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ATLANTIS III COMPAIRED TO TOMB RAIDER
Copyright New Straits Times

[ November 2nd 2001 ]

One of the many fascinating things about archaeology is the piecing together of details that have become frozen in time. These range from hieroglyphics and mummies to places whose people have long gone or moved away many generations ago.

So fascinating is archaeology that it has been romanticised into movies and, of course, computer games. Although archaeology per se can be pretty dry and plain boring, movies like the Indiana Jones series and adventure games like Cryo's Atlantis series have made archaeology appear to be something more suited for adventurers than scientists.

Archaeology is a legitimate branch of science, but there is a lot of supposition involved when interpreting archaeological findings. Often enough, archaeologists can only offer educated guesses on what their findings really mean and that leaves a lot of room for imagination.

And when imagination takes hold, fiction takes precedence over science, which is why a legendary place as mysterious and illusive as Atlantis has become well known in the world today. There is little historical evidence to suggest that Atlantis really exists. There is in fact more evidence on Sodom and Gomorrah than there is on Atlantis, owing to a great extent to Biblical and Quranic scriptures.

Nevertheless, perhaps only time will reveal the true location of Atlantis, just like the location of the lost city of the Ad people, also known as the Atlantis of the Sands, which purportedly was discovered recently in the Arabian Peninsula. And perhaps taking the cue from such an amazing discovery, Cryo Interactive has produced a sequel to its well-acclaimed Atlantis II set in the year 2018 called Atlantis III: The New World.

As the storyline goes, the reason why Atlantis had been so illusive to adventurers of the past is because they did not know where to begin looking. All the evidence gathered throughout the centuries firmly point towards Egypt or at least the Egyptian Empire.

From there, archaeologists and tomb raiders alike have gone in search of the remnants of Atlantis, which, according to the story, had been built in part, if not wholly, by the Egyptians. One of the Atlantis seekers found a quartz-like crystal in the shape of a skull in Peru and another, which is the game's protagonist, is in the process of making a discovery of her own in the Hoggar desert. This is where the gamer begins his search.

Female protagonists. It almost goes without saying that good interactive adventure games tend to have female protagonists as opposed to their male counterparts. Perhaps it is acknowledgment of the fact that, generally speaking, gamers tend to be male and male gamers prefer seeing attractive female protagonists, much in the same vein as how they like seeing Lara Croft in the Tomb Raider series.

Anyway, Atlantis III's female protagonist is modelled after French actress Chiara Mastroianni, who is the daughter of Catherine Deneuve.

Fortunately, Cryo did not exaggerate her physique like how Lara Croft's physique was exaggerated in order to make her attractive. This is because the three-dimensional (3-D) modelling is impressively detailed, almost as precise as those found in Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within movie. And the way the game has been designed is that it is played mostly in the first-person perspective. However, when interaction with specific objects or non-player characters is called for, the game reverts to a sort of interactive movie sequence.

For example, early in the game, Chiara has to solve the mystery of the stolen well and she has to confront an armed guard at the entrance to the well. As soon as the guard is clicked on with the mouse pointer and one of the many interactive options is picked, a fully 3-D animated cutscene showing the exchange between Chiara and the guard kicks in. This is both highly novel and enjoyable. It is like playing an interactive version of the Final Fantasy movie.

And in that regard, I must say that Cryo has finally found the right combination for state-of-the-art non-action based adventure games. In the past, the use of Myst-like game formats tend to detract from an adventure game's realism. Now that Cryo has shown the way with Atlantis III, we can expect more interactive movie-like adventure games to hit computer game shelves.

Be warned, however, you may just find the ending for Atlantis III a little disappointing. At least, that appears to be the consensus of reviews found on the Internet regarding Atlantis III. Oh well, nothing is perfect, I suppose.

Review courtesy of Ahmad Faiz.

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