The sequel to the best selling PC adventure game of all time is
coming to the Xbox. Myst and Riven have sold over 11million copies combined, and with the
PC version of Myst III newly on the shelves, the move to port the franchise to a new
system makes perfect sense. The release date for Exile on Xbox is during the third
quarter, 2002, and from the previews at E3, this number one game is going to open up a
whole new world for console gamers.
Exile is a
photo-realistic, 3D adventure game developed by Presto Studios and published by Ubisoft.
The general premise of the game is that a people called the Dni are able to create
"ages," which are fictional worlds that become real as they are written down. In
this third installment, there are five worlds in which to play, and you are chasing a man
named Saavedro (played by Academy Award nominee Brad Dourif of One Flew Over the
Cuckoos Nest) through each age as the tale of his need for revenge unfolds. As the
game begins, you are at the house of Atrus and his wife Catherine (familiar characters
from the franchise), and you are being shown the latest book created by Atrus. Just then,
the man Saavedro bursts in, steals the book, and escapes into another age. You will follow
him, and with the help of the journals of Atrus, Catherine, and Saavedro, you will
discover the actions of Atruss sons which have driven Saavedro to seek retribution.
installment features navigation technologies which support a "free-look"
movement system that allows 360 degree panning. The Xbox port resembles the PC version in
the way in which one moves through the game (clicking on items or moving oneself through
the game by predetermined routes) and PC gamers will find the transition fairly easy.
However, the muscle of the Xbox allows all the beautiful graphics and gameplay of the
computer with some nice new additions. Along with more intuitive gameplay and interface,
the ambient environmental sounds have been joined by vibrations in the controller which
correspond with the visual environmental factors (such as the motion of waves and the
shaking of the ground). Special care was taken to make this a subtle factor so as not to
pull players out of the spell of the game, but to still enhance the overall experience.
gameplay is created with a PC paradigm in mind, I believe that console gamers will welcome
this latest addition to the adventure family. Exile has stunning visuals, haunting music
composed by Jack Wall, a great script written by Mary DeMarle, and challenging puzzles
which will keep you enthralled for hours. Some of the ports that Ive looked at are
too slow and cumbersome for those players used to console games, but I believe this title
will span the chasm because of, ultimately, the quality and depth of the game. We could
wish for a more console-based interaction with the environment, but I think the elements
of this game are compelling enough to hold our attention (if for no other reasons but the
bizarre, beautiful environments and the deeply psychological plotline). I think this game
will appeal especially to the fantasy and RPG aficionados.
I was lucky enough to get a chance to speak with the Associate Producer of this title,
Ashley Bushore. Ubisoft prides itself on having people directly involved in the production
of a game show it at E3, and I find that a refreshing change from the "hired
gun" approach to game PR. Not only are those involved directly with the game more
knowledgeable about the game in question, they also project the enthusiasm and pride for
their "children" that makes me excited about up-coming titles. As Bushore walked
me through the console changes and additions, she pinpointed several of the reasons for
the success of this franchise. This game, she pointed out, was allowed the gestation time
necessary to create quality, and the use of an imaginative and detailed script provided
the framework that allows players to immerse themselves so deeply in the world that is
Myst. I believe that console gamers will appreciate this approach (and the game in
question) in a world where many titles are slap-dash but still carry a fifty-dollar price
tag. The necessity for producers to support quality and work in tandem with developers is
a critical difference between a "so-so" game and a work of art
falls into the latter category. And besides that, this title goes beyond fun into a
compelling, surreal video game experience.
Exile has the
chance to be a truly effective crossover from the PC realm, and I will be one of the first
people in line to welcome it into the console family. We will be witness to the console
world learning what is best about computer games, and hopefully, as this franchise
progresses, it will continue to integrate what is best about consoles as well.