Publisher: The Adventure Company
Release Date: March 7, 2007
Puzzles, puzzles, and more puzzles – you fans of adventure games know you love 'em. That's a good thing, if you're thinking about picking up The Sacred Rings. If you don't enjoy solving puzzles at every turn, well, then I'll just warn you right now: You might want to look elsewhere.
Rings is the sequel to Aura: Fate of the Ages, where players took on the role of Umang, an up-and-coming young lad from the Keeper's Clan who has been charged with protecting four sacred rings from the evil Shadow Legion. You will reprise the role of Umang here in his continuing quest to safeguard the rings from the same enemies.
Ironically, the rings in question are almost never mentioned in the game, which should come as no surprise, as both Aura and Rings have loosely woven stories which only serve to help string you along from one challenge to the next. The plot of Rings is virtually nonexistent, despite a potentially very rich backstory. Here and there you get little peeks at the game's underlying story, but they all come in the form of cut scenes, and most of them don't dive that deep.
Speaking of cut scenes, Rings has a lot of them, and they are generally used to decent effect. Sometimes they show you the results of your actions, sometimes they show you how the story is progressing elsewhere, and sometimes they just serve to help set up the next scene. Regardless, most of them are pretty well done from a visual standpoint, but unfortunately, the voice acting is awful.
But I digress. This is a game about puzzles, and I have yet to talk about them. I mentioned earlier that there were a lot of them, and boy, howdy, is that ever an understatement. Again, just like Aura, all you will do in Rings is solve one puzzle after another. Often, you must solve puzzles nested within puzzles, meaning that you must solve one puzzle just to get the next piece of a larger puzzle on which you've been working. If you're into that sort of thing, then you will really love this game. Let me warn you, though – the puzzles in the game's first act are wicked hard.
Typical to most adventure games, you will collect clues from a variety of sources. Solving one puzzle will sometimes simply give you clues to solve another. You may also get clues from the other characters in the game through dialogue, although there is very little NPC interaction, and all of it is fully scripted. Sometimes you simply find things lying around that you can use later, so be careful to search each scene thoroughly. There is a journal where Umang will keep some notes for you to refer back to, but despite this, I still had two full pages of my own notes and diagrams by the time I was done playing.
Some of Rings' challenges are very clever, while others are things you've seen plenty of times before. What sets many of these apart from other adventure titles, though, is the setup. A lot of the challenges revolve around cool set pieces like a ballista, a space warping rail car, a walking house, and stuff like that. Solving them is made fun partly by the fact that you can't wait to see what happens when you're done.
The brightest feature in Rings is probably the visuals. I never got bored with the scenery, and I have to say that the level of detail on each screen really added a lot to the feel of the game. The music is nice, and although I wouldn't say that the music adds to the atmosphere, it certainly doesn't hurt, either. Aside from one errant, overly campy track in the very last scene, the music is pleasant and very easy to listen to for extended periods of time.
Because The Sacred Rings is an adventure game with zero character development, no NPC interaction, and a completely linear storyline, you will find that it also has absolutely no replay value. Maybe a couple of years from now when I've forgotten how to solve the puzzles, it might be worth a few hours of my time, but otherwise, this title is a one-shot deal.
Overall, I think that fans of the adventure genre will enjoy The Sacred Rings because the puzzles and challenges are just that good. Just be warned – if you enjoy a good story, character development, or choices about anything at all, you won't find them here.
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