also some amateurish audio effects, which can be a little annoying, but nothing of it is worth further talking. The important message is, that the problems of the initial release appear to be solved and there aren't any bugs left to prevent you from enjoying "The Abbey".

Imperfections still arise, though, and most of the time they come with a puzzle. It often is ironic, how sometimes simple solutions lend themselves to a problem, but must be ignored in favor of the more complicated ones, which the designers had in mind. No, you can't open that old wooden door with your crowbar, you have to run around and search for numerous items to knock some explosives together. By the way: that the game has no option to indicate hotspots, makes searching for items sometimes really unpleasant.

Really disappointing is the game's linearity. The multiple choices you have during dialogues are purely decorative, for instance. It doesn't matter on what sentence you click: the outcome is always the same. And that streamlined approach becomes even more apparent, when you look at the puzzles: not much room for experimenting, strict orders in which you have to fulfill task after task, all in all a very conservative design. You often have to resort to trial and error methods to figure out the next step, the designers want you to make.

Lastly, "The Abbey" also is a good example for the difficulties, designers seem to have when creating puzzles within a realistic setting. Many of the traditional object combinations feel out of place, forced into a serious narration.

The Bottom Line
Unlike some other recent adventures with similar problems in their puzzle design, I still immensely enjoyed "The Abbey". Like a good mystery story should, this game aroused my curiosity and made me eager to get some answers. If that isn't enough motivation, you can add complex and believable characters, supremely stylish visuals, wonderful music and an altogether engrossing atmosphere. About one thing I'm pretty sure now: the folks at Alcachofa Soft are definitely a talented lot, that will be worth to keep an eye on.

Windows · by micnictic (387) · 2008

Discussion

Subject By Date
Intriguing St. Martyne (3648) Jul 2, 2008

Trivia

When asked about the origins of the game, Emilio de Paz noted that the team is a big fan of La Abadía del Crimen, and that the game is closer to that old game than to Umberto Eco's book.

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Sicarius.

Macintosh added by Zeppin.

Additional contributors: Jeanne, Chentzilla, Scaryfun, Zeppin, Klaster_1, Đarks!đy ✔.

Game added May 30, 2008. Last modified June 5, 2024.