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LEGACY: Dark Shadows

Reviewed by  Mark Hasley

For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: "It might have been!"

When these lines were written about 100 years ago, the poet probably never considered that they would be applied to a video game.  But having just finished Legacy: Dark Shadows, I can assure you that the quote is appropriate.

Legacy: Dark Shadows is a fairly commonplace third person adventure game.  It's a pure adventure game in that it has a potentially interesting storyline, generally impressive graphics, gameplay that requires the use of inventory items, and no requirement that the player kill anybody.  It has several puzzles, and a few of them are timed, but all of the puzzles are solvable without significant strain, and the timed ones allow you more than enough time to complete them.  All of these characteristics should add up to a thoroughly entertaining game.

The player controls the main character, whose name is Ren Silver.  She works as a private investigator in the year 2138.  Her office is in a large city on Earth, but while in the process of solving a missing person's case, she goes to Mars a few times, gets stuck on a prison colony ship, lands on an asteroid, and finally winds up in Leningrad.  Somewhere in the middle of the case, it becomes clear that she is also dealing with the inevitable adventure game ploy:  a villain who plans to take over and control the world.  She is as multi-talented as most fictional private eyes are and also, like most of them, seems to have an endless collection of quirky friends and humorous wisecracks.  While not being willing to add more details about the plot (because I hate to write plot spoilers), it's reasonable to state that all in all the basic plot is fine.  It has all the elements that make adventure gaming what it should be.

The graphics are impressive.  They are of the murky, dirty, 'buildings after Armageddon' variety that most gamers find extremely entertaining.  They often resemble the movie Blade Runner in that there are lots of impressive vertical structures that seem to have signs attached all over the place.  There are also many 3-D cut scenes, which are a bit fuzzy but they add to the story.  And for me, there's another pleasant detail... Ren travels around Earth in an automated Taxi that looks and operates like the one Bruce Willis drove in The Fifth Element.  I liked it in the movie and I still like it in the game.  The takeoffs and landing at various grungy places are quite impressive.  So generally, the game looks fine.

The music is adequate.  It adds little to the game, but it doesn't detract either.  It seems to be simply there.  The voice acting is equally adequate, but since the game comes from Eastern Europe, some of the accents sound rather odd to an American gamer's ear.  However it should be noted that a lot of the dialogue is spoken by rather bizarre characters, so the lack of great vocals is not a problem.  The voices usually fit the people who are speaking.

The interface is of the third person, point and click variety.  There are clear cursor changes that show if something can be picked up and/or used.  It's also made clear whether or not another character can be spoken to.  (Note here that there are lots of characters to whom Ren may speak, and they all talk a LOT!)  The entire control system is very reminiscent of an old game called The Longest Journey.  The player can easily choose to use or not use subtitles.  And there's even a special cute little button which, when pushed, puts a label on every item on the screen.  This means that every bottle, book, sign, or speck of dust is labeled, whether or not it's part of the game.  It's a rather entertaining, but odd, feature.

All of the inventory items, communications and several constantly available tools are contained in Ren's PDA.  The PDA also contains a daily log that the player can read and, if necessary, reread, in order to be sure of what has occurred and what Ren is thinking.  And the game apparently allows for unlimited saves.  As I'll mention later, this is a very good and important point.  For reasons noted below, I used about 65 saves.  They are available later as film frames and the game stores them all, in order, and lets the player click though and look at each picture to see where he wants to go.

I assume that the reader of this review is now thinking "OK, a reasonable plot, good graphics, some clever characters, nice cut scenes, and lots of clever technical stuff... So why the rather gloomy poem?"  The answer is that there are a few really strange elements that detract from the game, and most irritatingly, the blasted game doesn't work very well.

After the game was loaded, it simply wouldn't start.  It dumped me back to the desktop every time I tried it.  I learned that there were two patches available and I downloaded both of them.  These two patches didn't rectify the problem, but did allow me to contact Razbor (the developers) who very nicely wrote a third patch, which I also downloaded.  This corrected the problem up to a point and allowed me to play the game.  However every once in awhile, for no apparent reason, and in no pattern I could discern, the game again dumped me back to the desktop.  This is why the unlimited saves were so important.  I found myself saving about every ten minutes so as to avoid losing what I had gained.  In fairness, this worked.  I could always reload to the last saved game once I had restarted.

There were also oddities in the graphics.  Ren was supposed to run if I left clicked twice.  Sometimes she did.  Sometimes she didn't.  Sometimes she moved quite briskly.  Sometimes she moved as if she were arthritic and old.  And usually there was a significant lag between clicking in a particular direction and movement in that direction.  It was never extreme; it was simply irritating.  Plus Ren was dressed in a skin tight, sleazy, Tomb Raider style outfit.  I didn't object to it on prudish grounds, but it bugged me that no other character wore any sort of skimpy clothing.  So every time Ren dealt with other characters, she looked rather out of place and a bit silly.

There were also times when the creators of the game simply stuck in stuff.  As an example, there's a long involved puzzle sequence that I finally solved and was then forced to deal with a giant spider, which didn't fit with the other puzzles, the plot, or any other element of the game.  It felt like the people at Razbor simply wanted a giant spider, so they stuck it in.  And there was one spot where Ren disappeared, and I assumed (and was irked by the fact that) the game had purposely shifted from a third person game to first person.  So I quit, but then when I returned to the game, Ren had reappeared and the game was playable again.  I found out later that this is just a 'bug' in a large number of the games delivered.

So that is the situation.  With its impressive graphics, reasonable plot, adequate sound and complex but answerable puzzles, this should have been enjoyable gaming experience.  But its technical problems, odd details, and irritating tendency to simply stop for awhile (along with the fact that this is a $30.00 game) made it, instead, a rather sad experience.

 March 2005  Mark Hasley

Full View Screenshot

Visit the  Official Legacy: Dark Shadows Website to learn more about the game, view additional screenshots and download the demo and/or patches.

Developed (2004) by  Razbor Studios  and published by  Tri Synergy  in North America.

Rated:   T   for Teen 13+  (alcohol reference, blood, mild violence, mild language)

Minimum System Requirements:  Windows

Where To Buy This Game:

Walkthroughs or Hints:

"MaGtRo's Walkthrough" available here!

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