Atlantis III: The New World / Beyond Atlantis II
Unlike many gamers, I played the first two games in this series only recently, and back to back. I enjoyed them enormously. They were big games, spread across large and varied realms, and they were great to look at. The puzzles impressed me, being varied in difficulty and type, and many were new and interesting. Not even the final puzzle in the second game, which will forever stick in my mind as serving absolutely no purpose but to artificially extend the gameplay (something which was not necessary) and torment the player into the bargain, dampened my overall good impressions. If you want to read more about them see Atlantis: The Lost Tales and Atlantis II.
The enticement therefore of "new worlds awaiting me" in a third incarnation of Atlantis was one which I was more than willing to give in to.
If ever there was a game to play to watch cutscenes, this game is it. That is not to say that the rest of the game isn't good, rather that the quality of the many cutscenes involved is amongst the best I have seen. The characters are extraordinary in their realism (check out the hair on the female lead), the detail enormous, they are vividly coloured and they play like a fluid movie trailer. I had the occasional jitter as the game read from the CD - a full install option would have been good - but right from the introduction I was hooked, and was rewarded time and time again with another short vignette that advanced the game.
The character modelling in the rest of the game is also exceptional. I never tired of watching the faces and their expressions. If there is a game with more realistic looking computer generated characters, I haven't seen it.
Between the cutscenes are once again an assortment of puzzles and worlds, the worlds full of detail and a pleasure to look at and explore, the puzzles many and varied. Though not, it must be said, as many or as varied as the first two games, and on the whole somewhat easier. Many are simply of the "use the right implement on the right hotspot" type, but there are other more involved puzzles, which seem to be more prevalent towards the end, as well as some mini-games to play. There is one throwing puzzle that might well cause some consternation, and a wobbly tentacled maze-like location that looks much harder than it is, but as I said, the puzzles and conundrums are fairly mild.
That doesn't mean I didn't have to think, or that everything was solved on the first try. Rather, the puzzles provide a thoughtful interlude rather than a brain busting halt. The characters provide insights into some of them, and will also suggest things to try, and clues can be found to others.
I must confess that early on, the game was irritating me a bit. It seemed to be a mix of the bleeding obvious with the odd artificial pothole thrown in to make it last longer (think firing the arrow in Timelapse except if you failed you died). But as the game progressed it (and I) settled down, and by the end, my final impression was one of reasonable balance.
Throughout the game, my stuckness tended to be brought about not because I couldn't solve a puzzle, but because I hadn't found the right rock to use, or the right place to use it. Fortunately one does not spend too much time scouring every corner of the game looking for that rock. Each conundrum is generally contained in a particular location, and the things you will need are likely to be found in that place. There is therefore a limited area to search, and limited implements to find each time. There is some utilisation of implements beyond where they are found, but I was never left fearing that I would have to cover acres of ground to find the necessary stick or rock.
Indeed, on occasion the game is almost too restricted - there are places you reach where you can't go back, and going forward requires you to find one item and use it in one spot, all in a very small place. That is not always the case though, but it's certainly true that you are generally propelled in one direction.
The plot is rather thin, but I thought that was the case in the other games as well. However a better storyline would have suited this game more than the previous two, given the feel of the game and the extended use of cut scenes. I doubt many will play it hoping for War and Peace, but it flowed along in a manner suggestive of a much stronger unfolding story.
There are some tales within tales, the pick being a Scheherazade-like one of a thief in search of a black rose for his beloved. The overall story involves a female archaeologist searching for an ancient Egyptian site, who is forced to travel between dimensions in order to recover a secret.
The archaeologist deserves special mention. I swear she is the same archaeologist that was rambling around the ancient Louvre in The Messenger, and her costume changes here are almost as interesting as the black rubber suit. Her character animation is the pick of them all, her hair swishes and bounces as she moves, her accent is alluring. Her voice acting though leaves much to be desired. I doubt she could have seemed more bored if she had tried.
Atlantis 3 gives you 360 degree panning and uses a fixed cursor (the gameworld moves as you move the mouse) which indicates where you can go and what you can do. It misled me on one occasion by not indicating that you could use an item in a particular place - it may be pedantic, but if cursors are going to indicate you can do one thing or another, they should be consistent. The hotspots are fairly generous, and whilst you can die, the game will return you to just before the fatal sequence whether you have saved or not. The game will start with any CD in the machine, and will automatically resume at your last saved point. Subtitles are present by default, and can be turned off, although I found they had to be turned off each and every time I started to play. The game comes on 3 CDs, but disc swapping is extremely minimal.
The sound effects are excellent, and the quality is sharp and clean. The musical score is marvellous. Not muzak, but separate musical compositions that have a definite beginning and end. They complement many of the locations, helping to build and enhance the mood and tone. I often turn the music right down so that it is just in the background to kill the silence. In this game, I had it turned up and enjoyed many pieces in their own right.
Overall, this game is more of a cousin to the previous games than a brother or sister, but it is similar enough that if you enjoyed the others you will probably like it; but different enough to stand on its own and perhaps appeal to players who were less enamoured of the other two. It is shorter than the other two, but I thought it flowed better. The balance between complexity of puzzles and progression of the game was pretty well struck. It has its faults, but it looks great, sounds nice and on the whole rolls pleasantly along - plus there's the hair thing.
Note - according to the game boards, people have experienced trouble getting this game to run. I can only report that I installed the game without any difficulty and it ran beautifully. There was a patch available from Cryo, which the information says improves compatability with NVIDIA GeForce 2 and 3 video cards, and solves a freeze problem on faster (> 800Mhz) machines. As Cryo are now defunct Quandary has archived it here for you.
If your version of the game is Beyond Atlantis II from The Adventure Company you may want to download their XP patch instead.
Copyright © Steve Ramsey 2002.
All rights reserved.
Pentium II 333 MHz (Pentium II 450 recommended)
32 MB RAM (64 MB recommended)
8x CD ROM
DirectX compatible sound and video card