Cleopatra: A Queen's Destiny

Posted by Joseph Howse.
First posted on 26 October 2007. Last updated on 10 May 2008.
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Cleopatra: A Queen's Destiny
Can Cleopatra be trusted?
Cleopatra: A Queen's Destiny
A mad priest of Sotek (the Egyptian crocodile god) greets Thomas in the Great Library.
Cleopatra: A Queen's Destiny
Objects can be assembled and dissembled using an elaborate inventory system.
Cleopatra: A Queen's Destiny
A Greek slave named Kordax wants to help Thomas (or so Kordax says).
Cleopatra: A Queen's Destiny
Thomas must properly identify and mix the complex set of ingredients in this puzzle.

Cleopatra: A Queen's Destiny is an upcoming historical adventure game, developed by Kheops Studio and published by Nobilis Group. Founded in 2003 by former employees of Cryo Interactive Entertainment, Kheops Studio specializes in games that are historical or literary adaptations. Recently, a pre-release English language version of the game has been made available to the press for preview. This pre-release version offers a hands-on sampling of the gameplay, plot, artistic content, and other features of the game.

Cleopatra: A Queen's Destiny is set in the Egyptian port of Alexandria in 48 BC. Queen Cleopatra VII and her brother King Ptolemy XIII have declared civil war on each other. A Roman civil war between Julius Caesar and Pompey is also about to spread to Egyptian shores. (These historical events are compressed by several months for the game.) The game's protagonist, Thomas the Chaldean, is an apprentice to Cleopatra's astrologer, Master Akkad. Thomas is also the lover of Akkad's daughter, Iris. (Thomas, Akkad, and Iris are fictional characters.) At the beginning of the game, Akkad and Iris are kidnapped. Thomas must investigate the crime and attempt to rescue them. However, in doing so, he becomes entangled in deadly webs of politics and superstition.

Like other games from Cryo Interactive Entertainment and Kheops Studio, Cleopatra: A Queen's Destiny plays in a first-person perspective with backgrounds that are scrollable, 360º panoramas. This is known as the "node" system. Colorful and detailed graphics realistically depict sundrenched gardens, shadowy palaces and war ravaged ruins. Thomas's investigation leads to Alexandria's most renowned architectural wonders, the Great Library and Great Lighthouse. Each location contains dozens of everyday objects, mechanical parts, astrological and religious symbols, and inscriptions in ancient languages. Visually, everything shows an impressive level of attention to historical realism.

The game has plenty of animated cut scenes. These cut scenes often show the workings of the game's machines in further detail. Other times, the cut scenes focus on character interaction.

The game's soundtrack features instrumental music and chants that are rhythmic and mystical. They contribute to an epic atmosphere and the feeling that fate is somehow guiding the characters. Sound effects such as grinding gears, crackling fire, growling crocodiles and screeching seagulls are also effectively integrated. The game's soundtrack and cut scenes are replayable anytime from the main menu.

The artistic detail in this game is paralleled by elaborate puzzles and gameplay mechanics. Sometimes, an hour of gameplay introduces more than 20 inventory objects and several multipart machines or recipes. Many puzzles have red herrings (for example, useless inventory objects, mechanical configurations, or recipes). These require the player to sift the available information meticulously and in the process the player often learns something interesting about science and culture in Egypt's historical past.

Throughout the game, Thomas picks up documents and keeps journal notes that provide clues about how to proceed. Additionally, according to the publisher, the final release version of the game will include multiple, optional levels of hints.

The game's point-and-click interface features rollover icons that indicate the possible action in each hotspot (go, talk, look, magnify, take, use, or drag). Sometimes rollover text is also present to help the player identify an object's or symbol's historical usage or name. The inventory system is unusual in that it allows (and frequently requires) the player to specify combinations of several inventory items simultaneously. Combined items can also be disassembled, allowing the parts to be reassembled in other combinations. This system makes the inventory puzzles in this game more dynamic and challenging than the standard in most other adventure games.

An interesting feature is that the player must choose an astrological sign when beginning the game. This sign alters the difficulty of certain puzzles, based on whether the player's horoscope is favorable or unfavorable on the given day in the game. Ultimately, however, the horoscopes do not seem to affect the hardest puzzles or the flow of the story. Still, they add atmosphere and they might offer some replay value to players who want to find every possible puzzle solution.

Thus, in this pre-release version, there is already much to admire in Cleopatra: A Queen's Destiny. Still, a few caveats are worth noting. First, despite the game's title, Cleopatra's role is mostly behind the scenes. She appears in cut scenes but not as an interactive character. Second, the cast of characters is small (but still interesting). Thomas works alone for much of the game. Some gamers like this kind of isolation, while others prefer more character interaction. An effect of the small cast in this game is that Alexandria feels more deserted than the player expects, even considering the civil war that the game supposedly depicts.

Nonetheless, the character interaction that is present in the game is enjoyable. Tragic, mysterious, and comic roles are intermingled well. The voice acting tends toward tones of fatalism (in the sense that the characters believe in fate). The dialog also contains many references to Egyptian and Greek mythology. All of this is consistent with the game's atmosphere.

Gamers who are seeking mechanically and artistically accurate historical details, alongside highly elaborate puzzles, will find them aplenty in Cleopatra: A Queen's Destiny. Compared to the rest of the game, the characters' story seems rather simple, yet is interesting enough to keep the player wondering what the fates of Thomas, Iris, Akkad and Cleopatra will be. This game is definitely worthy of gamers' attention when it is released.

Cleopatra: A Queen's Destiny is scheduled for an English language release in late 2007.

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