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SummaryA fairly successful attempt at fusing adventure and education
The GoodThe ambience created by the game is great as it makes the user feels that they are both in the scene and studying it, feeling like a truly involving textbook (in a good way!). The use of real actors against a photo realistic backgrounds is well chosen to lend the game an authentic feel of historical reality. The Storyline is great, and actually feels like a proper narrative unfolding with subplots and depth all handily delivered by a narrator, which in itself provides a surprise twist later on in the game. The research put into the game clearly shows and it benefits from being placed in the context of the crusades with the Christian/Muslim tensions of the time. This political and religious backdrop is well explained and used to present a story that is fairly credible throughout (until the end). The integral encyclopaedia is mostly well written and thorough, allowing the player to browse through most topics. The main plus for this game is that it made me fascinated to learn more about the subject and helped me learn through the game play and the encyclopaedia. It encouraged me to change the pace of my game play to a more relaxed inquisitive style, and hooked me in.
The BadThe play style is not obvious when you start the game, it involves collecting items from the screen in order to solve a problem, which is fairly easy, however it is not clear that sometimes items must be also collected from the encyclopaedia, causing some struggle at the start of the game. Whilst undoubtedly useful the encyclopaedia does seem to be strangely laid out and sometimes difficult to navigate through. The format clearly borrows from Encarta, yet not enough care was taken when inserting hyperlinks causing confusion when trying to find the correct entry to solve a puzzle. Whilst the game has been mostly successful in translation there were some areas that were overlooked, mainly in installing a French version of QuickTime on my system against my wishes. I did have a problem with the events towards the end of the game. The next few lines contain a minor spoiler. Whilst most of the game is grounded in historical accuracy and the fictional story is believable, toward the end the game introduces supernatural elements. This grated with me as it did not fully reflect the multi-faith approach much of the game had, showing spirits appearing. I understand this was done to make not just the historical facts, but the historical beliefs come to life (as in their later Vikings game). However, it seemed 'tacked - on' to me.