Crystal Key 2: The Far Realm

Posted by Gustavo Calvo-Simmons.
First posted on 01 June 2015. Last updated on 01 June 2015.
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Crystal Key 2: The Far Realm
Evany is a world full of life and vitality before the attack by the Balial.
Crystal Key 2: The Far Realm
The streets of Evany are now empty.
Crystal Key 2: The Far Realm
Call finds Athena's diary.
Crystal Key 2: The Far Realm
Call travels through the portal to a distant outpost.
Crystal Key 2: The Far Realm
Call arrives at a spaceport in Meribah.

Released in 1999, the original Crystal Key was a surprise commercial hit despite being panned by many critics. Not surprisingly, The Adventure Company (the original game's publisher) was keen to capitalize on this success by releasing a sequel. Aptly titled Crystal Key 2: The Far Realm, this sequel was jointly developed by Earthlight Productions (the original game's developer) and Kheops Studio.

At first sight, it is hard not to criticize this game as being yet another Myst inspired point-and-click adventure with obtuse puzzles set in an anamorphic distant world. Fortunately, beneath the copycat art style lies a solid sci-fi story. The plot of the sequel is only loosely tied to that of the original game, in that the sole common connections are the Arkonian and the Balial. In this sequel, you take on the role of Call Lifeson, whose father is the savior of their home world of Evany invaded by the evil menace Ozgar years ago in the original game. Not surprisingly, the promised peace is short-lived. The Balial soon returns and launches a biological weapon via satellites to turn all of the inhabitants of Evany into mindless slaves—all except for Call, who manages to escape by chance and becomes the sole unaffected survivor on Evany. When a mysterious girl (who is later revealed to be Athera) suddenly appears from a portal in front of Call but is quickly dragged away by some soldiers, Call decides to give chase but instead only finds a diary and a key dropped by her at the portal. Call reads the diary and learns that there are other worlds that have been similarly enslaved by the Balial. He then uses the key to reopen the portal to an off world outpost. From there, Call goes on a quest to save Athera and perhaps even his home world.

Despite the promising premise, much of the storytelling in this game is told by disjointed dialogs and interludes when Call interacts with other secondary characters. The lack of a structured narrative makes the otherwise decent story difficult to follow. It is as if the game deliberately tasks you to fill in the gaps in its story. Further, many of the character interactions seem frivolous and do not convey the sense of urgency of Call's supposed mission.

Navigation in this game is node based. At each node, you can pan around in 360° to explore the environment. Later on, you gain access to a jetpack and can use it to travel between different faraway locations. This saves from some of the tedium of backtracking that is frequently necessary in the game.

Like many other adventure games from the same era, this game requires the mandatory installation of Apple QuickTime which it uses to render video playback. Compatibility issues are frequent, especially when the game is played on systems installed with older and even newer version of the software due to poor backward compatibility.

The puzzles in this game are either inventory based or environmental. Some of the puzzles are quite farfetched and lack any logic even in hindsight. A few puzzles also seem shoehorned, such as the puzzle that requires you to pick flowers of different colors and then arrange them on etched stones around a stone door in order to open it. As expected, the fetch quests require a lot of backtracking between different locations. Sometimes, however, you are left stuck without any idea what to do next and must retrace your steps to discover what you have missed.

The voice acting in this game is surprisingly decent. Call is soft spoken and speaks in a smooth cadence. Many of the secondary characters are also well acted. The music is sparse and subtle.

Being a common practice for The Adventure Company, the game has been released under several different names in different markets. In North America, the game is called Crystal Key 2 without any subtitle. In Europe, the game is called Evany: Key to a Distant Land. The name changes are as annoying as they are confusing.

In sum, Crystal Key 2: The Far Realm is an underwhelming sequel to the original Crystal Key. Despite an interesting premise, the game's fragmented narrative ultimately fails to capitalize on an otherwise promising sci-fi story. Fans of the original game may be enticed to give this sequel a try. At a minimum, the game stands as a testament to a bygone era for the adventure genre.

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