The Legend of the Prophet and the Assassin

17 February 2002

Copyright © 2002 Balmoral Software ( Portions copyright © 2001 The Arxel Guild/Dreamcatcher Interactive, Inc. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Balmoral Software.

The Legend of the Prophet and the Assassin is a repackaged game for U.S. distribution that actually consists of two completely-separate games originally released individually in Europe: The Legend (Part 1) and The Secrets of Alamut (Part 2). Character interactions introduced in Legend Part 1 are continued in Legend Part 2, but an error message is produced under Windows if simultaneous installation of both parts is attempted. As a result, the two parts of the game must be played separately, each using its own set of two CD-ROMs. The game was written by Arxel Tribe and published by Dreamcatcher Interactive. In it, you play the adventurer As-Sayf, a Crusader knight of the 13th century who has adopted the weapon of his former adversaries, as well as its name. As-Sayf, or Tancrede de Nerac as he was originally known, travels from one experience to another as the two parts of the game progress. These episodes are loosely tied together by an overall quest to avenge the deaths of some innocents, but the puzzles and challenges of the immediate present usually overshadow the larger plot context. Generally, the game seems above-average in story development and overall quality.

Graphics are standard for a recent game release, with full-screen medium-resolution rendered backgrounds and fairly-detailed cyberpuppet characters. Quite a bit of sophistication can be seen in the character expressions, particularly facial ones that express a variety of emotions that are necessary to the story. Character animations are also used for cutscenes, so there is a uniformity to their appearance throughout the game. If desired, cutscenes and dialog sequences can be skipped by pressing the Esc key. The graphic interface is the same type of node-based spherical 3D VR that we've seen in adventure games in the last few years. The implementation is done effectively in this game, and a lack of transition sequences during movement does not seem to be a drawback. Incidental animations are frequently included and usually are well-matched with background sound effects.

The game control menu, weapon/inventory bars and dialog choices are easily accessible by right-clicking the mouse during gameplay. A single main menu is used for all central control functions, including loading, saving, continuing, restarting or exiting a game. Most gameplay in this point-and-click adventure is from the first-person perspective as your character As-Sayf interacts with the environment, but occasional third-person scenes are shown as the story advances. Loading of a saved game will prompt you for the correct CD-ROM to insert, but we found the installation Autorun feature on the first CD-ROM to be a minor annoyance when that CD was requested. However, no CD swapping is required - each game section is self-contained on its own CD-ROM. Ample slots for saved games are available; these are stored in the form of paired bitmap and status files in the installation directory tree. Much of the backstory of the game is garnered through dialog interactions with other characters in the game, and close attention must be paid to these sequences as no form of journaling or dialog restoration is available. The well-written game manual also develops some of the backstory, as well as providing walkthroughs for the earliest sections of both Legend Part 1 and Legend Part 2.

Game navigation is self-evident, with an intuitive cursor indicating possible movement directions and environmental interaction. A different cursor is provided when an inventory item must be used. This serviceable interface minimizes the amount of pixel searching necessary, but crucial inventory items required to advance gameplay may often be in less than obvious positions, such as in the lower zones of the 3D VR or hidden behind other objects. As a result, much care must be taken when exploring the game surroundings.

The plot of The Legend of the Prophet and the Assassin is very well developed, and doesn't overload the player with a multitude of unnecessary characters or dialog. Its basic storyline is absorbing and quite original. Although most of the gameplay is fairly linear, no internal inconsistencies or arbitrary plot trigger events were encountered. Pacing is quite good, with backtracking at a minimum. There was usually a good sense of accomplishment as each section of the game was completed.

The game's puzzles are fairly innovative and challenging, particularly in Part 2, where standalone logic puzzles seem more dominant over inventory-manipulation tasks. Quite a few of the puzzles involve timed sequences (most with reasonably-lax time limits), but our hero can frequently die as the result of a misstep, so the game must be saved often. In a fantasy such as this game, a fair degree of latitude can be taken with the integration of puzzles into the overall game context. For the most part, puzzles seem to play fair with the player, offering solutions that are consistent and not arbitrary or too obscure.

Music, sound effects and voice acting are all superior. The music in particular has obviously been chosen to instill a feeling of time and place appropriate to the story. Virtually all character dialog is first-rate, with the quality and talent of the voice acting evident. The only jarring note is the occasional British urban accent that may seem out of place for the character. Since the storyline is rather "dark", there is not a lot of humor in the game, but this doesn't seem to be a serious drawback. Dialog subtitles are optionally available.

Apart from the de-installation of Part 1 required before Part 2 can be played, the only technical issue we experienced was an occasional tendency for the spherical VR to lock up after loading a saved game. However, this difficulty was quickly surmounted by right-clicking a few times. No other bugs or technical issues were encountered with the game.

The Legend of the Prophet and the Assassin is an absorbing fantasy that provides a substantial depth of gameplay while using superior character development to advance the art of the point-and-click adventure.


Copyright © 2002 Balmoral Software ( Portions copyright © 2001 The Arxel Guild/Dreamcatcher Interactive, Inc. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Balmoral Software.