Atlantis III: The New World
First posted on 22 August 2010. Last updated on 10 January 2011.
The game is available at GamersGate.
The name Atlantis is synonymous with the fabled lost city supposedly existed before the rise of the Egyptian Empire. There is even conjecture today as to whether or not Atlantis is simply a myth. Hieroglyphics discovered in ancient Egyptian architecture have made references to the ancient city, though archaeologists are still debating on the authenticity of such claims.
In 1997, French developer Cryo Interactive fast forwarded time by a few millennia to the present day when it released Atlantis -The lost Tales-, an adventure game based on the popular mythos. This was followed by the sequel Atlantis II in 1999 and finally Atlantis III: The New World in 2001, completing the trilogy for the series. However, neither of the sequels shared any common element with the original, except for the name Atlantis in the title and a location called Shambhala.
Atlantis III: The New World begins with an impressive cut scene: a fanatical male archaeologist breaks into a cavern in Peru (in the year 2018) and discovers a crystal skull. He believes the skull is a symbol left from an alien visit and contains the key to the Secret of the Ages; he utters the words, "I have it! At last! All power is mine."
The cut scene then shifts away and shows the game's main protagonist speeding through the Sahara Desert in a region called the Hoggar, far away from Egypt. She believes that there is a link somewhere at a tribal well and the discovery of artifacts from Atlantis. Distracted by a leaping animal, she crashes her vehicle but is soon rescued, though unconscious, by a desert dweller from the Targui tribe. The tribal nomad is also on a mission of his own, against the intruders who have captured the well for their own malevolent purposes. The duo soon strike up a relationship and agree to help each other out, all the while as he becomes her guide and protector in their common quest.
The game plays out over 4 distinct chapters, none of which seem to be linked, except through a remote control device which can transport its beholder into the new world. You will begin your search in the desert at the Hoggar. From there, you will enter an ancient Egyptian realm, survive through to a wild blizzard in Siberia, be chased by a mammoth from the Paleolithic Age, visit the mystical Baghdad around the time of the Arabian Nights, and finally travel to Shambhala and back to the Hoggar again.
Strangely enough, no character in the game actually has a name, including the protagonist. The game is akin to watching a spaghetti western of a lone hero tackling all obstacles and enemies as a man with no name. Interestingly, the protagonist is voiced by the French-Italian actress, Chiara Mastroianni, who is the daughter of famed actress, Catherine Deneuve, and actor, Marcello Mastroianni. In fact, when playing the game, you feel as if you are interacting with Mastroianni herself, as the protagonist bears a striking resemblance to the true-life actress, beauty spot and all. Like the actress, the character she portrays is radiantly beautiful, with soft skin, enchanting eyes, and an angelic face.
Installation is straightforward. The controls are simple and are easily negotiated using a combination of keyboard and mouse. You trigger a conversation by clicking on a character when the active cursor is available. This leads to a few lines of dialog spoken by the person or creature from whom you are seeking information. On occasions, several dialog boxes may appear. By clicking on those in turn, you can find out all the information you need to progress. Conversations are generally kept short, and the dialog is both spoken and captioned.
The game is a classic third-person, point-and-click adventure. In many scenes, your task is to locate objects that are used somewhere else later on. In most cases, these objects can be found in the immediate vicinity or from just a few scenes adjacent. I have counted a total of 35 objects which I have found and put into my inventory for later use. Gameplay is completely linear, in that all the tasks must be done in a set sequence to finish up the current location before beginning another. This linearity in itself may be acceptable to some gamers, although other gamers may prefer more freedom to wander around at random.
Majority of the needed objects are extremely easy to find (and as prominent as an Egyptian pyramid!). Only a few of the objects are hidden, such as a tic on a border collie. These few objects are mainly found in Baghdad. As the active cursor is quite large in size, a quick sweep of the screen with the cursor will quickly reveal these hidden objects.
I have counted a total of 14 major puzzles in the game. I have always preferred logical puzzles, as they really test my skills in problem solving and in mathematics. Unfortunately, some of the puzzles here are downright difficult and can only be solved by trial and error. With over 100 combinations and permutations, these few puzzles can prove to be both frustrating and time consuming. A particular puzzle also requires literary skills, where you have to place 12 tiles, each with a story line, into a correct sequence in order to make a whole story. Sadly, the game has no built-in hints to you help out.
Gameplay is simplistic, to say the least. The game uses 3 different cursors to signal you potential hotpots. To move from any scene to the next, you locate hotspots where the cursor is changed to shape like a stingray with a red dot on its back. When showing, it lets you chose available directions to travel. To pick up an object, use an object, or speak to a character, you locate hotspots where the action cursor is changed to look like a rotary gyroscope that shows a green (+) in the middle. When the action cursor shows only a white (+), it means that there are no options that you can take.
I was far from impressed with the plot of the story, as there was no apparent connection I could find between this and the previous sequel as well as between successive chapters within this game. At times, the game seemed to meander on with no purpose as if you never knew what your objective was. The dialog was very limited and only enabled sufficient information to aid in the next step. As such, you never found yourself to be an integral part of the storytelling. There was also a noticeable lack of characters, which I found to be a bit disappointing.
The controls are very simple but serviceable. The main console is easily accessible by hitting Esc. From there, you can choose Save Game, Load Game, and Exit. From the options console, you can adjust the voice, music, sound effects, and overall volumes on a sliding mechanism. There is an option to enable or disable subtitles. The game supports graphics in either 16-bit mode or 32-bit mode and in 3 different screen resolutions: 640x480, 800x600, and 1024x768 pixels.
Without a doubt, the highlight of the game is its graphics, which are outstanding. Even now, the graphics in this game are a lot better than those in more contemporary titles. A lot of attention is given to add amazing minute details, all of which help to bring the game to life. The Egyptian wall paintings and hieroglyphics are what you expect to see in a real tomb in Egypt. The costumes on the high priest and priestess are also remarkably accurate to the time period. Lip synchronization with the dialog is by far the best I have seen in any game. The game supports full panoramic 360° (including up and down) view of each scene. There are numerous cut scenes in the game, and each is brilliant and awesome to watch.
The voices and sound effects are generally well done. Apart from the protagonist, all the voice actors have given a commendable performance. Perhaps I am being over critical with Mastroianni's voice acting, but for such an accomplished actress, her performance is third-rate, to say the least. She seems to speak in an unimaginative, uninteresting monotone, showing little emotion or compassion.
The musical score is spot on with the overall theme, featuring a mixture of dramatic and mystical interludes to complement the current scene. The music is easy on the ear and gives you a sense of involvement as though you are actually there. The soundtrack is written and performed by David Rhodes, the British guitarist of Sledgehammer fame and a collaborator of Peter Gabriel.
Atlantis III: The New World was originally published by Cryo Interactive. When DreamCatcher Interactive secured the publishing rights to the sequel, it renamed the game as Beyond Atlantis 2. Unsurprisingly, the game was named after Beyond Atlantis, which itself was also renamed from Atlantis II that was published by Cryo Interactive as well. After Cryo Interactive went bankrupt in 2002, Microids secured the publishing rights to the game and re-released it in 2009 for digital distribution.
There was a major glitch I encountered when playing this game. It occurred after leaving the magical world of Baghdad as foretold in the Arabian Nights, when I was transported to the Rhea Garden in Shambhala where I was welcomed by an elderly woman and man. After using the cursor on the woman to initiate a conversation, the game refused to proceed. I then turned to the man and clicked on the correct dialog box. There was also no reply, and I could not trigger any interaction between the protagonist and the man. When I clicked on the man again, a message appeared saying that I should not have spoken. The whole sequence then started over again. The only solution I found to continue playing was to reload from a separate save that would bypass this sequence entirely. Suffice to say, this glitch would have prevented me from finishing the game otherwise. The game took me around 18 hours to finish, but numerous hours were lost in the puzzles, and many more hours were lost in the troubleshooting.
Overall, Atlantis III: The New World is best described as a game with missed opportunities. On the up side, the game suits novice and casual adventure gamers alike with its easy to use controls and scene navigation. On the down side, the game is marred by a major technical glitch and poor voice acting of the lead cast. Hardened adventure gamers may also prefer a game that is a bit more challenging and polished. In all, balancing the good against the bad, I will still give Atlantis III: The New World a thumbs up, albeit an arthritic bent thumb.