Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Game 44: Altered Destiny - Final Rating

After my first exploratory session in Altered Destiny, I was proclaiming the naysayers wrong and convinced I’d found a hidden gem. By the end I was tearing my hair out and having to force myself to play it. I still think that underneath all the technical flaws is a good game, so it’s such a shame that I’m going to have to punish it in no uncertain terms.

Puzzles and Solvability
Before playing the game, I’d read a couple of reviews that praised it for its challenging but logical puzzles. Strangely, I think I agree with that assessment for about 90% of the puzzles in the game. There are actually some clever things going on. The riddles offer a challenge, but are perfectly solvable with some thought. Talking to the various characters of Daltere gives thorough players enough information to figure out what items might be useful where. There are some exceptions, such as needing to squeeze the Kleeg to get past the noisy plants on the island, not to mention the silencer working for the howlers but not the plants, but overall figuring out solutions wasn’t the problem. Given everything I’ve just said, it’s such a shame that the parser was so grotesquely awful! I’m going to rip into the parser in the next category, but it has to be punished here too. On top of the parser problems, there were also times that the game’s low resolution graphics caused a bit of a problem, particularly when trying to solve the underground cavern riddle. There were stacks of potential dead ends, with quite a few areas allowing you access even though you don’t yet possess an item critical to getting back out, and certain critical items allowing you to use them up at incorrect times. Other gripes include needing to know the defoil plant’s name to pick it up, and the fact characters like Lantra and Master Towhee don’t express their needs clearly enough. This category could have and should have received a decent score, but the game is just...broken.
Rating: 3


Natural Springs...oh I get it!

Interface and Inventory
Well, the parser is absolutely horrible! So many times the logical answer to puzzles was the correct one, but I just couldn’t find the right command to make it happen. Capturing the Indella bird was incredibly painful, even when I knew exactly how it would be achieved. The worst thing a parser can ever be is misleading, and I was put off the correct scent several times and sent down numerous garden paths due solely to bad parser responses. I can’t tell you how long I tried to pick up those damn pouches that Lantra had, with the parser continually suggesting that I just wasn’t close enough to get them. If I’d received a message like “she’s not going to just give them away” or “perhaps if you did something for Lantra first”, I wouldn’t have wasted part of my life. This is only one example, but I could list a whole bunch of others. Movement was also atrociously handled, particularly given the environment often demanded careful navigation. I died around a hundred times while playing, with the vast majority of them being in the canyons and the underground caves, and was forced to save every screen or so just to get through some sections. This constant need to save was exacerbated by the limited save game slots, and I played in fear that I would have to restart at some point due to having written over an earlier save game. The inventory was a simple list, which is never particularly friendly, but the seven item limitation was completely unnecessary and frustrating. Eventually I fell back on stashing my items in the central crossroads screen, but it seems to me limitations like this are implemented for no other reason than to extend the play time.
Rating: 1


Honestly, the parser in this game is just broken.

Story and Setting
We’ve seen the basic story of Altered Destiny before, even as recently as Future Wars. A man is going about his own business when all of a sudden he is swept off into another time / space / dimension and tasked with saving the world / universe. Its classic science fiction storytelling and not a problem in itself. The problem with this particular story is that all the details don’t add up to an interesting whole. I was given snippets of a much grander vision, including mention of a human race that once inhabited Daltere, but in the end I didn’t have a clue how any of it related to anything else. I was frustrated by numerous aspects of Altered Destiny, with the parser being the biggest culprit, but I think this vagueness in the story also played a role. It also didn’t help that the basic quest elements were so badly handled. As mentioned previously, characters have little motivation, and gave me even less. Vindah sent me on a quest to get an Indella bird so that he could perform a divination, but then added more items to the list when I finally came back with it (after an immense amount of struggle I'll add). Finally there’s the climax, which was far from satisfying. After being the super villain for the entire game, being badmouthed by just about every character, Helmar abruptly becomes a good guy and puts the jewel back from whence he stole it. My own character was then unceremoniously dumped back into my own time / space / dimension / whatever, with nothing to show for it. I’m sure P.J. would have felt just as unsatisfied as I did!
Rating: 3


Are we all really just going to be friends now?

Sound and Graphics
A little bit of positivity is due here. The sound and graphics were actually much better than first impressions suggested. There was quite a wide range of music tracks, and while some of them were a bit grating on the senses, others suited the environment perfectly and were even reasonably enjoyable. So often I consider turning sound off in these older games, but I didn’t do that in Altered Destiny, which is a sign that it wasn’t too bad at all. The sound effects are hardly worth mentioning, as they were irregular and not particularly noteworthy. The graphics were oddly bright, with lots of fluorescent colours pervading just about every part of the game. Somehow they pulled off a very alien world in the low resolution, and there were some surprisingly striking scenes that displayed really good art design. The woods and the canyons in particular were really quite cool, and once again displayed the potential of the game that it failed to live up to. Probably the only other thing worth mentioning was the animation, which was a bit shit at times. P.J. looked like he was skating across the screen rather than walking when things got busy, and the majority of other characters basically don’t move at all.
Rating: 5


I might want to forget the game overall, but some of the imagery will likely stay with me.

Environment and Atmosphere
As mentioned previously, the environments in Altered Destiny are truly alien. There wasn’t a screen in the whole thing that might be mistaken for somewhere on Earth, which I’m sure was exactly what they were going for. I also really liked that the game started on floating tethered islands, not giving the player any real idea where they were and what the larger world below looked like. The four main areas of the game, being the canyon, the woods, the forest, and the caves, were all well realised, with vastly different colour schemes and impacting imagery. The various creatures that can be found throughout also add to the wonder. There are a few that cross the boundary into outright silliness, such as Master Towhee and his pet stool, but for the most part they were intriguing and even useful. It’s such a shame that so much else went wrong in Altered Destiny, because the environment was much more to my taste than Accolades previous adventure game, Les Manley. It had a lot of atmosphere, which is why I felt so positive about things during the initial exploration period. It was only when I started actually trying to do stuff that it all fell to pieces.
Rating: 6


Let's not forget the acidic wasteland that comes with sleep.

Dialogue and Acting
I was so often reminded of text adventures while playing Altered Destiny. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, since the writer behind it was Michael Berlyn, who worked for Infocom during their most productive period. “A gentle wind, warm and sweet, rises from the ground far below. Off in the distance, to the east, you can make out a smaller floating island.” “The forest starts in earnest here, and zutterbys enter from a small clearing to the east. A wave of fatigue, like a gust of warm air, washes over you.” With this level of detail and description, it’s hard to believe that certain items weren’t mentioned in any way unless directly looked at, such as the golden tube in Tentro’s Fraggery (thanks Kenny). Looking over it all now, the descriptions were generally of a pretty high quality, and some of the characters also had distinctive voices. Alnar held his R’s: “Yes, I make tubes for that errraserhead Tentrrro.” Tentro is clearly intelligent and speaks quickly: “They flow down from above and I capture them and make frags with them and they’re wonderful.” Finally, there’s a bit of Al Lowe-like humour spattered throughout the game, and while it was never laugh out loud funny, it wasn't it did raise a few smiles. I actually hated myself a bit for smiling a few times when I was trying to stay angry at the game, and I guess this light-heartedness should be credited for what it is, rather than for the flaws that surrounded it.
Rating: 5


The relating was sporadically overdone, but it thoroughly constructed the enduring impression.

Where does that leave us...3 + 1 + 3 + 5 + 6 + 5 = 23, divided by 60 is 38.33333, which is 38 when rounded down. That already feels about right to me, particularly as Les Manley got 30. There was much more to like about Altered Destiny, and the themes suited my tastes a lot more. 38 it is!


Did anyone predict that score? Yes, both TBD and Corey Cole got it exactly right. That's the first tie we've had in a while. It's time to go to the random number generator. If it's odd, TBD gets the prize. If it's even, Corey gets it. The random number is...3. Congratulations TBD (for the second game in a row!), you get to choose from any of the following games:

The Quest for Glory 1-5 Collection from GOG
The King's Quest 4 + 5 + 6 Collection from GOG
The Hugo Trilogy
Space Quest 4 + 5 + 6 Collection from GOG
Leisure Suit Larry: Greatest Hits and Misses Collection from GOG

I have to say it would have been interesting to see whether Corey would have made Lars-Erik buy another copy of his own game collection. I guess we'll never know. ;)

60 CAPs for Aperama
True Companion Award – 20 CAPs – For playing the game along with me.
Request for Assistance Award – 20 CAPs – For responding to my request
Request for Assistance Award – 20 CAPs – For responding to my request

40 CAPs for Ilmari
Mission Critical Award – 30 CAPs – For solving my Mission Critical riddle
Travel Advice Award – 10 CAPs – For helping me to plan my trip

40 CAPs to Ashley Bennett
Request for Assistance Award – 20 CAPs – For responding to my request
Request for Assistance Award – 20 CAPs – For responding to my request

35 CAPs for Charles
True Companion Award – 20 CAPs – For playing the game along with me.
Technical Assistance Award – 10 CAPs – For helping me get the game running properly.
Dreamworld Award – 5 CAPs – For answering my question about the dreamworld.

30 CAPs for Lars-Erik
Sponsor Award - 20 CAPs - For sponsoring the blog with free games
Travel Advice Award – 10 CAPs – For helping me to plan my trip

25 CAPs for TBD
Psychic Prediction Award – 20 CAPs - For correctly predicting what score I would give the game.
Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure game on GOG

15 CAPs to Laukku
Minor Request for Assistance Award – 10 CAPs – For responding to my request
Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure game sale on Steam

10 CAPs for boukensha
Travel Advice Award – 10 CAPs – For helping me to plan my trip

10 CAPs for Deimar
Travel Advice Award – 10 CAPs – For helping me to plan my trip

10 CAPs for Corey Cole
Psychic Prediction Award – 10 CAPs - For correctly predicting what score I would give the game.

10 CAPs to Zenic Reverie
Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure game sale on GOG
Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure game sale on GOG

10 CAPs to Kenny McCormick
Asshole Award – 5 CAPs – For explaining how some holes can in fact be full of something
Caption Contest Award – 5 CAPs – For understanding

5 CAPs to MrValdez
Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure game sale on Steam

17 comments:

  1. Onto a much better game!

    In other news, the Grim Fandango remake has been confirmed for PC, Mac and Linux: https://twitter.com/DoubleFine/status/486918031533035520

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd like to think that this incredibly good albeit expected news comes from the pain of suffering through this game ('s horrible parser).

      Delete
    2. Also, a new Kickstarter for a new Adventure game by renowned French adventure game pioneer!

      https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1993213058/subject-13-by-paul-cuisset

      Delete
  2. Actually, I'd probably have taken Space Quest. :-)

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  3. You kind of nailed my thoughts: some promising stuff in puzzles and atmosphere, but the game was ultimately ruined by technical problems.

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  4. Groupees is offering a new bundle today with several Microids adventures (mainly the Dracula series and a couple of Atlantis titles):
    http://groupees.com/microids2

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  5. Finally! That was seriously painful (and thus, extremely entertaining for me) to watch.

    Like I said before, if this game was not made as an adventure game but an RPG (heck, a platformer or side-scrolling shooter even!), it would have been a legend. Too bad about the stupid parser.

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  6. I *CANNOT* wait until the first QFGII post ... I hope you have a light work week on that side of the world...

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  7. Woohoo. I seem to be having a small run at guessing games I have no previous knowledge of.

    I like the idea of a Space Quest 4-6 to complete my collection - thanks, Lars-Erik

    It seems I found the story and puzzles of this game a bit boring seeing as I only completely read the first few posts about it and only partially skimmed posts after that - though that could also be related to me being busy otherwise for the past month or so.

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  8. Replies
    1. I'd almost forgotten your trip! Have you decided yet what countries to visit?

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    2. After much deliberation, we've decided taking my daughter overseas at the moment would be too difficult. She has severe food allergies and is a bit too young to fully grasp the consequences.

      We've decided to go to Scandinavia when she's a bit older, and will instead leave her with the grandparents for a week while we go to Thailand in September. :)

      Delete
    3. Enjoy yer Tom Yum Goong and Pad Thai, mate!

      Delete
  9. Replies
    1. "Asshole Award"? That's a little harsh, isn't it? XD

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  10. In a case of very good timing, Quest for Infamy has now been released on GOG!

    "Quest for Infamy, the all-in-one spiritual successor, a passionate tribute, and a heartfelt parody of the beloved Sierra's Quest for Glory adventure game series, is available on GOG.com, for $19.99."

    http://www.gog.com/news/release_quest_for_infamy

    ReplyDelete
  11. I think this is the first time I haven't said enough to get SOME CAPS. Man, I need to stay more up to date. (I will when I have more crystals to run, doubly so when I click the 'new dark images' option and need to wait 7 minutes to do anything.

    That said, I'm glad I made you play the game. While it is horribly frustrating, I quite liked a bit of the writing, it had lovely characters and did a great job of conveying an alien world. The game is bad, not because it was churned out, or a horrible concept (Harry's House of Horrors, Emanuelle), but the devs just screwed up with the parser they had not being able to pull off their vision.

    Honestly, this is what worries me about a lot of Kickstarter games: Not that the devs aren't going to give it their all, but sometimes skilled people run out of time, money, can't pull off what they want with the tools they have, etc.

    ReplyDelete