When Daydream (the makers of Safecracker, one of my all-time favorite puzzle games) and Dreamcatcher (the publishers of Cydonia, one of my all-time favorite puzzle games (notice the pattern?)) got together to bring us a new puzzle game, I thought I’d be in heaven. And mostly, I was.
Traitors Gate is a totally brilliant game with beautiful art, a fabulous interface, engaging sound, and best of all – ingenious puzzles. It is marred only by some loading and startup problems that I will get into later.
In the game, you are Raven, an agent with the CIA. The head of another government bureau just happens to have secret data on how to retrieve priceless national treasures from around the world – in case of war or disaster, they told me. Anyway, he has just quit and has decided to use this knowledge to steal the Crown Jewels out of the Tower of London. So, they call Raven in to replace the crown jewels with duplicates equipped with tracking devices. Off you go to penetrate one of the most heavily guarded complexes in the world, and get out without anyone knowing.
Oh, and by the way, you can’t kill anyone. Since the British Government doesn’t know about ORPHIA (the bureau that has the info on the Tower of London, and no, I can’t remember what the acronym stands for), the US can’t simply tell the British about this problem without causing an international incident. So that means that you have to go in without causing permanent damage to anyone, making the mission all the harder. Some of the other GiN staff around here think that the game concept is ‘wussified.’ They think you should just be a jewel thief going for the crown, but I think it adds another level of intrigue to the game.
The interface is the kind that has pixilated animation as you move between static wraparound ‘bubbles’ of scenery. Also, you are occasionally treated to a 3D movie to augment the action.
The sound is great, from walking sounds that change when you move on different surfaces, to little clicks and beeps when you open or turn on different machines. The music is engaging, with practically a different song for each room (a Daydream trademark).
The scenery is very realistic, with such enjoyably incredible detail, and there is a very good reason for that. Apparently, the folks at Daydream went to the Tower of London disguised as tourists, and, although the law strictly forbids it, they snuck little teeny cameras in and took literally thousands of photographs of the entire complex, or at least the public-accessible parts. Now, while I think it was wrong of them to flout the laws of a country, weaken its national security, and cheapen a 900-year-old treasure such as the Tower of London, I can’t let these feelings lessen my opinion (or rating) of this game.
However, I can let other things affect this game’s rating, particularly the problems with starting up the game. When this was first released, the program had trouble identifying that Disk 1 was in the CD drive; it would repeatedly tell you to insert it. With some fiddling involving opening the CD directory in the Explorer at the exact right time, I was able to get the game to run, but never consistently. Dreamcatcher did put a patch on their website, but it didn’t solve the problem completely. If you forgot and left one of the other three disks in the drive when you started the game, the patch stopped working until you rebooted. Eventually, I was issued a new Disk 1 which solved the problem, but I had at this point spent to many hours fighting with this game.
And that’s another thing: why can’t I start the game up from any disk? That just doesn’t make any sense. You can only start the game from Disk 1, and then it automatically starts a new game for you. You have to wait for the intro stuff to end, and only then can you load a game. After you do, chances are you’ll have to switch disks to the one you were playing on last time. People, please, next time let us start the game from any disk, take us to a "New Game, Load Game" menu screen, and don’t make us go through the intro each and every time. Please?
Now, I would like to emphasize that these problems are really unforgivable, and the only reason Traitor’s Gate got as high a rating as it did is that it is a truly phenomenal game. A mediocre game with this many problems would have gotten a completely miserable rating. It saddens me that this game might have gotten a perfect 5 out of 5 GiN Gems if not for the problems it was plagued with. As it stands, I have to give this game 3.5 GiN Gems, and some of the other reviewers think I am being kind to do so, after I have described the problems to them. But, not having played the game, they don’t know first-hand what an incredibly wonderful game it is.
The puzzles are both ingenious and down-to-earth at the same time. Since the game takes place in a modern-day, ‘real-world’ type of setting, you have to solve the puzzles with normal means and items, without using ‘magic’, or anything similar. I’ve always liked that in puzzle games.
For instance, in one puzzle that involves a locked gate, you have to realize that the tanks nearby are oxygen and acetylene, turn them on, use the spark-maker you had found in a closet to light it, then burn through the bolt of the lock. No spells to pull your bacon out, no clicking on a tank and hope it will solve itself. It’s just you and your wits, the way God intended a puzzle game to be played.
I only wish that such a fantastic game did not suffer from the poor quality control that Traitors Gate has.