Thursday, 13 February 2014

Game 40: Future Wars - Final Rating

I really wanted to like Future Wars, but I can't say I really did. Apart from the visuals, I don't think there's any part of the game that stands out as exceptional, so I have a feeling the PISSED rating will turn out well below where I originally expected it would. Time to find out!

Puzzles and Solvability
The puzzles were unsatisfying in Future Wars. A large proportion of them were solved by following the leads of the environment without any real motivation. To pass the monks in the Middle-Ages, I needed to disguise myself. Why should I climb a tree to achieve that? I did it of course, because that was the only thing that I could do, but there was no logical deduction required and so very little satisfaction. Want to gain entrance to an office? Put a bucket on the door above your boss’ office! Need to escape a prison cell? Use a gas canister to kill all the guards outside! I had no reason to do these things other than the fact that there was nothing else I could do. Other than this lack of motivation, the other main obstacle standing in the way of progress was the huge requirement for pixel hunting. Items and points of interest were so tiny, that it often took many sweeps over a screen for me to find them. Once again, not very satisfying! I suffered quite a few dead ends too, and picked up opportunities for many more while playing. Thankfully the majority of them became obvious fairly quickly, meaning I didn’t have to restore too far back, but clearly Delphine didn’t pay any attention to what the rest of the industry was doing around this time. Earthrise (the last game I played) had its flaws alright, but the puzzles at least made me use my brain and gave me a real sense of achievement when I solved them. Not the case here…
Rating: 3


It's a lovely spot and all, but...

Interface and Inventory
I’ll start by saying that I didn’t mind the right click – select action interface that was designed for the game. It was a little slow to use, but there were some shortcuts available and it was perfectly functional. The game’s ridiculously pedantic demands that I stand in exact spots to complete certain actions was another matter. It’s fine that the player needs to stand in front of a console if they are to use it. That’s realism that I accept. Having only one exact position that the player can stand in to close a door from is just unnecessary. It literally took me minutes to find the spot on the ground I needed to stand on when using the lance to get the habit out of the tree. The fact that in real life I would have been able to do it from pretty much any angle made it more than a little infuriating! The movement for the most part was slow and clumsy too, and while my experience was vastly improved when Sha1tan informed me that pressing the number key would allow me to use the arrow keys instead of the mouse, there’s no excuse for what I was forced to endure in the game’s “climactic” maze. With only six minutes on the clock to make it to the computer room and then to the first aid hangar, every second counted. Struggling to get my character to stop directly in front of ladders meant I was forced to save and restore my progress dozens of times to make it through what would already have been a challenging experience. The inventory was nothing more than a list and nothing was selectable. Since there was no parser, I literally had no way to look at any of my items, and regularly wanted to.
Rating: 4


I must have read "Go a little closer" over a hundred times while playing

Story and Setting
I found the premise of Future Wars to be reasonably interesting. It soon became apparent that very little of it was going to make any scientific sense, but time travel stories never really do. There were quite a few questions that came to mind that were never answered, and unlikely coincidences occurred throughout, but the biggest issue was how predictable and cliché things got once the basic premise was set. It was so very obvious that certain events were going to take place. Of course Lo’Ann was going to save me from my execution! Of course the bomb was going to be detonated 65 million years ago and wipe out the dinosaurs! I know that a lot of games have predictable plot devices, but there was something particularly telegraphed about the stuff that went on in Future Wars. I was subjected to quite a few explanatory conversations in the game, but reading over them now it becomes clear that they all cover exactly the same ground in slightly different ways. Most of it was cryptically explained in the manual before I even started. I think it was Laukku who mentioned how bland the game’s characters were and he’s absolutely right on that front too. My own character was boring and as much as I wanted to get excited about the “beautiful” Lo’Ann, her actions and dialogue was entirely wooden and predictable.
Rating: 4


I wasn't exactly racing for the restore button at this point.

Sound and Graphics
I was a bit disappointed with the sound in Future Wars. I’d read somewhere that Jean Baudlot had been responsible for some great game soundtracks, but there was nothing memorable or impressive here. For the most part I was sitting in silence, which is something I’ve started to punish, and when music arrived, it was all a bit blah. The visuals were quite fantastic though!!!! Actually, let me adjust that statement slightly. The outdoor visuals were fantastic!!!! From the side of the skyscraper at the beginning, to the swamp and forests in the Middle-Ages, right through to the ruined landscape of the future, the environments were both convincing and beautiful. I really think the colour selection was far and away the best of all games so far (with the possible exception of Loom), and a major reason for the game’s attractiveness. The indoor sections were also attractive, but the designers’ decision to decrease the window size in proportion to the space dramatically affects the outcome. Pixel hunting was required to succeed in Future Wars, but it was made extra difficult by the play environment constantly being shrunk in this fashion. As a final point, the animation is very smooth, but it could probably be blamed for the very slow speed that the main character moves at.
Rating: 6


Chahi would re-use this colour scheme months later for his masterpiece

Environment and Atmosphere
As you would expect for a game that takes place in several time periods, the environment of Future Wars was varied. These environments included an office block, swampland, forests, futuristic post-apocalyptic landscape, an underground sewer, prehistoric caves, and an alien space station. As mentioned in the graphics section, it was all pretty convincingly realised (well, apart from the futuristic bits which already look a tad dated). Many times I was reminded of Out of This World and Flashback, which are two games that graphics man Eric Chahi would go on to play a major role in. I can’t fault his design or the result. When it comes to atmosphere, I didn’t get into Future Wars anywhere near as much as I felt I should be. The graphics and environments should have been right up my alley, but the X factor, the magic, just wasn’t there. Perhaps my character’s complete lack of motivation was transmitted from him to me? The lack of effective humor (or anything resembling entertaining dialogue) didn’t help, and my struggles with the interface / movement wouldn’t have either. Now that I’ve thought about it more, I think what was really missing from Future Wars was fun!
Rating: 5


It should have been epic, but sadly wasn't.

Dialogue and Acting
I’ll say straight up that the dialogue and descriptions in Future Wars are like literary masterpieces when compared to that found in the previous French games on the list so far. Mortville Manor, Chamber of the Sci-Mutant Priestess and Emmanuelle: A Game of Eroticism all had shocking translations and I’m not convinced they would have been much better in their native language (I can’t criticise Captain Blood for bad translation, but deciphering it’s alien language offered a very similar challenge). Future Wars contains perfectly adequate English, but it’s difficult to call it anything other than that…adequate. Effort was made to inject humor and some of the landscape descriptions were relatively detailed, but none of it really achieved anything beyond letting me know what was going on. The blame for the blandness of the characters shouldn’t be laid at the feet of artist Chahi, and instead with the writer, Paul Cuisset. Even Lo’Ann, who could have been a really strong character, gave me very little to care about (or be attracted to given my character’s apparent feelings for her). I’ve been pretty harsh throughout this post, but I guess I won’t be too harsh on the rating for this category. After all, I’ve certainly had to deal with a lot worse than adequate!
Rating: 4


This was the third time that I'd had the situation explained to me at length.

So that's 3 + 4 + 4 + 6 + 5 + 4, which equals 26, divided by 60 comes to 43 when rounded down. Hmmm...that leaves it equal with both Earthrise and Neuromancer. Those games were pretty different to Future Wars, which makes it difficult to make comparisons, but the sour taste I have in my mouth is compelling me to remove a discretionary point here. No, I won't do it. I've definitely punished the game enough, so 43 it is!


I really can't remember what sort of scores were predicted back in the Introduction post, but wouldn't be surprised if people were fooled by the impressive visuals. I'm off to take a look...nope, no-one went as low as 43, but Kenny McCormick predicted 44! His comment was "Graphics is cool and sound is crisp but gameplay and plot are both amateurish and clumsy". That's pretty much how I feel! Well done Kenny! The King's Quest Collection is yours if you want it.

50 CAPs for Lars-Erik
Sponsor Award - 20 CAPs - For sponsoring the blog with free games
Traitor’s Gate Award – 20 CAPs – For figuring out my Raven riddle
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

40 CAPs for Ilmari
Traitor’s Gate Award – 20 CAPs – For figuring out my Raven riddle
True Companion Award – 20 CAPs – For playing the game with me.

35 CAPs for Canageek
Han Solo Award – 10 CAPs – For picking my Star Wars reference
Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure game on Steam
Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure game sale on Steam
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
Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For announcing a new adventure game sale on GOG

30 CAPs for Laukku
True Companion Award – 20 CAPs – For playing the game with me.
Bio Challenge Award – 10 CAPs – For figuring out what Bio Challenge was all about
Caption Contest Award – 10 CAPs – For inserting a sexual reference when one surely must go
Failed Tricky Smackdown Award -10 CAPs – For betting against me and losing.

20 CAPs for Charles
Spaceballs Award – 10 CAPs – For picking my Spaceballs reference
Caption Contest Award – 10 CAPs – Come a little closer aarrgghhhh!!!!!!!

20 CAPs fo Sha1tan
Number Lock Usage Award – 20 CAPs – For informing me that I could use the arrow keys to move in the game!

10 CAPs for Kenny McCormick
Psychic Prediction Award – 10 CAPs For correctly predicting what score I would give the game.

14 comments:

  1. Man, did I miss the mark here! I remembered some problems with the interface and the arcade sections, but my nostalgia made me think this was a better game that in reality is. I hope my memory is more faithful to what I remember of Cruise for a Corpse (the best Delphine game imho).

    Anyway, congratulations!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Congrats! I do wish I got the time to join in as I said I would, but there you go. Might be just as well I didn't after all.

    Just Les Manley to go and then we reach some refreshingly good games though. Onwards!

    ReplyDelete
  3. >I think it was Laukku who mentioned how bland the game’s characters were

    Yep. The main character has so little personality that he doesn't even have a name. Lo'Ann is a mere plot device, playing the roles of Damsel in Distress, Miss Exposition and such.

    >I really think the colour selection was far and away the best
    >of all games so far (with the possible exception of Loom)

    Well, considering that Loom was EGA it didn't have much choice in colours. It was stuck with those same old fixed 16 ones. Future Wars is VGA and, no matter how I like EGA Loom, is easily the best looking game so far. What Loom is better at though is layouts, which are more dynamic and interesting.

    Well, onto Les Manley then. I've read about it a bit and seems rather horrible, with a nonsense story and nonsense puzzles. Let's see if Trickster can read the designer's mind!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There again, people seem to be attached to a one Princess Peach in the realms of other gaming, and she's as plot device-y as the come! I'd say that these things just come with time and persistence for the better part. Governor Marley from MI is likeable despite seeing a quarter of the time in game that Lo'Ann does, and realistically being just as much the damsel in distress (even if she had it in hand much of the time).

      I think it comes down to writing, pure and simple.

      Delete
  4. You are now downloading

    LES MANLEY IN - SEARCH FOR THE KING

    ... Ulp.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tempted to join in and see how bad this game is...

      Delete
  5. Dark Fall 3 and Downfall have been added to GOG. These are both modern horror adventure games released in 2009.

    Anyone played either?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I played Dark Fall 3 (Lost Souls). As an adventure, it's okay. Acceptable creepiness levels. However, the first Dark Fall (later rereleased as The Journal) is still my absolute favorite in sheer horror value.

      Delete
  6. Replies
    1. Umm... Shouldn't I get only 30 CAPs? You should substract and not add 10 with the failed bet.

      Delete
    2. Uh...yeah! You're absolutely right! I confused myself by leaving out a dash.

      I'll take off 10 instead of 20 for your honesty. :)

      Delete
  7. Woot! Free games again! Yes, I'll definitely take KQ series, Trix! Let's see what I have in my collection of games to give back to the community...

    ReplyDelete
  8. I'll win a caption contest one of these times....

    ReplyDelete