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Product: The Wheel of Time
Company: GT Interactive/Legend
Website: http://www.wheeloftime.com
Estimated Street Price: 29.99/$39.99
Review By: Alex Harris

The Features

The Wheel of Time books have spawned a generation of followers, which I am one of them. I was so pleased when I heard that they were going to make a game of this wonderful series of books. But the only thing that I was worried about was that the images I had created in my mind for what the characters would be completely different from the game. But now onto the features.

Wheel of Time uses an enhanced version of the Unreal engine to bring Robert Jordan's world to life. In addition to the Unreal engine's core capabilities like 24-bit color (with MMX), multiple dynamic (and colored) light sources, complex geometry, smooth character animation, real moving/rotating brushes, seamless level transition, and a powerful scripting language, they have endowed the engine with a host of WoT-specific effects. The particle system they created for Wheel of Time makes for some of the coolest explosions and smoke effects you've ever seen. In addition, they went in and provided support for weather effects like rain, snow and wind.

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Installation, Settings and Intro

The Wheel of Time comes on 2 CD's and is a breeze to install. You get the choice of what bits you want to install which is always an added bonus. After the game is installed you have to put in CD 2 to run the game. Once the game starts you are given an excellent introduction that really does sum up the Wheel of Time books quite well. It isn't to difficult to understand if you have never picked up a Robert Jordan book either. 

To change the video mode you can either access it though the Start menu or you can load up the game and change the controls from inside the game. By using the Escape key you get to choose Tutorial, New Game, Load Game and Save Game. the Tutorial is very comprehensive and shows you pretty much all aspects of things you might have to do in the game from swimming, shooting weapons, using various items like ter'angreal and how to build traps and alarms that will be used in the multiplayer game. The only thing that I did notice is that Quicktime 4 used in games look very blocky and doesn't look that good, but that might just be my setup.

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Gameplay

The game is based a lot on the books, but doesn't directly conflict with the books which will make avid fans of the series quite pleased. The game itself uses the normal FPS setup for the keys using the mouse and keyboard as the default. When each level starts you get a quicktime video segment telling you what has happened and then the level gives you a screen telling you what your goals are for this level. After the first few levels and picking up your jaw from the beautiful looking visuals you notice how clever the levels actually are. 

The other joy as well is that instead of creating new areas to explore in the Jordan universe they have taken places and people out of the actual books and transferred it into the game. Now you actually get to see what The White Tower or Shadar Logoth or even the Fortress of the Forsaken looks like! I guess the only real downside of the game is that you only get to play Elayna, but do have the benefits of having a Warder (sort of like a bodyguard that likes kicking the enemy about) around you later in the game. 

The other thing that you will notice about the game, besides the visuals is the use of effects that can really add to the gameplay. You might be moving down a corridor in Shadar Logoth and hear a Trolloc killing something, or a mist surrounding the city making it more difficult to see what is going on to far in front of you. With this lethal combination of sounds and visuals you really start to feel the fear that was always intended and given in the Robert Jordan series of books.

Places in the Game

Here is a listing of places and people that you will come across in the game:

The White Tower 
 The White Tower serves as the central structure in the sprawling city of Tar Valon and serves as the headquarters for mysterious Aes Sedai. In the single player game Elayna, your character, begins her quest form this spot while in multiplayer, it serves as your Citadel if you choose to play as Elayna. The White Tower is an interesting building in its striking architectural difference to the other buildings in Tar Valon. This is largely due to the fact that the Aes Sedai had a hand in its creation while the Ogier were single-handedly responsible for the buildings that surround it. It's 500 feet high and 300 feet wide at the base (though it narrows toward the top). The top half of the enormous structure houses the many sects of the Ajah in separate, pie-shaped sections. The bottom half of the Tower is dedicated to "general purposes" like meetings and such.

Shadar Logoth 
The Place Where the Shadow Waits -was once Aridhol, the capital city of the country with which it shared a name. Its prosperity bred carelessness and dereliction of spiritual responsibility in its inhabitants. Soon, the city was over-run with an evil called Mashadar by the inhabitants. Mashadar - a product of the deeds and words of the city - began to feed on the thing that created it. The evil grew and still lives today in the haunted city, locked in the very bedrock upon which the city is built, hungering for wayward souls to stumble across it.

Late in the Trolloc Wars, an army of Trollocs, Myrddraal, Dreadlords and Darkfriends camped within the ruins of the city. They were never seen again. Since that day, no Trolloc or Shadowspawn will willingly set foot in Shadar Logoth.

Outpost of the Children of the Light
Located on the edge of the Blight in the desolation of the borderlands, the Children of the Lights' Outpost is a spartan affair built to meet the basic needs of its inhabitants and to facilitate the "Questioning" (read: torture) of anyone unfortunate enough to get caught by the Leader. The Children of the Light recently discovered an ancient ruin near their Outpost and are curious of the treasures it may hide. Unbeknownst to them, the Aes Sedai are on their way to this ruin in anticipation of finding a deposit Ter'angreal. Given the enmity that exists between the two groups, one can only wonder how successful the Aes Sedai excavation trip can be.

Fortress of the Forsaken
Located along the Western border of Andor in the Mountains of Mist - so named for the fog that blankets their peaks year round - the Fortress of the Forsaken is cloaked in as much mystery as the mountain range that hides it. Only one thing can be said for certain: the Forsaken is the very embodiment of evil and his 'home' will certainly echo this. Only the bravest of the brave (or the stupidest of the stupid) would venture through the treacherous mist into a lair conceived only to ensnare - and most likely kill - anyone who tries to uncover the secrets that it hides.

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Graphics, Sound & Music

Graphics
This is the area in which Wheel of Time excels itself. Using the Unreal Engine and tweaking it so it isn't recognizable as an Unreal Engine and giving effects that make the jaw drop. With graphics like this you will probably get killed more often just for the fact that you will be staring at the detail on the ceiling or the way the water falls from the roof, or the marble effects on the wall. Running the game you start to notice how unlike Unreal this is, even though it is based on the same engine. There seems to be a lot more detail lavishly placed on the walls, ceilings and floors. Even though the game does not use Environmental Bump Mapping, the graphics still look great. I managed to get excellent frame rates throughout the game even when I was running it in 1280 x 1024 with all the detail on high.

Music
Legend took the sound aspect on the game very seriously and uses an used a hybrid Celtic-rock approach to the music. It is a mixture of traditional Celtic/medieval acoustic melody with contemporary progressive rock. To get this great music to work they took on two artists who represent mastery of each genre: Robert Berry and Lief Sorbye. 

Robert Berry is a product of the classic/art rock age. From his own home page, "San Francisco BAMMIE award-winner (Best Independent Producer), Berry is best known as a progressive rock veteran who struck gold in 1988 as the frontman for Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer (keys and drum wizards of Emerson, Lake, & Palmer) with that band's (3 to the Power of 3) hit single Talkin' Bout on Geffen Records." He's also collaborated with numerous other artists, such as Steve Howe and Sammy Hagar. In his own album Pilgrimage to a Point and the Jethro Tull tribute album To Cry You a Song, he contributed all vocals and instrumentation.

Lief Sorbye is the leader of Tempest, an established Celtic-rock band with a dedicated following and five albums (a sixth was just recently recorded). Born and raised in Oslo, Norway, he formed Tempest after spending eight years touring and recording with the acoustic band, Golden Bough. Lief has also recorded two critically acclaimed solo albums. In addition to being Tempest's lead singer and flute player, Lief also plays his own trademark double-neck electric mandolin.

These two musicians have collaborated before (Robert Berry has produced two of Tempest's albums, adding keyboard on some tracks), but never on a project like this. The digital soundtrack of The Wheel of Time has delivered every note perfectly and represent the traditional acoustic instruments as they were meant to be heard. Supporting their work is a team of composers, all very experienced in the computer gaming arena and all very talented.

Sound
The sound as well as the music is excellently done by letting you hear the footsteps or screams from the appropriate speaker as required. This is shown best of all in the Tutorial area where the speaker is positioned in one place and as you move about the room the sound changes from speaker to speaker. There isn't really anything bad I can say about the sound except it is top quality like everything else in this game.

 

Final Comments

How It Grades
  Originality: 90%
Gameplay: 89%
Story: 90%
Graphics: 93%
Cutscenes: 90%
Sound: 91%
Music: 92%%
Manual: 90%
Interface: 90%
Multiplayer: 90%
Overall: 92%

 

Overall a pretty good release from Legend and GT Interactive. It has successfully captured the atmosphere and ideas that were originally portrayed in the books. Even if you haven't ever picked up a Robert Jordan book, it doesn't leave you in the cold and makes you feel welcome. To people that have read the books then it is a dream come true. The only downside might be that people that have read the books might not want to play the game because they don't want to ruin their image of what the places and characters should look like.

Direct 3D Patch can be downloaded from - ftp://ftp.gtinteractive.com/pub/games/wheeloftime/patches/WoTD3DPatch.exe 

 

Specs & Package
Overall Score 92%
Version Reviewed Version 1.0
Release Date Out Now
In The Box? 2 CD's
1 Manual
The Good Points Great graphics
Great atmosphere
Great sound & music
True to the books and makes even the novices to WoT feel welcome
The Bad Points You really need the Direct 3D patch if you are using Direct 3D
Some fans might not want to play it because it will ruin how they image the WoT universe to be
Similar To Unreal Tournament
Reviewers PC Setup Pentium III 450
Windows 98 Second Edition
240 Meg SD-Ram
Matrox G400 32MB AGP Graphics Card
DirectX 7a
SoundBlaster Live! Platinum
19" Daytek Monitor
Microsoft Force Feedback Pro
Microsoft Game Pad Pro (USB)
Microsoft Digital Sound System 80
Microsoft Intellimouse

 

PC Required Minimum System

Pentium 200MHz
32MB RAM 
500MB hard disk space
CD Rom
Windows 9x Compatible sound card
PCI local bus Video Card

Recommended System:

Pentium II 233
64MB RAM
AGP video port
500 MB hard disk space
Windows 9x Compatible sound card
3D accelerator card

 

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