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Interactions with other characters are too linear as well. You click on a character, get some bit of needed dialogue or trigger some event, and go on. In many games, when you interact with another character you are offered a variety of questions you might ask or comments you might make; some will elicit useful responses, others provide no information useful in the game but give the game designer a chance to show more facets of the character - flesh them out beyond their iconic role in the story. In Ring there is perhaps one occasion when you can interact with a character and get more than his or her stock response. The result is an extremely flat and monotonous gaming experience - no alternatives, no degrees of freedom, no room for character development or a varied game experience.

At moments, the flow of the game is interrupted by expository sequences. Often these provide much-needed context; but sometimes they drag on far, far longer than I was ready to stomach. So much else in the game had dragged that I had lost patience well before it was over. Characters may move about, mute, in gracefully animated sequences, with Wagner's stirring music in the background. But when they begin to speak, the whole scene freezes and only their mouths move, Clutch Cargo-style. The effect would be merely ridiculous if the animated portions were not so well done - as it is, it is doubly embarassing. (There are rare exceptions to this pattern which lead me to believe that this was a compromise design decision made after development had begun, in an attempt to cut down on scene rendering time.) These expository sequences can be cut short using the "escape" key, but without them it is hard to follow the game unless you already know the operas.

The voice acting in this piece ranges from quite competent to simply awful. Apart from Charlotte Rampling's work as Erda, perhaps the best-voiced character was Loge (who sounded remarkably like David Bowie). The Nibelungen (other than Alberich) are the worst, though Hunding, voiced (for the English version of the game) with a weird American hick accent perhaps befitting his rustic character, comes close.

The puzzles are a major disappointment as well. Most are either trivially easy or almost opaque-- and some, such as a classic childhood "slider" puzzle, are so cliché as to be insulting in a product that is otherwise so ambitious. (The Siegmund section did actually include an extended alchemy puzzle that played out relatively well and included all necessary clues for its solution.) One puzzle seems to require a certain knowledge of Wagner's music, as well as his narrative - one wonders whether the inclusion of selections from the Solti recording is in part an attempt to address the inadequate clues presented in the game. Frequently one is reduced to trial and error to solve a puzzle; even when, after the fact, one sees the logic behind, say, the combination to a safe, it seems very unlikely that one could reason to the correct solution with only the clues provided.

Continued



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