The Egyptian Prophecy
Publisher: The Adventure Company
Release Date: March 31, 2004
Buy 'EGYPTIAN PROPHECY': PC
From the makers of Syberia and Broken Sword comes an adventure game that promises to drop you in the middle of ancient Egypt for a tale of intrigue and magic. Set in the times of the greatest Pharaoh of them all, Ramses II, The Egyptian Prophecy is a Myst-like experience with the same promise and the same limitations as that tried-and-true classic.
Ramses II is dying. He prays to the Sun-God Amon-Ra for longer life and is ordered to build the most beautiful temple ever made by man to see his dream come true. The game begins with you playing the young Maia, a (hot) priestess, appointed by Pharaoh himself to monitor the build site. Things have not gone well for the project, almost as if the whole process has been cursed. As Pharaoh’s point person on the ground, it’s up to you to guarantee the success of the temple. Failure means the death of the king and, consequently, the death of the golden age of Egypt.
As with other Adventure Company games it’s wonderfully simple to start playing The Egyptian Prophecy. The folks at the company have a special knack for making clean interfaces and user-friendly first impressions. The game is another example of the mainstream angle the company designs its games from. It’s no Deer Hunter but EP is certainly many steps away from the hardcore gaming arena.
For example, one of the finest details of the game is a “historically accurate” tome of artifacts, rituals and temples. So while you run around casting spells and participating in a story you’re also getting an education on Egyptian history. You can check a detailed history of the game’s world in the options menu. This feature could have been better implemented in the game itself but it’s still a welcome addition. The process of learning is actually very well done and adds to the gameplay more than any other aspect.
And the game does need some help as far as play is concerned. While EP is good looking and easy to maneuver it also doesn’t have much there to sink your teeth into beyond your standard puzzles. They can be entertaining, granted. At one point you open a basket and get bitten by a cobra. You have to concoct a formula from dried donkey droppings, gum and other ingredients. And no you don’t apply it to the wound. You drink it. Mmmmm. Another well-done (and quite beautiful) puzzle has you step on map constellations that match the night sky above you. It’s a quiet moment in the game that captures the essence of the Egyptian culture, in my mind. You, the night and the silence. Very well done.
But, as with most puzzle games, the puzzles can be remarkably frustrating; following some odd form of logic that a developer experienced during a 2am caffeine binge. Sometimes you must talk to someone twice to get the details you need to proceed. This is a crutch of adventure games that always drives me nuts. I feel like screaming “Why didn’t you tell me that before?” Most of the time you’ll wander around on a leash, wondering where the game wants you to go next. Not exactly a fun time in my book. But that’s just me.
A good example of the granularity of some of the puzzles can be found in the gouge puzzle. A basket weaver wants you to get his gouge that he threw at a fish in the pond. It’s on top of a water lilly. You have to walk across the pond, grab a rope, find a pebble, throw a pebble at the bird, get the piece of copper that results from hitting the bird and make a grappling hook. After futzing with lilly pads and the rope you can pull the gouge in. I probably would have just jumped in and gotten the thing for him if I had my way.
As stated before there’s a lot of Myst in here – just better looking and a little more interactive.
To move around in your first POV perspective you simply click in a direction and the game swoops you to the next good looking screen. Once the POV settles down you can look around 360 degrees but there is no true freedom of movement. It’s too bad they chose to go this route since I think the game would have been more immersive with the ability to snoop in every corner. The left mouse button is also used to interact with your environment. The cursor changes to tell you what you can do with the object. Moving the mouse over people gives you a little chat icon, while objects that are usable get an icon with a couple of gears. You will need to mix and match this kind of simple interaction to solve puzzles and cast spells. For instance you need to click on a magical piece of cloth in your inventory, then click on a sick man with the cloth activated, then click on a donkey to transfer the sickness to the animal. Poor jackass. The inventory is called up with a right-click. All in all an elegant interface.
Still, even with its point-and-click style EP offers a deep overall experience.
The atmosphere created by the sights, sounds and tiny details go a long way toward creating a sense of really being there. If the intent of the developers was to make you miss the world when you weren’t playing then they have succeeded for the most part. Even though there’s a game to play here I found the environment to be more entertaining. Wandering around and looking at the sights, watching the people and immersing yourself in the lore of ancient Egypt is worth the price of admission alone. Though the game is short there are a lot of places to explore. You can wander along the Nile and check out Karnak, Memphis, and the labyrinth of Ptah. You can solve puzzles in a lava landscape fit only for the gods. The areas might be limited in size but they are plenty pretty to look at.
The visuals are not perfect but quite nice and highly stylized. Many people think that the ancient civilizations had dull colored buildings, especially Egypt with its sandy environs. But nothing could be further from the truth. They used colorful paint and inks on almost everything and the game captures this bright mood well. The people look a little wooden and their accents are straight out of Indiana but they add to the mood since the dialogue itself is competent. Sound is also well done with music fitting for the adventure and incidental sounds that really make you feel like you’re there sometimes. Cutscenes are used to convey “visions’ and the story and they are also done with care. Overall the production value feels high.
The biggest problem with the game (besides the dull and sometimes frustrating adventure aspect) is the length. It didn’t take me more than a few hours to wrap it up. And since the overall experience is engaging that just makes it more irritating.
If you’re a hard-core gamer looking for an action-packed challenge then go elsewhere. EP is designed for a mainstream audience and with a short play time you’ll probably wish you picked up Tomb Raider 17 instead. But if you’re an Ancient Egypt nut (or feel like you could be one with the right introduction) then this game is definitely for you. With little details pulled from the history books and what seems like a faithful representation of daily life in Egypt (with a lot of spectacular fantasy thrown in for good measure) this game should be in your library. I can also recommend EP to Myst fans since it takes that genre of game to a whole new level. I wish more attention had been paid to making a full-fledged game but a virtual reality jaunt through one of the most fascinating times in history will do me fine too.
Score : 7.5/10