In their last game, Safecracker, Daydream Software challenged us to break into a series of safes to prove we were worthy of a position with a security firm. With Traitors Gate they now crank up the challenge several notches and present us with the ultimate test - to 'steal' the British Crown Jewels.
The introduction explains how a secretive Pentagon department has made plans to 'rescue' priceless world treasures in the event of war. It transpires that the head of the European section has absconded with these plans and it is certain his first target will be the British Crown Jewels. For political reasons the Pentagon Internal Affairs Department (PIAD) decide not to inform the British Government, but instead devise a plan to replace certain items in the collection with replicas containing tracking devices so that they can catch the thief. This is where you come in. Known only by your code name, Raven, your mission ... should you choose to accept it ... is to break into the Tower of London and 'borrow' three items of the Crown Jewels leaving replicas in their place. You have twelve hours to complete the task. You must not kill or permanently harm anyone. You must not leave any evidence behind and if you are killed or captured the PIAD will deny all knowledge of you or your mission. Hmm, tricky!
Fortunately, you will be aided in your task by some useful hi-tech equipment ... if only you can find it. Actually, you do start off with a multi-tool consisting of screwdrivers and wire-cutters, a key-code analyser, a packet of gum and your Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) which enables you to track your position by satellite, receive e-mail, take photos and access a database of information. Once you locate your backpack you will have lots more gadgetry which you will need to use judiciously to overcome the Tower's security systems.
Traitors Gate is a first-person perspective game with a small number of short, non-interactive cut sequences showing your character carrying out some action such as firing a crossbow or, more likely, being caught by the Tower Guards. 'Being caught' is the equivalent of dying, the untimely termination of your mission, and you will be doing it a lot so it is advisable to save your game often. Ample save game slots are provided and because of the time limit I frequently saved my game, explored and worked out what I needed to do then restored and carried out the action in the shortest time possible. Though, to be fair, I was probably being overly cautious here as I had lots of time left at the end.
The graphics are excellent and are based on thousands of photographs of the fascinating historical location. I could have happily played the part of a tourist and wandered around those buildings examining the exhibits in more detail except that time didn't permit sight-seeing. I did the next best thing and took lots of photographs. Your camera is really useful for the task at hand as every picture you take is automatically sent back to the PIAD for analysis and the description which is e-mailed back to you may contain a vital clue as well as going some way to satisfying your thirst for information.
Visually there are some nice touches in Traitors Gate, my favourite being the 'ghost' who seemed to follow me around the upper floors of The White Tower. In some locations I would pan around just in time to catch a glimpse of him in the distance, at other times it might be a glimpse through a doorway or opening overlooking another exhibit. At first I thought it might have been a security guard, but I was never able to catch up to him and I was never quick enough to take a photo. Ok, so you don't believe me, but I'm telling you I did see a ghost!
Navigation is fairly easy. Your cursor changes to an arrow to indicate which direction you can move. Each movement is accompanied by a first-person transition scene that is almost seamless and also by the sound of footsteps, which I thought a little incongruous as I was supposed to be sneaking around. These transitions can be 'skipped' by pressing the 'Alt' key and clicking to move forward. 360 degree panning and 180 degree vertical movement can be carried out by using the mouse or the keyboard arrow keys.
Your inventories and PDA take up almost half the screen and these are permanently displayed. The inventory on the right contains your gadgets and replicas and the left inventory holds items you find during the course of play.
As you might expect, given the game's premise, most of the obstacles to your progress involve opening locked doors (either with keys or access codes) overcoming security systems and finding passwords and user names for computers. Exploration of your surroundings is crucial and you will need to map the extensive sewer maze early on or you won't get anywhere. After this you are pretty much on your own and I must admit I felt a little under-prepared for the mission. At times I would gladly have swapped my PDA for a simple tourist map of the area!
The game is quite difficult to solve simply because it is so open-ended and you can spend a lot of time initially just wandering around with no clear purpose, though this does help you to familiarise yourself with your surroundings. The frustrating part is that often you have to get caught before you realise that there is a problem to overcome. This was somewhat of a contradiction given your challenge to succeed undetected. Ideally it should have been possible to evade capture and, considering the resources of the Pentagon, I would have expected more 'intelligence' data prior to the mission so that I knew which areas had security cameras or whatever. Other difficulties also intruded on my willingness to suspend disbelief. For example, crucial security items such as keys and pass cards turned up in some rather unlikely places. Also, you are not meant to leave behind evidence of your visit, nor, as the manual states, "in any other way make the British suspicious". Yet I 'incapacitated' two security guards and a British soldier and 'stole' (as adventurers do) anything I could lay my hands on. I think even the British might have noticed something was amiss.
Still, none of that seriously impinged on my enjoyment of the game. Traitors Gate is challenging and interesting to play especially for fans of hi-tech gadgetry, though perhaps it is not for the easily frustrated ... one particular timed sequence caused me much anguish. You really do need to think about what you are trying to achieve and what is preventing you from doing it. However, exploring the historic structures that make up the Tower of London is absolutely fascinating, you may even discover one or two secret passages if you keep your wits about you.
Stuck in this game? Check out Steve Anderson's comprehensive Traitors Gate walkthrough.
Copyright © Gordon Aplin 1999.
All rights reserved.
Windows 95/98, P100 (P166 recommended) 32 MB RAM (64 recommended) 100MB Hard disk space, 8x CD ROM, SVGA capable graphics adapter (65,000 colours at 640x480 pixels).
Macintosh, 100 Mhz PowerPC processor (604 strongly recommended) 32MB physical RAM (must use virtual memory), (48MB recommended) 100MB Hard disk space, 8x CD ROM, Monitor capable of thousands of colours.