As with some other games based on science fiction novels, I think we're going to find that Ringworld is an interesting but flawed attempt to bring the deep story of a novel into an interactive adventure game. In some ways, Ringworld is a very traditional adventure game in a style that feels familiar to players who are used to Sierra games. In other ways, it goes off in a unique direction. Let's break that down and see how it turns out.
Puzzles and Solvability
Generally, Ringworld is very solvable, perhaps too solvable. Most of its puzzles are very straightforward once you have all the pieces. Grab a ladder and place it where you need to climb up. Collect something sharp to cut through a rope. Pick up everything that isn't nailed down.
|Is there any visible reason to need to click on every single book on the shelf just to find the one with the combination?|
In other words, the difficulty of the game was somewhat uneven, mostly pitched a bit too low. A few places were more difficult, but only in a way that was dependent on finding hidden items. The set-piece puzzles (as opposed to the inventory puzzles), like the shape puzzle near the end, were also pretty easy. But there were no dialogue puzzles as far as I could find, as there were very few dialogue choices: I counted less than ten for the whole game.
I think that one of the best puzzles was maybe the one about what to do for the dolphins that couldn't pick up the stasis box, because it was dependent on worldbuilding knowledge that was available within the game. Of course, that kind of puzzle might be more difficult for someone that doesn't tend to read all the available information the way I do. And once you know what's needed, there's no puzzle or difficulty involved with actually making it: you just take Quinn over to the console, and he does it automatically. So in that sense, it's possible to find the solution by accident rather than by figuring it out, which isn't ideal. But since I didn't stumble over it before figuring it out, I had the intended experience and it felt satisfying.
|One of the few ways you can deliberately lose.|
Interface and Inventory
I'm going to start out by quoting what I said in the intro post about the interface:
"It's all pretty standard for adventure games of this era, really. Very intuitive. Except that, with the exception of look (and move), the other actions (touch, talk, and using an inventory item) all shift back to the default move cursor after you click on something. That means that, as far as I can tell, you can't try using multiple things on-screen in a row without going through the menu every time. And you can't try using an inventory item in multiple places without bringing up the item again every time.
"In Sierra games, the cursor would stay on a particular mode until you shifted it with the right mouse button or clicked on a menu item. Here, the right mouse button shows you the whole menu. And the clicks aren't as responsive as I might like. Sometimes the right-click doesn't work right away, and sometimes I right-click and end up with the wrong menu option selected."
If there had been more timed sequences, this could have been really aggravating. Fortunately, there were only two timed sequences where I had to make Quinn stun someone, and even those weren't difficult. So the menu awkwardness was only mildly annoying instead, and not generally much a problem.
The close-up interfaces were generally very clear and easy to use, such as the shape puzzle at the end, or the reference computer in the lander.
|End-game inventory full of useless items.|
Eventually my inventory got cluttered with a handful of items I'd picked up but never had any use for. There was no way to drop an item unless the game offered a specific way to put it back where it came from, which it actually did for a few things. We moved around enough that I wouldn't have wanted to leave something important somewhere, either.
Story and Setting
|There's a lot of interesting story behind this one early line.|
There are two problems with Ringworld's approach that make it a flawed game. One problem is the way it begins by jumping into the middle of the story with secondary characters, which seems to be assuming that the player will have read at least the original book first and know at least some of the backstory and worldbuilding before starting to play.
I had trouble figuring out what we were doing and why we should care about Iacch/Seeker and Quinn because I knew so little about Chmeee and Louis Wu. If I had played the game completely blind, instead of reading up on the backstory a bit while I was writing the intro post, I would have had very little idea what was going on. The manual does explain some things, but it doesn't go into much detail.
|This line just begs for some kind of interactive sequence.|
Sound and Graphics
I often play with sound off, so I don't have a lot to say about the sound. The main musical theme is powerfully sweeping and evocative. Individual places often have their own themes, but these were forgettable. Sound effects are brief and appropriate. In general, the sound is effective but not memorable.
|A beautiful but very brief view of the underwater city of the Coastal Sea People.|
Environment and Atmosphere
|The ship crawls along outside the surface of the ring.|
We also have all sorts of incredible backstory, with multiple interesting spacefaring races (it just occurred to me that Ringworld's setting would make a fantastic 4X game), but we see only two planets in addition to the Ringworld itself, plus a few distant shots of the Puppeteer planet group. The "Known Space" area is said to be 80 light years in diameter, but it feels like much less because we see so little of it in the game.
|This was a genuinely creepy moment.|
Dialog and Acting
The writing in Ringworld is one of its strengths, since it really focuses more on the plot and characters than on the gameplay. It's a spinoff story from a classic science fiction novel, so there's a lot to work with. Larry Niven's name is on the credits, and even if he didn't write the story for the game himself, I think he must have been at least somewhat involved.
|Quinn disapproves of Seeker's tendency to seek danger.|
|Miranda is rightfully furious.|
Scenes and objects are well-described too. I have two minor points that the game could have improved on. One, as I mentioned earlier, the descriptions of items in the inventory were quite brief. I would have appreciated a bit more detail there. Two, the plot is so dense relative to gameplay that it could have used less talking and more interaction with Quinn. In some places, this could have taken the form of more dialogue options, but in others, there should have been more actions to take rather than the characters just telling the player what they were going to do and then doing it automatically. So while the dialogue was very high quality, at some point this can hurt the overall quality of the game as a game if good dialogue isn't paired with good interaction.
That adds up to a total score of 5+5+6+4+5+7 = 32/60*100 = 53. This is on the higher end of the guessing range, but I think it pretty well represents a game that had a lot of backstory and dialogue, but not as many interactions and puzzles as it could have. Is it a good adventure game? Well, for the parts of it that were an adventure game, it's pretty decent, if a bit easy. The rest is mostly cutscenes and well-written but non-interactive dialogue.
16 people made guesses ranging from 60 to 30. Nobody guessed exactly 53, so the prize goes to both Michael and Leo Velles.
100 points to Reiko
- Blogger award - 100 CAPs - for blogging through this game for our enjoyment
- Classic Blogger Award - 50 CAPs - For blogging through Asylum for our enjoyment
- Classic Blogger Award #2 - 50 CAPs - For blogging through Microworld for our enjoyment
- Psychic Prediction Award - 10 CAPs - For the closest guess of the final rating of Asylum
- Psychic Prediction Award - 10 CAPs - For the closest guess of the final rating of Microworld
- Psychic Prediction Award - 10 CAPs - For guessing the final rating
- Psychic Prediction Award - 10 CAPs - For guessing the final rating
- True Companion Award - 10 CAPs - For playing along with Ringworld
- Spellchecker Award - 5 CAPs - for finding the misspelling in the screenshots
- Cartography Award - 5 CAPs - for describing the planetary map areas of the Ringworld
- Dyson Sphere Award - 5 CAPs - for describing engineering problems with ringworlds and Dyson spheres
- Morlock Award - 2 CAPs - for comparing Flesheaters to Morlocks