Belief & Betrayal
First posted on 01 August 2008. Last updated on 13 August 2009.
Belief & Betrayal is an intriguing murder mystery adventure game that ranks alongside the best of Clive Cussler's Dirk Pitt adventure novels. Originally developed by Artematica, an Italian game development company founded in 1996 in Chiavari, Italy, Belief & Betrayal has already been released in native Italian in 2007 to Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. The game has since undergone localization with translation into English, with Lighthouse Interactive as the new publisher for the UK and US release.
Belief & Betrayal is a classic third person, point and click adventure game that delves into ancient relics, mysteries, secret organizations, intricate church conspiracies, and ritual killings. There is a lot of factual information on locations, cathedrals, people, and secret organizations contained in the game's story, giving it a touch of authenticity and credibility that is rarely matched by other mystery adventures. The only fictional part of this engrossing game is the storyline revolving around a murder and the search for the Imago Sanctissimus. As the game is played out, the deep secrets of the Imago Sanctissimus are revealed to be related to the Knights of the Templars and the Cathars. What is the link between this unique medallion and people such as the Apostle Peter, the Virgin Mary, and Judas Iscariot? What magical powers and secrets does the Imago Sanctissimus behold? The answers to these questions are slowly uncovered over the course of the game.
Belief & Betrayal opens with a prelude depicting a dark gloomy scene in France. The words "Chartres A.D. 1194" appears briefly on screen. A hooded monk is seen running over a bridge in the still of night into a town, until he reaches the Cathedral of Chartres. The man takes a lit torch and places it at the base of the Cathedral, leaving it to burn, thus destroying the Cathedral. Who is this hooded man? What secret organization does he work for, and why is he burning down the Cathedral?
The main protagonist of the game is Jonathan Danter, a reporter for the Manhattan Mirror in New York. You (as Jonathan) are given an assignment by your boss, Warren, to interview Cardinal Gregorio in Miami, Florida. The game begins with you getting your personal belongings together on the eve of your interview with Cardinal Gregorio. Just as you locate your passport, the phone rings. It is an International call from Chief Constable Terence Twinings from New Scotland Yard in London. He tells you that your life is in grave danger and that a flight from Heathrow Airport has been arranged for you to fly to London immediately. On arrival, you are told that there has been a recent murder and that the victim is your Uncle Frank Danter. You react in total disbelief, as you have been told that you uncle has already died some 10 years ago so that this must be a great mistake. Strangely, coinciding with your uncle's death, there have also been 5 other similar ritualistic murders in London, all of which have remained unsolved. Chief Inspector Twinings informs you that your uncle is (or rather, was) actually a Vatican Secret Service Agent and that his cover has to be kept secret all these years in order to protect you.
It is in London that you meet up with Katrin McKendal. She is a member of an organization called The Legacy that deals with old historical mysteries using scientific methods. Apparently, Katrin (or Kat, as she prefers to be called) has been working with her father and your uncle in the past and is aware of clues to be provided by anyone of The Legacy, if anything ever happens to them. After learning the truth about your uncle's past, you decide to go back to your uncle's apartment to look for clues to start piecing together of what has just happened. The device with which The Legacy uses to communicate is a communicator that is untraceable by the police or Interpol. With this device, you can communicate with Kat and other characters who will help you to find more clues about your uncle's death and to uncover the conspiracy behind the Imago Sanctissimus.
Throughout the game, you alternate between playing the role of Jonathan and Kat, who are not uncommonly situated in different countries at the same time. This way, while you as Jonathan glean more information from Chartres Cathedral, simultaneously, you as Kat arrive at the Vatican, chasing further clues. You then use the communicator to allow Kat and Jonathan to keep in touch with each other. A third character which you get to play for a brief period is that of Damien, a computer expert.
The game comes packaged in an attractive DVD case with 1 DVD and a manual. The 20 page manual includes an Introduction, System Requirements, Installation Instructions and Troubleshooting, Menu Settings, Cursor Explanations, and a host of other useful information necessary to play the game.
Immediately after the introductory cut scene of the burning of the Cathedral of Chartres, you arrive at the main menu where you can click on Options to set your own video and sound preferences. I have found the settings for the video resolution to be a bit confusing. The controls indicate that there are 3 resolutions to select from: high, medium and low. All my tests tell me that no matter which setting you choose, the game plays at a default setting of 1024 x 768 pixels. At these settings, however, the game plays perfectly and is glitch free.
The game is broken up into 7 distinctive episodes, comprising of a prologue (Whispers from the Past) and 6 chapters. There are 10 main characters and several secondary characters, each giving their own individual twist to the story. You, as the player, get to play 3 of them at various stages in the game (Jonathan, Katrin, and Damien).
As with other adventure games, the main objective is to pick up items throughout the game that are needed for future use, in order to solve problems that arise and enable further progression of the game. In that respect, Belief & Betrayal is a very linear game. There are no fewer than 63 objects to obtain, some of which can be combined, in order to make new objects. There are no shortages of puzzles and codes to solve either; so talk with everyone, ask many questions, and look everywhere.
If I am to have any complaint at all about this game, it is that there are too many objects located in the night scenes that are almost undetectable with the naked eye, albeit my failing eyesight. This frequently results in a pixel hunt and the need to click aimlessly all over the screen until you find the right spot. All the puzzles and uses of objects are logical, with a single exception. To it, I will only reveal this clue: if you find a rubbish heap somewhere in the game and you get frustrated and kick it and nothing happens, try getting super frustrated and kick it maybe a few more times and you will be rewarded!
Gameplay is very simple and straightforward as highlighted in the game manual. It is a basic point and click affair, where you can walk freely to any part of each screen. The left mouse button allows you to move your character in the indicated direction, and double clicking will make you run. The right mouse button allows you to switch between the Action and View cursors. There are 6 different cursors for viewing, talking, action, exit/change location, change view and a neutral cursor where no specific action is necessary. Your inventory is located at the bottom of the screen, while your active character (which changes depending on the scene) is highlighted at the top right hand corner of your screen.
An element I find most impressive with this game is the graphics, particularly the modeling. The graphics are superb, and the pre-rendered 3D backgrounds give superb detail of the various locations, buildings, and objects that are in the game. The image of Raphael's Borgo fresco in the Vatican Museum is an almost exact replica of the original masterpiece. In the cities of London, Chartres, Venice and other European locations, the architecture of these countries is intrinsically preserved. Any gamer who is also an art observer will immediately recognize the Gothic, Byzantium, Ionic, Doric, and Corinthian architecture of that period. Buildings such as the Pantheon and the Cathedral of Chartres are instantly recognizable.
While the plot of the game is mere fiction and fantasy, the backdrops and the connections between various eminent people are a true history and geography lesson. History buffs will enjoy the deep references made in this game to the Knights of the Templars, the Cathars, the Golden Ratio, Raphael’s Borgo fresco, Pope Leo IV, King Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, and the resting place of the real King Umberto I and his wife, Queen Margherita’s tomb. All of these historical facts, plus many more, give the game a feeling of authenticity and credibility. The research done by the developer, and the recreation of the artwork and the architecture used in this game, has been both precise and painstakingly detailed. This effort alone makes the game something special.
The music and sound effects of the game are also of a very high quality. It is not the same repetitive score played out again and again as is done in other poorer quality titles, but rather several different scores depicting suspense, mystery, haunting music when the occasion arises. The very apt music complements the flavor and the time period of the game. I am also very impressed with the sound effects of the game and how realistic they are. As you walk through the streets, you can easily hear yourself walking by a railway yard or a passing car. When in the catacombs under the Vatican and opening secret chambers, you can hear the grating of heavy stone against heavy stone.
As the game is played out in 3 different countries (England, France, Italy), accents in all the speaking characters have to be accounted for. When at the New Scotland Yard or at Heathrow Airport, the characters speak in a very recognizable English accent. Similarly, the Italian and French accents are instantly recognizable. The use of appropriate accents adds another layer of professionalism to the game.
The ending credits list over 60 people that are involved in the production, testing, and marketing of this game. The high quality of this title reflects properly the meticulous production efforts put forth by the developer in creating this title.
Overall, I have found Belief & Betrayal to be an extremely interesting, enjoyable, and exciting game to play. As a player, you will no doubt get engrossed with the storyline and look to travel from country to country in search of clues. Artematica has got it all right with this superb game, and I will not be surprised to see this game be the developer's most rewarding title yet. Everyone loves adventure mysteries with a touch of religious conspiracies, and the game manages to keeps you guessing until the very end as to who is behind the macabre murders and why. The ending itself is not what I have expected, but certainly more than satisfactory. I am giving Belief & Betrayal the thumbs up, and I fully recommend it to all who love both a good mystery and an engaging adventure game.