True adventure is a dream of many but unfortunately, a reality of few. Human imagination has thus taken hold of the situation and created fantasy worlds, in which boredom is non-existent, disbelief is suspended and the mind is ferried into realms where all is possible. Such imagination has taken the form of novels and movies but has yet to make much of an impact in the gaming world, despite the attempts of many developers. Few games have made an actual impression on me, but the ones that succeeded in doing so have always been adventure or RPG games with very strong story and character elements. Sure strategy is enjoyable, but does it ever bring a sense of awe to you? I probably already sound like a nutcase and I may be: all the more reason to read on.
Redguard, an adventure/RPG, can be described simply as an epic. An epic computer game is something so extremely rare that I have almost given up on the concept. For those who can't read my mind, my definition of an epic is a game, which is grand in scope, has complex and intelligent dialogue and most importantly has a story comparable to that of a novel. While Redguard does have its follies, the quality and expanse of its epic elements brings it far above almost all other adventure/RPG games I have ever played.
In the current generation of computer technology graphics have become the most talked about and reviewed aspect of every modern computer game. While I agree that they are crucial to gameplay I also feel that there is intense overemphasis on them. Fortunately the majority of the graphics engine in Redguard is unmatched in its respective genre. With support for 3d acceleration, Redguard's environments and buildings are superbly rendered in a very unique style, very appropriate to the land of Tamriel (The world of all Elder Scrolls games). Each different environment in the game is again extremely distinctive from any other and you will never feel like you are in a mere dungeon crawl or tiled environment. Fog and lighting effects are present and well done, but not really comparable to the likes of Unreal and Forsaken but I don't expect or even want graphics like that in an adventure/RPG as generally the time spent on revising the graphics engine is taken from the writers. The most stunning aspect of the graphics is most definitely the architecture and structures. Having a dark and malicious looking tower looming above you when talking to the necromancer enhances the atmosphere and immerses you even further into the story. The capitol city of Stros M'Kai contains a wide variety of textures and structures that don't only look very realistic, but are also placed in a city-like manner. Unfortunately the graphics do fail somewhat in the character department. Personally I loved the character graphics, but when looking at them from a different viewpoint I see many aspects that could be perceived as fallacies. First of all a lot of the clothing and features are painted on the polygonal character as a flat texture. Additionally, the mouths of the characters do not move when speaking which I acknowledge could be a serious annoyance with some game players. The textures are very unique however and distinctive and appropriate to the character on which they are painted. The most serious problem with the graphics engine is the camera angles used when moving and interacting with your environment. While at least eighty percent of the angles were fine the other twenty caused situations where I had to estimate which direction to attack or jump in by quickly using the view command to look around and then simply going for it. I did notice the capability to alter the default camera angle in the setup program that you can run outside of the actual game, I am guessing that no matter what default angle you chose, the switching of angles will cause some problems. Putting the two detrimental aspects of the graphics aside, I found the engine and style to be perfect for the style and atmosphere of the game. Unique environments, colourful and distinct textures and grand architecture create a gaming environment extremely suitable for a game of epic proportions.
Sound effects and music are often critical pitfalls in an adventure/rpg with low budget voice actors and a hardly inspired musical score all too common. Redguard does not only excel in one of these departments, but unlike almost every game release, it excels in both. The musical score in Redguard is done with redbook audio, meaning CD quality tracks that can only be compared with the likes of Total Annihilation in their ability to create mood and atmosphere while never being too intrusive or repetitive. The music was so incredibly appropriate that it almost always mimicked the mood I was in while thinking of my current situation in the adventure. The quality is so high that I will probably be playing it in my CD player long after I complete the game or even while I'm playing other adventure games. Every other company interested in designing an adventure/rpg should seek whomever Bethesda hired to create such lush orchestral music. I may be sounding a little repetitive while describing the music but I'm simply excited that finally another company has realized what music can do to an adventure. I did say that Redguard did not only prove to be excellent in music but in sound effects as well, and I have not lied. The voice acting in Redguard is hard to compare with other games as it is beyond most. For those who know Lucas Arts adventure games, prepare yourself for comparable voice acting (but it a more serious manner) in Redguard. The dialogue is not trite either, which will most certainly appeal to some of the older gamers who generally have to contend with childish dialogue. Ambient and object sounds are also nicely done and sound pretty much identical to the actual object in real life. I loved how the sword clashes were perfectly correlated in sound and graphics. While I couldn't find any reference to 3D sound support, when I had my four speakers hooked up, the sounds were positional and so were perfect with me, even if they didn't use hardware acceleration. I could not find one detriment or blemish in the sound and hence the perfect score. Prepare to be enveloped by one of the most complete sound environments this reviewer has ever heard.
Redguard is an epic adventure in which you take control of a man named Cyrus who is searching for his lost sister. While this brief synopsis of the game's premise sounds quite regular it hardly does justice to the depth of the gameplay and story. The story is very professional and reminds me of the strength of the story in Betrayal at Krondor (which was written by a professional author - Raymond Feist). While seemingly very simple at the beginning of your adventure, the plot quickly takes many diverse turns and becomes much more detailed complete with sub-plots and character development. Not only does an excellent story unfold about your current quest, your history, which is revealed as the game progresses, is just as rich and many possibilities are opened for other games (This is Bethesda's launch product of its new Elder Scrolls Adventures series which promises to be superb if this title is any indication). The gameplay is not all dialogue and story however as there are many puzzles of varying difficulty that you must solve. Combat is also a large element of the game. While Redguard is somewhat linear, there are generally always two paths you can chose from. The story is so strong either way that you won't even notice the semi-linearity. The puzzles are generally fun to solve and related to your environment; I have always hated games with puzzles completely unrelated to your current environment. I did notice a few silly puzzles, but they are such a small percentage of the whole that they are hardly remembered or noticed. Combat can be exhilarating, intense and frustrating, in a positive way. Some of the enemies you do battle with are very good swordsmen and you need to practice using your sword if you want to succeed in this element of the game. There are also many items with which you can enhance certain combat abilities, such as strength and durability. The only problem I found with the combat was a result of the graphics engine: weird camera angles making it hard to pinpoint a specific attack. Redguard uses well-balanced combinations of action and puzzle solving to augment the vast story line in an almost perfect blend. Fans of the Quest for Glory (Heroes Quest) series will most likely adore this game for its similarities and for its unique new additions.
Some games challenge your reaction time, others your strategic abilities and some, very few at that, create a lasting impression similar to a good novel. Redguard belongs in the annals of the rare games that create such an impression and while this is of course biased by my personal tastes, I am confident that many others will enjoy it as much as I am. Even if you don't appreciate a truly epic story or superb dialogue I think you will still get a kick out of the other elements Redguard has to offer. If Redguard is any indication of the quality of product that will be seen in Bethesda's new Elder Scrolls Adventures series, I will be looking forward to every sequel with great anticipation. But for now I will continue to engross myself in the mysterious land of Hammerfell (the home of the Redguard race), destroy the imperial governor and save my sister from wherever she is; if only I could somehow escape from the catacombs.