The Legend of the Prophet and the Assassin is an adventure game bundle. It contains a pair of 3D point-and-click adventures, The Legend of the Prophet and the Assassin (released in Europe in 2000) and The Secrets of Alamut (released in Europe earlier this year), that were created by French-based developer Arxel Tribe. The two adventures combine to tell the story of a knight in the 13th century, which is no doubt why DreamCatcher bundled them together, but they are also very short, totaling perhaps 15 hours between them, and so they feel more like one game than two. Plus, their gameplay isn’t especially engrossing, and so while most game bundles are good deals, this one isn’t.
In the Legend adventures, you play a Frankish knight named Tancrede de Nerac. After wandering the Middle East for years following the Crusades, you decide to seek out Jebus, a city of peace and harmony. It takes you three years to find the city, but when you finally do get there, you find that it is abandoned and that its dream has died. You blame Simon de Lancrois, the man responsible for the building of the city, for its failure, and you decide to seek him out and kill him. (That is, you’re the assassin and you’re hunting for the prophet.)
Now, that’s a pretty vague background, and de Nerac’s motivation for killing Simon seems particularly weak. Some developers might fill in the blanks later to make a character seem more mysterious at the start of the game, or to make an ending scene more poignant, but not Arxel Tribe. You never do learn anything more about de Nerac’s background, and that’s especially frustrating when it becomes clear he’s seeking out redemption as much as he is Simon, because you have no idea what he’s seeking redemption for. Arxel Tribe almost did something useful in the game by giving de Nerac a recurring nightmare, which could have shed some light on his background, but then the nightmares go totally unexplained, and you never learn who the people are in them or how they might be important. And then later it becomes obvious that de Nerac is never really going to find Simon -- he’ll just endlessly track down rumors and talk to people who know people who know Simon and so forth -- and so the game simply turns into a travel log with de Nerac solving puzzles at each stop. It’s just difficult to get into a game in such a situation, where you don’t understand why the main character does what he does, and where the story just frustrates the issue rather than helping it.
The puzzles are also disappointing -- which is too bad, because Arxel Tribe created a good mix of inventory, gadget, and action puzzles. Part of the problem here is in the set-up for the game, where instead of having a vast world to explore, you have to go from small adventure area to small adventure area, and solve all of the puzzles in one area before moving on to the next. Not only does this set-up make the game very linear, but the areas are also small, with a dozen or so rooms and a handful of items each, and so the inventory puzzles are trivial just because there’s a scarcity of options. For example, at one point you need salt, but all you have is a bucket of water. Even if you don’t think that maybe the bucket has sea water (and therefore salt) in it, you’ll likely try it out anyway just because it’s one of only two things you’re holding.
But what really drags down the puzzle element of the game is the gadget puzzles. For some reason Arxel Tribe decided that forcing players to use a lot of trial and error would be fun, and so the gadget puzzles either have no clues or very little in the way of clues -- and one puzzle even seemed to have a clue that was wrong -- and so you can spend an endless (and unenjoyable) amount of time pushing around tiles or pulling switches. I mean, at one point there’s a door locked with five dials of five values each -- for over 3000 possible combinations to try -- but that’s actually one of the nicer gadget puzzles just because you know what you’re supposed to be doing. I consider long trial and error puzzles to be a major waste of time (they’re right up there with mazes), and the Legend adventures just have way too many of them.
On a technical level, though, the Legend adventures fare better. The graphics are good but not great. They show everything that needs to be shown, and they do so clearly, so you never have to wonder what you’re looking at. Their only failing is that they don’t look quite as realistic as the graphics in some other games (particularly some of the other DreamCatcher games, like Dracula: the Last Sanctuary). But Arxel Tribe made up for things here by including a lot of cinematics, and the cinematics are of good quality.
Less good (but not terrible) is the sound for the game. There is some nice background music, but the voice acting is off. For starters, the actors aren’t especially convincing in their lines, although they do say their lines clearly. But the main problem here is that although de Nerac is a Frankish (German) knight traveling around in the Middle East, almost all of the accents are English, and so the game sounds like it’s taking place in London rather than Jerusalem. With the sound being off, and the graphics not quite looking realistic, it’s hard to get enveloped in a game.
Overall, The Legend of the Prophet and the Assassin is a mediocre product. It has problems everywhere -- from the sound to the story to the puzzles -- but nothing about it is so bad as to make the game unplayable. And I’ve played much worse adventures lately -- Arthur’s Knights comes to mind -- but Legend is still hard to recommend.
[ 25/40 ] Gameplay
[ 12/15 ] Graphics
[ 11/15 ] Sound
[ 08/10 ] Interface
[ 05/10 ] Storyline
[ 04/05 ] Technical
[ 03/05 ] Documentation