[GAME MASTER]Advent Rising

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[GAME MASTER]Advent Rising

Orson Scott Card is the best kind of science fiction author. His stories confront human themes in fantastic ways, his alien worlds capture the unlimited possibilities of an infinite universe, and his futurist forecasting can be uncannily accurate (he anticipated both the Internet and political blogging in 1986).
However, Card’s “Advent Rising” is a typical game built around a formulaic story. It’s definitely a step down from his “Ender’s Game” series, which is one of the best tales in contemporary science fiction.
“Rising” is Card’s third significant effort writing for games, after the obscure classic “Loom” and the adventure masterpiece “The Dig.” The latter two were published by LucasArts. However, Card’s newest game was brought to market by Majesco, which also did Tim Schafer’s “Psychonauts.” (The company seems to have become a haven for former Lucas Arts workers.)
Like “Psychonauts,” “Advent Rising” is a mainstream adventure game created despite the genre being long dead and buried. Although its replacement for classic point-and-click gameplay is ambitious and creative, several flaws put a big damper on the gamer’s experience.
The story is intriguing enough. You play Giddeon Wyath, a pilot from the small human world of Edumea, which is establishing its first diplomatic mission with an alien race. While accompanying the mission, you quickly find that it’s not all cocktails and handshakes. The aliens apologetically inform you that another ship is on its way to slaughter everyone on their planet. This is only the beginning of what will become a fight to help the nice aliens, the Aurelians, free their planet from the hold of the bad aliens, the Seekers.
Card’s moral question this time around (and the only original element in the story): What are the implications of being “made in the image of God?” Gideon eventually discovers that humans are worshiped as gods by Aurelians and many other races throughout the galaxy because humans are especially proficient in this game’s version of the Force.
This introduces the most interesting element of gameplay ― the special powers Giddeon gradually unlocks. Level these up high enough and Gideon no longer needs guns. In fact, he becomes practically invincible. Among his cooler powers are the abilities to bend time and to freeze enemies as though dipping them in liquid nitrogen, causing them to shatter with the slightest tap.
Aside from these powers, the gameplay is very reminiscent of “Halo,” right down to two featured vehicles, a hovertank and an uncrashable Jeep. The rather repetitive level design might be bearable if not for the inexplicable lack of a save-game feature. There are also woefully few “checkpoints” to re-enter and effectively save the game.
“Rising” is a short game, running just ten to fourteen hours. It has no replay value, since the character’s powers and the game’s awful AI make even the most difficult setting easy.
Frustrating gameplay and a ho-hum design make “Advent” seem more like a series of cutscenes interrupted by levels, rather than a series of levels interrupted by cutscenes. As Majesco appears ready to push ahead with the series, we hope for a more detailed storyline and complete gameplay in part 2. And a save feature, please.

by Ben Applegate
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