The Egyptian Prophecy: The Fate of Ramses
Number three in a series beginning with Tomb of the Pharaoh and followed by The Heliopolis Prophecy, the Egyptian Prophecy provides the best gaming so far. The puzzles, the settings, the story; all are improved compared to the siblings.
You don't need to have played the other games, as the games aren't sequels in any plot sense. They are all gentle tales of middling length, with an information database built in. Unlike some such games though, the database is really only there if you are interested in delving further into the life and times of ancient Egypt. Only once did I get help from the database, and that was primarily because it sprang open without my asking.
So persons otherwise allergic to infotainment titles should embark with Maya without fear. If you do, you will get some fairly solid gaming enjoyment.
Maya is a young clairvoyant, entrusted by Ramses II to solve the afflictions and accidents that have bedevilled the construction of an obelisk to the god Amun Re. The chief architect has been struck down, and no-one else can raise the obelisk. Without it, Ramses will die and Egypt will descend into chaos.
There is nothing particularly difficult about completing Maya's quest, but it is one which offers a good variety of conundrums, including some quite original variants on some old standards. The double maze is rather good, the slider is nicely tweaked, even the music puzzle (more a rhythm puzzle) has its appeal. There are a few timed puzzles, but these are well presented and generous in time, and they can be solved well inside the time periods once the "how" of the solution is arrived at.
All of the puzzles are fun, none are hair pullingly frustrating. The pick of all of them is opening a chest with a rotating key. Quite different I thought, small and well designed. Even the snake battle at the end, a game against the computer and probably the hardest puzzle of all, kept me willingly coming back for more.
It's probably these puzzles that most lift this game above its predecessors. It reminded me of the Atlantis games in that respect, though on a lower scale of difficulty. Perhaps most like Atlantis 3.
The settings are better too than in the early games, mostly because of the vision or god sequences. These significantly expand the variety of backdrops and locations, making it a more diverse, and as such, a more interesting game world. Colour seems more abundantly and vibrantly used as well, not so much in the outdoor Egyptian settings, but certainly everywhere else.
Graphic detail is as it should be in a current release, although the characters can be a little wooden. It's not as sumptuous and rich as, say, Syberia and the like, but the look should satisfy most players. It's probably fair to say too that movement and sound is minimalist and music is sparse. What there is though, particularly the ambient sound, is rich and generally realistic (character movement to the contrary) and adds the depth to the scenes that would otherwise be lacking. The overall effect is quite satisfying.
As well as the puzzles referred to, there are quite a few tasks involving locating and using the right inventory items in the right way. On occasion, Maya will even find them for you, stopping to exclaim that something she has spotted might come in handy. These tasks, like the puzzles, are generally well integrated into the game world and the plot. They are spread throughout Maya's quest, although they tended to dominate the front end.
Maya travels to different places, but the tasks are generally self contained. You certainly won't be able to leave somewhere until you have done what is required. Traipsing all over a vast world looking for a hotspot or item does not really happen here.
More interesting than the items Maya finds are the spells she learns along the way. These can be used more than once, and are integral to many solutions, sometimes only in part. You even get to fight a spell battle, repelling and countering the magic used against you.
Short cut scenes punctuate proceedings, and these are very good. It would be nitpicking to say that Maya's hair moves yet her pendant doesn't dangle.
Maya gets to talk to other characters, although again their number is limited. The voice acting is fine, and you may well recognise some voices from other games. Conversation options will be available and there are no dead ends. It isn't a wordy game, but the dialogue is important to both progress and plot. Some also provides background and detail.
Movement is point and click, and the game is played with the mouse, although you can skip scenes and dialogue with the spacebar. Right clicking activates the inventory, which includes the spells, and from there you access all other menus. You don't combine items in the inventory, but examining your items with the magnifying glass may well reveal useful information.
Cursors and hotspots indicate actions can occur, and where you can go. You have a huge range of panning in each scene (I thought I was going to fall over backwards when I looked up) and the image scrolls and rotates by moving the cursor to the edges of the scene. You can control the speed of the rotation through the options screen, as well as choose subtitles and tweak a few other settings.
The Egyptian Prophecy comes on 3 CDs but there is no swapping once it's loaded. It loaded and played perfectly, no glitches, stutters, or hiccoughs. Game and chapter loads are short and quick. You can save as you like, and resume where you left off with one click. There is a goal journal which automatically records your objectives, and culminates in a "victory diary", a chronicle of all you have achieved.
It's about 8 to 10 hours go to whoa, by which time you will have conversed with gods, visited the underworld and the Book of the Dead, saved lives, perhaps died once or twice, lifted curses, vanquished a villain, helped raise the obelisk, and become a great magician. You will also likely have had a good time doing so.
Copyright © Steve Ramsey 2004.
All rights reserved.
Windows 98/ME/2000/XP, Pentium III 600 MHz (800 recommended) 64 MB RAM. 16x CD ROM (24x recommended) 32 MB DirectX compatible 3D video card, DirectX 7 compatible sound card.