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Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: July 1, 2003
The history of MYST-like adventure games that try to incorporate action sequences is a sorry one. From THQ’s Redjack: Revenge of the Brethren to Discreet Monsters’ Auryn Quest, this particular mix has not worked well. There is a seductive tendency here to try to appeal to the many customers who prefer shooting or combat because they represent a much larger base than those who enjoy puzzles and exploration. Now The Adventure Company is taking one more stab at this combination through the release of Curse of Atlantis: Thorgal’s Quest. Can this third-person point-and-click adventure succeed where others before have failed?
Curse of Atlantis is based on a popular European series of graphic novels, evidenced by the black-and-white comic book page transitions (summarizing what comes before and providing hints as to what to do next) among segments of the gameplay. You play the role of Thorgal Aegirsson, a powerful Viking warrior who has been out at sea and is on his way to rejoin his family. Thrown off-course by a terrible storm, suddenly an old magician shows Thorgal a jolting future vision in which he slays his own son. So Thorgal sets out on an incredible voyage through time and space to prevent this horrible fate from actually coming to pass. This plot is not particularly deep but does contain some surprise twists and is sufficiently absorbing to motivate you to continue the adventure to the end.
You get to explore several different physical environments. These include a Viking village, a deeply-forested area, a rebel fortress, a spaceship reflecting Thorgal’s memories, a bleak Norse land of shadows called Niflheim, a fisherman’s cabin and, finally, a mysterious island. Sometimes, the mode of transport is intriguing, such as a flying boat. There is quite a bit of diversity in what you see, but each setting is beautiful and immersive all by itself. However, you are somewhat limited in where you can go within each locale, so you end up spending some of your time looking at areas which you wish you could enter but cannot. Furthermore, while most of the areas have direct ties to ancient Viking mythology, some seem quite out of place, such as when Thorgal is on a spaceship fighting lasers and robots. Finally, this game really has precious little to do with Atlantis, as this mythical island makes only a momentary appearance.
You interact with numerous intriguing characters. Among those you chat with are an unpleasant oaf, an old man demanding a demonstration of your skill in archery, a chief pillager who sets a spike trap to ensnare you, a female Guardian of the Keys, a boy who represents Thorgal earlier in life, the Grim Reaper of Death, a blind man and a mute angel. When you are conversing with these people, you have to listen carefully to what they say to catch important clues as to how to progress. Magic and mystery surround everyone you meet, and you never have a dull encounter. However, because this is decidedly not a role-playing game, even as you develop a special feeling for Thorgal you never get any real depth in your interactions with those you meet. Moreover, rather than having to make tricky decisions during the conversations, most commonly you generally just try to talk with those you encounter as long as possible.
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