Ring: The Legend of the Nibelungen

Developer:  Arxel Tribe
Publisher:  Cryo Interactive Entertainment
Year Released:  1998

Review by Gordon Aplin (November, 1998)
ring.jpgCryo games always seem to be a bit quirky and Ring is no exception. Even now, having taken a day or two to mull over the game since I finished it, I am still not sure if I fully understand the intricacies of the overall story. The problem for me lies in the futuristic framework that is the setting for the game and its integration with Teutonic legend. No time to go into details here, but the introduction barely fleshes out the background and raises more questions than it answers such as, why is the asteroid (the location where play begins) seemingly under attack? Despite my confusion with the story, however, which wasn't made any clearer by the strange ending, I still managed to appreciate this game a lot. Maybe sci-fi fans will get more satisfaction from, or be more comfortable with, the futuristic setting, but really there is much here to delight many adventurers.

Recovering the past
Indeed, it is an interesting and intriguing game where your character, named Ish, must re-live or remember elements from Wagner's epic opera, Der Ring Des Nibelungen, as history and even the Earth itself has been forgotten in this bleak future. Ish remains cocooned on the asteroid and a floating, spherical android named Dril becomes your means of seeing and moving around. Don't worry about this aspect, Dril is merely a device to shift the game to a first-person perspective at the end of the introduction. On the asteroid you can learn a little about the characters you will meet namely; Alberich, Loge, Siegmund and Brunnhilde and when you enter each of the four chapters in turn you take on the persona of the central figure of that part of the story.

You can explore each chapter in any order, though the story is more coherent if you play it in the sequence I have noted above. Also, if you are stuck in any part you can leave it and try your luck in another chapter, so in effect you could have all four chapters at various stages of completion, though you must eventually complete them all to finish the game. Each story is contained on one CD so disk swapping is kept to a minimum, unless you choose to jump from chapter to chapter. If you do take this option and leave a chapter before completing it don't fret about having to repeat any play. Fortunately, when you rejoin that part of the story you will pick up exactly where you left off.

Manipulation and puzzles
All the manipulation is carried out from a first-person perspective though third-person cut sequences accompany your every movement and there are a number of video interludes at various stages of play. That is why this game fills up six CDs. The graphics in these sequences are quite impressive but you can press 'Esc' to skip them if you have had enough or seen them before. The interface allows for 360 degree panning and vertical movement and the cursor indicates when you can move forward or interact with an item or another character.

Each of the four characters you control has a special power that resides in your inventory and you will need to remember to use these at various times and especially when you are stuck. The puzzles vary in style and difficulty and are quite absorbing and intricate at times. Most are largely inventory-based where you must collect and use items in the correct locations although some are reminiscent of Myst or Zork Nemesis and there is a sliding tile and musical puzzle for those who can't live without such things :) . In fact, Ring isn't an easy game, it will surely provide a challenge for many adventurers. I know I appreciated it.

Look and listen
The way to play is to investigate all locations carefully, fit the pieces together, and solve the problems methodically. You don't need any prior knowledge of the Ring saga to get by, in fact I had some problems in relating this rendition to my meagre understanding of Wagner's opera. Sometimes a little trial and error won't go astray, but you can die, so save often. There are clues in the dialogue (which is subtitled for the hearing impaired) and it might even help to go back and watch the introduction again if you are utterly at a loss. As for the music puzzle, well I can't give you any tips. Playing the notes on the organ proved to be the most difficult obstacle for me, but I suppose it can be forgiven in this game that features so much of Wagner's wonderful music.

Whilst on the subject of the music, which I loved and which contributed greatly to the atmosphere, I have to say that it made getting stuck on a puzzle a pure pleasure. But I would have appreciated separate music and sound effects controls so that I could have cranked up the music only and wallowed in it. I could then also have adjusted the sound effects so that the spluttering, demon-driven contraption on rails didn't completely drown out the music in one location. Shame about this, but if you are partial to Wagner and if you've got your computer hooked up with your sound system then you're in for a real treat with this one.

Ring is a remarkably entertaining adventure game which, unlike Cryo's Atlantis, doesn't feature timed sequences, I'm pleased to say. It's definitely one of the best to come out of Cryo for a long time and full credit for this must go to the developers, Arxel Tribe. It's ambitious in scope though at times let down by execution, for example, the child on the fuzzy monitor screen didn't work for me. On the other hand many of the problems and puzzles are quite intriguing and enjoyable and are largely in keeping with the particular character and chapter you are playing.

You can purchase this game on-line from Playing Games Interactive rating:  

Copyright © Gordon Aplin 1998. All rights reserved.

System requirements:
Windows95. Pentium 133 with 16MB RAM. 8-speed CD-ROM drive, DirectX-5 compatible SVGA graphics card. Mouse. Sound card and speakers or headphones highly recommended!