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Galleon (Xbox)

Published by
Developed by
Released
Official Site
Platform
Teen
ESRB Rating
Genre
Perspective
Gameplay
Setting
65
Critic Score
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.9
User Score
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Estranged (343)
Written on  :  Feb 17, 2007
Rating  :  4.17 Stars4.17 Stars4.17 Stars4.17 Stars4.17 Stars

5 out of 5 people found this review helpful

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Summary

One original adventure from the creator of Lara Croft

The Good

There are so many things in Galleon that I liked: climbing giant boss creatures in Shadow Of The Colossus style, two female companions that help you overcome the obstacles in the levels (just like in Prince of Persia: Sands of Time and ICO), weird acrobatics and environmental puzzles, and nice animation, responding to the player's actions and collisions with the world around him. In terms of originality and diversity, Galleon beats my all-time favourite POP:SOT and ICO. But let's start from the beginning...

THE STORY

The Hero - captain Rhama Sabrier, is reading a letter on the board of his ship. He is invited by the healer Areliano to figure out the origins of a mysterious ship. The ship, as it turns out later, was transporting a herb with extraordinary magical properties. The herb can save the life of many people and Areliano, being a healer person, is showing a pretty understandable interest in it and where it comes from. Meanwhile Rhama is introduced to the beautiful daughter of the honorable old man, Faith, and also gets to meet his suspicious servant, Jabez.

Unfortunately, things go terribly wrong, but I'm going to let you see for yourself why and how you have to begin your journey. I don't want to put spoilers here, because the story is intriguing and unfolds in the game itself.

THE ACROBATICS

After playing "Prince of Persia: Sands Of Time" I seriously doubted that it is possible to come up with more original movements for a character. But Galleon had me proven wrong. Rhama moves in a way which slightly reminds of the Prince, but at the same time his acrobatics are unique, specific and bound only to this game. For example you can slow down your falls or make your jumps longer by sliding vertically or horizontally across the walls after you have gained enough momentum. You can also climb any rough surface (and if you climb with a fast speed, you will almost "run" on the walls - well, you use your hands to support yourself from time to time, but it sure looks like unlimited running). Showing such a rude disobedience to the laws of gravity makes Rhama slightly similar to our Persian friend, but let me point out again that the Prince doesn't actually use any of the moves that I have mentioned above.

Besides, Rhama can also hang on and move across ceilings, he can descend (and do a lot of other moves) using hooks, hooked on stretched ropes, and he can swim on the surface of the water and dive deep inside it, until he reaches the bottom. BTW, depending on how hard you press the stick (i.e. how fast you move the character), Rhama uses quite different and unique swimming styles. You just have to see that animation!

THE ANIMATION

In order to describe why the animation is so cool I should just tell you a random incident that I had with the game in the very beginning.

Faith (my companion) jumped from a small staircase. She was going to land perfectly OK, if (by complete chance) I didn't happen to be exactly at the spot where she was aiming to land. In another game the girl would just fall on my head, pushing me in a random direction. But in this game, the main hero opened his arms and safely caught her! It's obvious that Galleon was designed by an animator!

When Rhama fights, he can throw his enemies. The other games use ragdoll physics to display such an action, while here everything is animated by hand. This actually has its good sides - while ragdoll models make the bodies look lifeless, here it's just the opposite. Imagine that you throw someone in the water from a high cliff. He actually starts sliding on the walls, resisting the fall and gives the impression of life. Of course, take into consideration that advanced simulation models like LucasArts' EUPHORIA weren't even a feasible dream at the time when Galleon was developed.

And to conclude - Galleon is a game, in which the animation was designed with the idea of IMPACT in mind. What I mean is character contact with the environment. For example you can climb / jump over a small fence no matter what angle your running character is facing (and that's another thing that the Prince is still unable to do).

FRIENDS AND FOES

Your enemies are different - robbers, pirates, slavers... In the last quarter of the game (no spoiler here, don't worry) you even make a bet with the gods (or more precisely, with people, who are pretty close to being gods) in order to save your friends.

Sometimes you get to fight against giant creatures and you have to climb these large monsters to reach their vulnerable head, for example. Humans are even more interesting! One of the fun things when you fight against humans is that they can open and close doors, they can push the levers, which activate traps, and they generally use the interactive objects from the environment just like you do. Enemies usually use something when they are near it, or they approach it to use it when it's obvious that they can harm you with it. This effect really brings them to life. Speaking of AI, they are also able to climb walls and ceilings and chase you anywhere you go.

You can expect no less from your friends! I was surprised to see that they can even swim and dive with me (and those of them who have the need, don't forget to go get some air).

Besides Faith (Areliano's daughter), you get as a companion the Chinese girl Mihoko. I don't have the space to tell you more about the personality and dramatic backstory of your two companions. I'll just name a few of their different skills.

Faith can cure anyone (including herself) and remove magic obstacles. As for Mihoko, she is an excellent fighter. And when you dive deep underwater, she can give you air (I'll leave the details to your imagination). The characters can also help each other when climbing unreachable high platforms (you can do "lady-chair" to help Faith, you can propel a friend upwards, the characters can give hands to each other, pull up each other etc.)

BTW I just recalled that you have other companions - your sailors and one very, very special monkey, but they have a very episodic role and are not so important, so let's skip back to the women again. The company of two ladies has its good sides, but at the end of the game you'll have to make a difficult choice. No, it's not just which one is going to be your girlfriend. It's much more unpleasant. But shut my mouth - or I'll get into spoilers.

ORIGINALITY

And spoilers are actually the big problem when writing this review. After the second half of the game you get to do so unusual, original and interesting things in a level, that I just wish I could tell you more about them. The problem is that they were designed with the idea to be a unique gameplay surprise... So unfortunately I cannot reveal some of the things that have impressed me most.

PUZZLES

The puzzles in Galleon are different - some of them remind of the quest genre (you use objects and you talk with people). Some of them are environmental and require smart use of your acrobatics or collaboration between the characters. But the diversity of situations (especially in the upper levels) is so big, that I cannot put them in some sort of pattern.

The levels themselves use the 3D space in a smart way. Small parts of a level are connected in a bigger structure that you have to explore and understand. The game gives a good illusion (only an illusion) for a real world around you - for example the buildings with the levels are set on different islands.

I also liked the difficulty - for a long time I haven't seen a game, that can stimulate my intellect and my passion to explore and discover things. At the same time Galleon is easy enough for new, inexperienced gamers. Not to mention that in the log-book of Rhama he writes different hints and you can look at them if you feel the need to. At the beginning the hints are very subtle, but at the end they tell you what you have to do almost step by step. I believe that in this way everyone can be happy.

The Bad

CONTROLS

Some people may not like the controls. The controls themselves are not bad - on the contrary, they give you freedom and there are some great features implemented in them. However, the game has quite an atypical control system and you won't feel at home right from the beginning. The Tutorial helps, but it could be better and it could rely on less text. Generally, you have to adapt to the fact that in most cases you control both the camera and the character at the same time. But once you do adapt (15 minutes max) you'll see the benefits of this decision. BTW a nice touch (even if not so original) is the varying speeds of the character - the harder you press the gamepad stick, the faster he goes - from walking to jogging to running to sprint.

Another controversial aspect of the controls is in combat. Battles in the game consist mainly from hand-to-hand combat and duels. You can temporarily stun your enemies, you can also throw them in different directions (your companions and some bosses can do it too). The controls are logically coherent - for example to grapple an enemy you use the same button, with which you grab and hold onto a wall.

This is all cool, but in spite of this concurrence and coherency of the combat controls they are not very intuitive and it's possible to forget how to execute some trick or combo. I have also seen too many indicators on screen for my taste, but fortunately you can turn them off. In fact, most of the indicators are useful; the indicator that I found particularly pointless (for me), was the one that shows where the "down direction", the "earth" is, while you're climbing. Since I didn't feel disorientated, I simply switched it off.

GRAPHICS

Unfortunately, the animation also isn't absolutely perfect. Indeed, it has some strong features, never-seen-before in other games, but in spite of that fact it also has some more simplified, cartoonish movements. The goal was to make the player move faster, if he wants to and that was achieved at the cost of losing some portion of convincing realism.

GALLEON'S SAD STORY

After creating Tomb Raider, Toby Gard (animator and designer) and Paul Douglas (programmer) have left Core Design. They have spent years in developing their own independent game, called Galleon. Meanwhile Eidos and Core were making money, exploiting Toby's Tomb Raider concept.

Galleon has a great scope and originality, but it's long production (6 years!) resulted in a bad payoff. Many of the ideas in Galleon are realized elsewhere - soon before or soon after Galleon's release. For example we can find climbing on giant creatures done much better in Shadow of the Colossus and the new Prince. The graphics have a comic look to them and are well animated, but the engine is morally old. And nothing with such a long production cycle can get its money back. That's how this masterpiece is hidden and sinks into oblivion.

After Confounding Factor's bankruptcy, Toby finally accepted reality and put some of his creative genius elsewhere. He returned in Tomb Raider: Legend - which is a great game. We can argue if it's better than Galleon or not, but one thing is certain - TR:L is commercially recognized.

The Bottom Line

To recap, Galleon is an action-adventure game which has impressed me with its originality and diversity. It has nice acrobatics, original puzzles and environments, excellent level design, interesting animation system, two female companions that help in puzzles and in battle, and giant boss creatures which you can climb. It also holds a lot of surprising interactions in the levels which I can't talk about or I'd go into spoilers.

If you like action-adventure games with logical collaboration between friends (ICO, Prince of Persia: SOT, Beyond Good and Evil, Another World, The Lost Vikings, Oddworld) and with environmental puzzles (Project Eden, Tomb Raider) you should definitely give Galleon a try.