Pilgrim: Faith as a Weapon

Developer:  Arxel Tribe
Publisher:  Infogrames
Year Released:  1998

Review by Gordon Aplin (July, 2001)
PilgrimI had the opportunity to play this game when it was first released a few years ago. I was browsing in a local game store for an adventure game and I picked up Pilgrim. It looked vaguely interesting, but everything on the box suggested it was an action/adventure along the lines of Knight's Chase, also published by Infogrames. As this was not what I was looking for I put it back on the shelf. It just shows that you should never judge a game by its cover, as Pilgrim is in fact an adventure game - to my knowledge the first one developed by Arxel Tribe. This game is now available directly from Arxel Tribe and is a stand-alone precursor to their follow up games, The Legend of the Prophet and the Assassin and The Secrets of Alamût. All three are written in association with best-selling South American author Paulo Coelho.

Tumultuous times
The game is set in a time of great turmoil early in the Thirteenth Century (1208 to be precise) in a region of what is now southern France known as the Languedoc. Students of History and adventure game players in general will instantly recognise the rich vein to be mined from this area which has been linked to numerous 'heresies' including the Grail legend, as well as the fabled treasure of the Knights Templar. In Pilgrim, however, Arxel Tribe barely scratch the surface of this tumultuous time and place. Perhaps more depth will be revealed in the forthcoming games.

So in the year before Pope Innocent III unleashed a bloody crusade upon this region that was to last for forty years your dying father gives you, Simon, a simple task. You are to deliver a manuscript to a man named Petrus in Toulouse. Sounds easy enough, but many obstacles are placed in your path and Pope Innocent III is also keen to get his hands on the manuscript that may or may not be the lost Gospel of St John.

Considering the setting I was enthusiastic but the plot is occasionally disjointed and I didn't feel that it explained sufficiently what was going on. I never really understood whether the Pope believed the manuscript was genuine and simply wanted to recover it from the 'heretics', or whether it contained 'heresies' that might undermine the foundations of the Holy Roman Church. I suspect the latter as much of the intrigue of this region is built upon such a notion. The revelations at the end of the game did little to clear things up, but I am prepared to admit I may have missed something.

Game interface
PilgrimPilgrim is a first-person perspective game with occasional third-person cut scenes. The interface is quite novel though a little cumbersome at times. Beneath the 'action' screen are slots for inventory items, character portraits and items you have seen. The slots expand as necessary and allow you to flick backwards and forwards through them. So, for example, you may see a barrel in the gameworld and click on it. If it is important it may appear in your item slot. This doesn't mean you are now carrying the barrel, but it is an item about which you can ask another character. Similarly, people that you meet may become portraits so that you can ask about them also. Conversations are subtitled and the voice acting is at best ordinary, though I did think the voice of Simon was suitably 'timid'. There is also a semi educational component in that an 'Encyclopaedia' is available to look up certain terms and features of the period, but Pilgrim is very much a game and not 'edutainment'. Though there is one puzzle where the encyclopaedia is a very handy reference indeed.

Problem solving
The puzzles are largely in context and quite varied although many involve helping people so that they in turn will help you. There are one or two timed sequences that are mildly annoying so, as always, it is useful to save your game often. Also you can die if you are not careful, but the game is very forgiving and automatically restores you to a point just prior to where you made your mistake. Most of the puzzles are fairly straightforward, but a couple are a little hard to fathom. However, you don't need to worry about getting stuck as there is a walkthrough thoughtfully provided on the CD. As well as this there is a hint prompt which will help you out in times of need. For those of you who have an aversion to mazes, there's a whopper here ... at least Quandary's resident maze expert says it's a good one so this is good news for the maze appreciation society. J

Pilgrim's graphics are very good though the screens are largely static. The music is at times quite powerful. Navigation is fairly straightforward where you simply move from node to node. It was interesting playing this game so long after it was first released to see how far Arxel Tribe have progressed to bring us games like Ring and Faust (Seven Games of the Soul). Pilgrim is not bad for a first effort but it tends to plod along in places and doesn't reach any great heights. However, it has certainly piqued my interest in seeing how the next games in this series fare. Unfortunately, they haven't arrived in Australia yet, but I hope to get hold of them soon. rating:  

Copyright © Gordon Aplin 2001. All rights reserved.

System Requirements:
P75 Mhz (133 recommended) 8 MB RAM (16 MB recommended) 90 MB hard drive space (200 MB recommended) CD ROM, Mouse and sound card.