It’s adventure week here at Game Over (Wow, I never thought I’d hear myself say that again). With earlier reviews of The Messenger and Dracula: The Last Sanctuary, both from DreamCatcher Interactive, The Ward makes the third adventure game covered in the last week. Published by On Deck Interactive, the now defunct budget division of Gathering of Developers, and developed by Croatian-based Fragile Bits Interactive, The Ward is a classic point and click adventure game with a science fiction theme.
The story, in general, is fairly intriguing. You play the role of David Walker, a member of the Apollo XIX crew whose mission it is to collect information about unexpected seismic events detected on the Moon’s surface. What should have been a routine operation goes terribly awry when the command module and landing module are destroyed by an Unidentified Flying Object. Your fellow crewmen are dead and the last thing you can remember, before losing consciousness, is being stranded on the surface of the moon. When you finally awaken, you find yourself in unfamiliar surroundings in what appears to be a moon base manned by aliens.
The Ward is broken down into three acts. In the first act, you must piece together the events that are taking place, by exploring the surrounding halls and laboratories, and escape from the moon base. The second act takes place in a human prison colony located on Mars where you’ll learn about previous abductions, the history behind the aliens and the story of the Ward, a legendary hero that just happens to be you. In the third and final act, you’ll come to realize your true mission and enter in a conflict, as you command an alien spaceship towards your ultimate goal. Phew! Did you get all that?
The Ward, as you can probably tell, is a story-driven adventure game. Unfortunately, it’s this emphasis on storytelling that eventually spells the demise for this title. The story just doesn’t flow consistently throughout the game. At times, particularly throughout the first act, the story is very compelling yet the puzzles get in the way of the advancing plot. The earlier puzzles are incredibly difficult, often impossible to solve without making use of a hint system that occasionally presents up to a dozen tips before you can come up with a solution to the enigma. Getting through the first act alone was incredibly frustrating and didn’t seem to be worth all the trouble of advancing the story.
In the second act, just the opposite occurred. The puzzles were put on the backburner while seeking out humans in the prison colony to talk too took centre stage. At this point of the game it was the story that slowed the game to a lull, as you had to constantly walk around in search of people to get answers and information from. It was incredibly annoying at times because certain characters would only talk to you in certain areas of the colony. There were times when I was walking around endlessly, searching for people to talk too. Again, the satisfaction at the end of this act didn’t seem to be worth all the trouble and I had completely lost interest in the story by this time.
The third act does a fair job of bringing the elements of the story together for the climax, but at this point I didn’t seem to care as much as I did at the start of the game. The puzzles in the earlier levels were atrociously difficult and the endless conversations in the second act drew all the energy out of The Ward. Add on the fact that some of the puzzles are based on time limits and the frustrating level increases rapidly. Luckily, you have an infinite number of savegame slots in The Ward and you’ll undoubtedly be using your fair share of them.
Are the environments visually stimulating enough to over-shadow the inconsistent gameplay? I’m afraid not. The environments are often lifeless and bland, and the level of detail on animate objects is considerably low. I don’t even think my character had a face, let alone facial expressions and emotions. The sound isn’t a great deal better. While the effects and music are relatively solid, there is very little speech in the game to speak of. Most of the dialogue is presented in text on the screen, making the characters even more robotic and uninteresting. The overall presentation was a little disappointing, even after taking into account the budget price tag attached to The Ward.
One of the highlights of The Ward is the ease of the control scheme in the game. Navigation, actions and inventory are all accomplished using the mouse. Moving around from location to location is a simple task and you shouldn’t have any problems interacting with characters and surrounding environments.
There’s a decent science fiction story hidden somewhere in The Ward, unfortunately I had a hard time keeping up with it. The game lacks any kind of flow due to the often mind-bending puzzles and silly dialogue sequences. The lifeless environments also contribute to an inconsistent adventure. With such engaging adventure games as The Longest Journey and Escape From Monkey Island available on the market, The Ward simply fails to deliver, even with its budget price tag.
[ 26/50 ] Gameplay
[ 05/10 ] Graphics
[ 05/10 ] Sound
[ 07/10 ] Storyline
[ 08/10 ] Interface
[ 04/10 ] Fun Factor