While I was doing research on the Broken Sword-series before starting a marathon of it, I seem to have forgotten two other noticeable classics by Revolution. One I still have on my to-do-list and is really the reason why the company sky-rocketed, but the topic of today, was the team’s first project and one I had no knowledge of. After working for some time at Artic Computing, Charles Cecil and Tony Warriner decided that they wanted to start their own video-game company and brought along with them David Sykes and Noirin Carmody. Together, they formed Revolution Software thanks to a ten thousand pound loan from Ceci’s mother. What a nice woman!
The initial idea of their first project, was to make it differ from Sierra’s projects. Cecil stated: “While I enjoyed Sierra games, I felt that there had to be more than yet again saving King Graham of Daventry from a – let’s be frank – fairly unlikely series of events. It was all a little bit twee. So we came up with the idea of writing an adventure game that did not take itself too seriously, but did have a serious story – something in-between Lucasarts and Sierra”. I am a big fan of Revolution’s Broken Sword 1 and 2, and have fond memories of playing (but never beating) Beneath a Steel Sky, so I am excited to play through their first project.
“Greetings stranger! What is your name?”
Peace was at the kingdom once again, but while the king and his merry men were out for a hunting-party, they received a note from a messenger from Turnvale asking for help against the rebellion. As they rode to the town, they found something much worse. It was infested by the man-eating monsters called Skorls, led by the evil enchantress Selena. All of the king’s party and himself fell in battle, with the only survivor being the king’s beater and your controllable character: Diermot. Knocked out cold, you were taken to their dungeon and imprisoned. Why they did not simply eat you, I do not know, but you must use your chance to escape and save the kingdom.
The plot is pretty standard, and does not provide any significant or interesting moments. You will find a love-interest, some generic villagers that can help you on your quest, and an evil tyrant. I would love to say more positive elements about the story, but that is hard to do. First off, the game takes place 90% in one single town, which neglects a lot of the possible creativity in a fantasy-realm. Though this could have been forgiven if the inhabitants were characteristic or intriguing, that is sadly not the case. While it is nice to see Skorls patrolling around the city and citizens going on with their daily lives for atmosphere, none of the citizens convey anything memorable or even a hint of personality. There are some witty dialogues that provides a chuckle, such as a grandma telling a story despite the main-character not wanting to listen, but these are rare and does not help the dull town. You will also have one companion along for the ride, which is a wise-cracking jester of some sort. He gets quickly obnoxious, and I do not know if this was done so the main-character would not be on his low level, or if he is to represent Sierra or Lucas-arts humour, but either way: it does not work.
Diermot is also forgettable and while his observations are detailed and can have some minor humour as well, these are also rare and does not really hit a good tone. In fact, that is one big problem with the entire story: it does not have a clear concept. It wants to be simple, but has plenty of unneeded expositions late in the game that is not tied to the quest, only to provide lore for the sake of having some, and characters are really just there because this is a village. The love-interest is especially suffering because of this, as she is only “connected” to you. Destiny works in mysterious ways, when writers cannot be bothered to write good female-roles.
The idea of going for both a serious and a humorous tone was clearly troublesome for the team here too, as the jokes can come out of nowhere with no buildup or reasons for them, which is hard to take in after witnessing brutal depictions of murders. Because of all of this unclear concept and theme, it becomes hard to know what to make out of the story. At least, it never became too much and I am happy it is a short story and had some positive moments, but if it was not for the impactful beginning and the few good dialogues, I would honestly have a hard time caring about this forgettable town.
Story Score: 4/10
Great upgrades ruined by people and glitches
Everything starts out great. Lure of the Temptress is a point-and-click where you can right-click to look at objects, and left-click for getting options on how to interact with the setpieces. This alone is a fantastic addition compared to verb-inducing point-and-clicks, as it simplifies every action and makes it more clear what you can do. If you right-click outside of a highlighted object, you will be able to look at the area you are in, examine the items you have picked up, and check your status. The status never became important as it is hard to die in this game, and it only happened to me in the very beginning.
The puzzles also are quite strong to begin with. They require quick thinking, but never goes to the level of obscurity, so you will always have a good brain-teaser at hand. The very first puzzle on how to get out of your locked cell, is a great one as you must interact with objects, while listening to the guard outside of the room for the perfect time to escape. Sadly, it all goes downhill after your escape. The first issue you will encounter, is the hit-detection. It can easily become a hard time to interact with people as they will be moving around, and the AI of your playable character and the rest of the citizens, are terrible at finding the best place to start a conversation, making them move around until they finally are able to talk or just give up on the concept. This is an annoyance that will be constant, despite the huge open areas places can contain. Unfortunately, the problems keep getting worse from here.
This picky shortcoming also goes for how accurate you must be with finding items and not forget to look at elements to find another element, even if they are clearly there. Again, it feels tedious, but it is not so bad when the puzzles are fun, right? Well, after the escape, most puzzles will involve going on a random fetch-quest inside this small town, with many pathways leading nowhere. It is far from a huge town, but it is easy to get confused with similar layouts of hallways. A simple map would have been welcoming. Though even with a map, this will get tiresome when it is oblivious to what you need to do with the items you have. Many you are supposed to give to people, without they ever establishing they need or want something, making me wander in circles and trying out every possible combination. With the lack of any clear puzzles, the sense of challenge or entertainment is completely destroyed.
Though when you do get insight on what you should do with an item, the text can disappear too early, or be disrupted by other conversations, which is the game’s poor way to provide an atmosphere. This adds to the frustration, but the one that can destroy it all, is the companion you will acquire quickly in the beginning. He serves for only two puzzles and wisecracking jokes, but these skills are so mundane and uninteresting, I wonder why they could not just have been given to our main-character? However, this is not why I hate him. The reason I do, is because of a terrible glitch where he disappears and gets stuck between two areas in an endless loop. This can potentially destroy your save-data, and it happened to me three times in a row. I have also heard and seen another glitch where a plot-important item can disappear, but I was at least lucky to not have that encounter me.
It is a terrible shame that the technical issues and lack of directions in the many fetch-quests gets in the way, as this could have been a solid title. When you have to explore for items, use them together in the correct manner to further your progression, it is all good fun. There is one annoying puzzle involving pushing the right amount of buttons, which is really trial and error, but thankfully short. Outside of that, there are also two parts where you will be put into combat and must choose between using high, medium and low-strikes, providing some fun tactical parts. Think of it as an active rock-paper-scissor. Though with the mentioned problems, including one involving resetting the game, I can only deal with so much. Even if it is barely 80 minutes long at most, Lure of the Temptress sadly starts out strong, but does not know what to do after that, which simply causes frustration and confusions.
Gameplay Score: 3/10
You are first provided with some lovely cutscenes with fluent animations and wonderful pixel-art, giving a nice and immersive introduction. After this and having witnessed some brutal images before Diermot’s abduction, you are set with the in-game presentation. Again, it all looks good, with nice sceneries inside the cave you start in, and some memorable characters visually. After this, almost the entire game is set in the town and it is a generic one. I can only remember two big gates and one marble-wall, but other than that, you just find similar-looking houses and hallways made of brick-stones.
It makes the area incredibly dull and forgettable, and while the houses can provide some personality, they are few and uninteresting as well. This game was the first to use the Virtual Theatre engine, which made in-game characters wander around the area independently. However, while it is nice to see Skorls patrolling, the other inhabitants are just as forgettable as the plot-important ones and the town itself, making it lack any style or good atmosphere. It all looks good on a technical level, but the creativity is at a low.
What holds up better, is the audio. The composer, Richard Joseph, is most likely more known for Putty Squad and James Pond, both which I have not played as of now. He provides some lovely medieval tracks in the beginning and for the plot-important moments, but those are few and far between. It is a shame, as the music has a lot of variation and diverse use of instruments, providing a great atmosphere. Though the rest of the game is filled with instruments used to represent sound-effects, such as a bass getting faster and faster as a Skorl comes closer to you or chimes of a bell representing drops of water. These are pretty neat and harkens to old cartoons that used this mechanic, giving it a nice artistic callback. I do know that one version of the game includes ambient sound-effects instead, but this is much more interesting. However, when the world is bleak and forgettable, the audio can only do so much.
Presentation Score: 5/10
There is a running theme with this instalment: it starts out strong, then just nosedives into a pile of problems because it does not know what it wants to do. When it can force you to restart from the beginning due to glitches and have plenty of moments of frustration and guessing-games without this problem, it is hard to swallow. It does not help that the story is lackluster and the presentation is at best: serviceable. If you are interested, it is as of this review free on GoG, but it is still hard to recommend for any quality-reasons than the first 10 minutes in the beginning. Revolution this might have been, but it should only be remembered as a piece of gaming-history.