Lure of the Temptress

Posted by Jenny Rouse.
First posted on 23 June 2011. Last updated on 23 June 2011.
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Lure of the Temptress
Ratpouch is Diermot's simpleminded sidekick.
Lure of the Temptress
The town of Turnvale is rendered in high detail.
Lure of the Temptress
Gwyn gossips about her noisy neighbors.
Lure of the Temptress
Unique non-player character dialogs help to keep the game's character interactions interesting.
Lure of the Temptress
Fighting sequences are long, awkward, and thankfully rare.

Lure of the Temptress is a DOS based point-and-click adventure game set in medieval times, released in 1992 by Revolution Software. The game is the first commercial project by the UK game development company. While the developer is better known for its later adventure games such as Beneath a Steel Sky and the Broken Sword series, Lure of the Temptress is ultimately, if not entirely memorable, a worthy first effort and a glimpse of what the game studio has to offer in future endeavors.

When an evil sorceress named Selena and her hoard of mercenary minions known as the Skorl threaten to take over the village of Turnvale and its surrounding kingdom, a young peasant named Diermot finds himself thrust into the middle of battle. He does not fight well and is soon thrown into a Turnvale dungeon, where the game begins. Joined by a sidekick named Ratpouch, Diermot must escape the dungeon, evade the menacing Skorls, and find a way to defeat the temptress Selena so to bring peace finally back to Turnvale.

What makes Lure of the Temptress fun—but also annoying—is the game's unique gameplay engine, which allows Diermot to delegate tasks to his sidekick. Right-clicking on Ratpouch will often allow the player to thread together multiple commands for the sidekick to carry out to help further progress in the game. Yet, oftentimes, threading these commands together can take too long, and because Ratpouch is not always responsive, it can lead to periods within the game of doing nothing but standing around and trying to solve the puzzle in order to progress. The rest of the gameplay consists mostly of straightforward puzzles that involve simple logic rather than multistep problem solving. There are a few awkward action or fighting portions in the game, but these sequences are short and rare enough that they do not detract from overall gameplay.

For fans familiar with the game's development history, the real gimmick of Lure of the Temptress is Revolution Software's Virtual Theater game engine, which brings an amount of personality to non-player characters (NPCs) previously unheard of in competing game engines and scripting languages such as LucasArts' SCUMM (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion) or Sierra On-Line's SCI (Sierra's Creative Interpreter). The game's NPCs display their own motivations and individual lives separate from the main playable character; instead of having NPCs waiting around for certain in-game events to trigger their use, the engine allows them to wander around the city, creating in essence organic secondary characters. Additionally, the game's developer seems to have taken a page from LucasArts' script writers: the townspeople all have distinct personalities, and their often sarcastic and biting responses provide more validity to their existence outside of living only to help Diermot on his quest. In the end, it brings a certain level of realism to the townspeople and their lives that have not been seen in other similar games of the genre. Moreover, the game engine creates "solid" NPCs—Diermot's sprite can actually "hit" that of an NPC, forcing him to sidestep to continue on his way. The only major fault of this otherwise breakthrough engine is that because it allows the NPCs relatively free reign of the game, more often than not the NPCs will not spawn directly in the path of where the player needs to go, causing the player to force them to respawn by leaving and reentering a room where they are supposed to be found.

Lure of the Temptress is rendered in VGA graphics, which unfortunately do not hold up well over the passage of time. That is not to say that there is no detail in the environment: many of the backgrounds are actually quite beautiful, but there is also a sense of recycling in the game, which when combined with the mazelike environment, can often leave the player lost without a clue as to how to get to where Diermot needs to be. On the other hand, the game has a few cut scenes that are rendered in a layered cel style, and these stills tend to make up for the rest of the lesser graphics. Additionally, the game's music is unmemorable and highly repetitive. It does little to provide the ambiance for the quaint, medieval town life that is otherwise portrayed in the game.

Despite its revolutionary engine and genuinely unique ideas for secondary characters, Lure of the Temptress has the potential to stale rather quickly. More often than not the player will end up spending much time in the game trying to tell other characters what to do or walking around the maze or town attempting to track down erstwhile townsfolk so that the game can progress onward. While far from being a dull game, Lure of the Temptress is also full of clichés and stagnant periods of gameplay which ultimately undermine the game's overall enjoyment. The bottom line is to play Lure of the Temptress once, for the experience and the unique NPCs, and to see how far Revolution Software has come since 1992.

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