Joey To continues to impress with one of the best reviews-of-a-game-that-doesn’t-really-exist you’ll read this year.
Joey demonstrates a good understanding of the various pitfalls and problems in modern gaming and thankfully illustrates that just because the source is bad, doesn’t mean the review has to be.
Eastwick & Down 3: The Darkest Dark Pyramid by Joey To
You wake up in a candlelit room with shelves of barrels. It’s a beautifully rendered cellar, the light flickering ominously. And no less detail on the dozen bodies with their guts splattered across the stone floor either. On the nearby table is a viciously serrated blade and a mound of white powder. That’s right, you are Ursula DeMoor and the mirror shows you to be ten years older than in ED2 but still busty and in black leather; you know, “forty and tastefully mature”.
The voice acting, like your uni exams, is a borderline pass. Michelle Miller did her best with the role but the monologue seems to be etched into blocks of cheese. Lines like “They’re all dead [gasp] I can’t remember…” and “I must find out what happened here” makes you want to use the self-immolation spell. Anyway, despite the memory loss, you work out that the cellar is not yours and when you stagger onto the street—you guessed it—emaciated Orcs in black robes chase you.
Added to the confusion is the semi-alternate historical-fantasy setting in this instalment. It’s interesting since Ursula can be Scandinavian while DeMoor suggests a Dutch heritage. Yet, the city you are in resembles sixteenth-century Spain and you speak like you’re from Boorston. But at least it’s an animator’s show-off. The environmental design and texture mapping are nicely done. The fog and lighting are truly eerie.
Unfortunately, this visual brilliance soon fades. When the robed Orcs block you off in an alleyway, you are offered a choice to stand your ground or attempt escape. If you pick the former, Ursula zaps them like a Sith Lord. At first, the slow motion looked really cool, albeit a rip-off of The Flash but then the punches and kicks got jerky and we realized our latest 8GB video card wasn’t quite enough. If you select escape, the same thing happens before you fly away like some ridiculous Die Hard action-fantasy scene.
Arriving at the forest just outside the city, you wander a bit and come across an old wino. He says he’s a wizard and that he’s been waiting for you, to assist you. But you have to retrieve something first. From the cellar. And it’s dark now. We’re not sure what the developers were smoking but your trip back turns into a survival-horror mission with a black lanky monster tailing you. Zapping simply annoys it and you can’t outrun it either. If you make it back without evisceration, grab the blade and a crystal hidden in one of the barrels (it’s random and therefore different on each play), then get back to the forest.
Of course, the wizard has moved on but he’s left clues to where he’s going. And when you do find him, he vaguely tells you of this Orc conspiracy to overthrow human civilization: the fairy dust, those bodies and your conveniently selective amnesia are all related to a dark mystical pyramid with immense power (which you probably guessed from the trailer anyway).
From this point onwards, the choices become quite diverse, which is pleasantly surprising considering most games offer little in this respect. Sadly, like our reviews, the writing gets no better. The motivation-and-obstacle cycles continue to be cheap. For example, just when you think the wizard is about to commence a much-anticipated expositional rant, he asks you to retrieve his lost pipe or else he can’t remember anything. Or, when you enter a tavern to get information, burly men give you dirty looks. As if the “diplomatic” option will work, unless your idea of diplomacy involves shoving your blade through vital organs. Like hockey commentators becoming boxing commentators in an instant, the interface goes from RPG to beat’em up seamlessly. Mortal Kombat fans will find the fighting mechanics strangely familiar.
And no story will be complete without a badly timed love interest. When you’re about to hack through the magical cloak hiding an Orc fortress, the blond Elven warrior interrupts. If you remember ED2, you two broke up because his parents disapproved of you being mortal and all that. Apparently, aging well isn’t good enough for them. Either way, it’s been a kinda-on-and-off deal since then. However, you can “just be friends” and let him help. Trust us: you need the help.
Despite the initial visual awesomeness and the multitude of choices throughout, the plot is nevertheless repetitive. In addition, bugs such as horses trying to mate with pigs and erratic self-preservation in the AI ruins the playing experience. It’s not really a fight/battle when—after a massive build-up—most of the squad/army run away from each other and trip over each other in the process, leaving you to practically fight alone. Your powers aren’t that mesmerizing but, alas, neither is this game.
Available on PC only: 1.5/5