Developer: Confounding Factor
Release Date: August 3, 2004
Buy 'GALLEON': Xbox
Not many games out there can say they have been in development for 5 plus years, and out of the few that can, most don't live up to the hype and justify the long dev cycle. I was expecting Galleon to fall into this category with little doubt, but after playing through the game I was not only surprised by what I had experienced but quite satisfied as well. Galleon was first announced as a Dreamcast game in 1999 and has since been announced for every other home console known to man before becoming a exclusive Xbox title. Made by the same people who developed the very first Tomb Raider on PS1, I had high expectations from the get go of this title. After years of delays and even a publisher switch, there was a time a little over a year ago when I totally wrote Galleon off as vaporware. I still have to pinch my self every once in awhile when playing the game just to make sure it's real and not a dream. Despite its rocky development, Galleon is finally here and is a surprisingly fun game, but did the long wait pay off?
In Galleon you play the role of Captain Rhama Sabrier who commands the Ship Endeavor. Not far into the game you come across a mysterious ship that is soon stolen before you had the chance to fully explore it and the cargo on board. You follow after it in hot pursuit across the ocean to a series of islands in hopes of taking it back and uncovering all of it's secrets, but you soon find out that getting back the ship is not your biggest problem at hand. Galleon is a mix of different game genres, but it is primarily an action/adventure game with more time spent on the adventure side of things then the action. There is also a healthy dose of platforming to be found in here as well. One of the main things developer Confounding Factor tried to do was blend all of these genres together into one seamless game with one control set up that could gracefully handle all of these game play aspects. Not only were they successful in doing this, this is also one of the main reasons Galleon works so well.
The game is played from the 3rd person prospective but also has a free look button that lets you look around the world in first person. One of the big differences you will find with Galleon compared to other 3rd person games is the camera. You do not control the camera what so ever here, the engine it self is in full charge of that. What ever direction Rhama is facing is the direction the camera will focus on. While it's not 100% perfect all the time, it does work very well. It will zoom in and out when needed and most of the time you wont have any problem seeing the action. This setup also works very well in doors were a large part of the game takes place at. Rhama has a lot of actions he can perform, but thankfully to the genius control system you won’t have any problems pulling off even the most complex of moves.
Just like in Tomb Raider and many other action/adventure games, you can make Rhama jump, walk, climb up objects and walls, run on walls, and do a variety of other things. The big difference here is that unlike most other action/adventure games that require complex control commands to pull off moves like this, you can do all of these and more by just using the joystick and the right trigger button or the A button on the Xbox controller. The simple controls are possible because the game engine is "smart" and aware of where you are at and what you are doing in the game. If you come to a small box that is in front of you and walk up to it, Rhama will automatically climb on top of it with out having to press a single button. Same thing happens if you come to a tight space and need to crouch down low, you simply walk up to the space and Rhama will crouch on his own. Climbing up walls and other objects like that is done by holding the right trigger which is the grab button while jumping is done by hitting the A button. This is without a doubt one of the best control setups ever made; you can fully navigate the environments while doing all of your fancy moves using nothing more then the joystick and one or two face buttons.
The Combat itself is handled by the X button which is your main attack button, or the Y button, which is your special attack button. Like the rest of the control system, the combat system works great. Combos are done by hitting the X button with the right timing and all other moves are done by hitting the Y button or a combo of the action buttons. Taking on multiple enemies in different directions is no problem as all you have to do is point the joystick in the direction of the enemies and Rhama will swing at them regardless of what way he is facing. The blocking is also very well done does not even require you to do anything at all. As long as you are facing an enemy, Rhama will automatically block and dodge most attacks. Rounding out the controls is the extremely cool lock on feature.
In the environments there are many things such as doors and people that Rhama can interact with. All of these things are highlighted in the game and when you come across one of these objects or people, all you have to do is hit the B button and that will auto-lock Rhama on to that object or person. Once auto-locked you simply need to walk up to the object or person and Rhama will take care of the rest. On the surface it sounds like the game might be over simplified but in reality all the developer has done was take the redundant tasks and simplified them leaving you to focus more on the actual game play it self and not wasting time searching around a room to see if you can interact with anything or not.
The environments in Galleon have been very well thought out and feature some great level design. The scale is often times quite breath taking as you can see for what seems like forever with no fog or pop ups to get in the way and some of the bosses and objects you interact with are massive. The pacing of the game is spot on and there never seems to be a boring moment. The adventure parts are very fun thanks in large part to the outstanding level design and some really cool puzzles. The Combat it self in Galleon is a little shallow but is still quite entertaining. This is one of the few areas in Galleon where I would have liked to see a bit more depth to the controls. The story itself holds up pretty good for an action/adventure game, but don't expect anything to special from it. The game play is what really drives this game.
The graphics have come along way from the first screen shots of this game running on the Dreamcast, but they still fall a little short of what is expected out of a 2nd generation Xbox title. The levels are full of color and life and really feel alive though. The texture maps are nicely done and for the most part pretty detailed, but are also a bit on the flat side. A little bump mapping or more polygons for some of the environments would have gone a long way. But this is the price you pay when you have a game that is in development for so long, more often then not when it is finally released the graphics tend to look quite dated and Galleon is no exception. But that’s not to say it's a bad looking game, as it's far from it. In fact, Galleon has its own unique art style and while it might not be the most technically impressive Xbox game out there, it still looks nice overall.
After its long development time, it's amazing that Galleon ever saw the light of day, but thankfully it did and I can say it was worth the wait. Now it's not the ground breaking title it could have been if it was released 2-3 years ago, but as it stands now Galleon is one of the most balanced, well thought out action/adventure titles out there. It's a bit of a shame that it took so long for this title to be completed as it would have had a much larger impact on the market a few years ago then it will now. That being said, any action/adventure fans really should take a good look at Galleon and not miss out on some of the best game play this genre has to offer!
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