Casanova - The Duel of the Black Rose
Developer: Arxel Tribe
Publisher: Wanadoo Edition
A review by slydos 23rd October 2001
With "Casanova" Arxel Tribe, known through processing epic material like Faust or The Ring in 1st person-perspective, for the first time betakes on the terrain of 3rd person-games. The game is called adventure by some people, action-adventure by others. Let's see, what it is all about.
Casanova meets Isabella
Installation (2 CD's) works fine under Windows ME, but after a short time my hero was captured in running on one and the same spot and couldn't be moved away. There were also some game crashes - so I decided to download the patch (german) from the homepage. After that unfortunately all savegames were useless and I had to restart from the beginning. From this point on the game ran without considerable crashes, but here and there Casanova moved glitching and slowly.
Around the year 1750 - On a ship journey to Venice Casanova witnesses the murder of his mother by Mongolian pirates. As the only survivor he awakes seriously hurt in the house of a patron, the Duke of Grimani. Here Casanova is equipped with a generous letter of credit and also gets an appointment with the daughter of the house. He meets the charming Isabella in a café at St. Mark's Square. She suggests that there would be a conspiracy in Venice and that there might also be a connection to the death of his mother, but her father could tell him more about it.
He gets to know that at the moment the Venice Games take place, in which young men can cope with each other. At this moment Casanova is mobbed by in inpoverished aristocrat at the neighbour desk and already gets his first duel date. Isabella advises him to visit Tybalts fencing school before duelling and asks him in the end to fetch his invitation to a feast in Palazzo Grimani in the Café later. He begins the search for his mother's murderers and for his unknown father and finally there is still another conspiracy to uncover...
Though the story is pure fiction, it's fitting the exciting and moving life of Giacomo Casanova. On the other hand the scenery of Venice is great and close-to-reality after my memory. That it's a bit of fiction also, one notices only when Casanova selects as means of transport one of the "flying gondolas", with stops dispersed over the whole city.
You can first explore the city by foot together with Casanova at the beginning of the game to your heart's content. St. Mark's Square, the channels, Palazzi, bridges - everything in magnificent colours and beautifully detailed 2D-graphics.
Each scene is a pure eye-candy for real! The roads and squares are populated by a large number of NPCs (non-player characters), following their own businesses, doing their work, strolling along, talking ... If our hero collides with one of them, the person stops and looks at Casanova - in this game it really doesn't happen that we just walk through a person or simply break them down.
But roads and houses are not only crowded by humans. There are also the typical venetian pigeons. Swarms of them establish themselves at squares and evade skillfully to the steps of our main character. Likewise butterfly swarms react, which you can admire here and there. A really splendourful, animated scenery.
The beauty of the background graphics however gets a little impaired by the 3D-presentation of the characters. Casanova's body-shape seems exaggerated in the style of a wood doll á la Pinocchio and not as in real life. Also the many ladies, whom Casanova approaches in a charming way, are everything but beauties. With their multicolor high hair-styles and the partly stretched and sharp-edged bodies they look much more like torture chamber inhabitants. Whether intended or caused by 3D-transponation, the presentation of the characters cannot convince. You can find more real-life examples e.g. in the 3D-Game "Dragon Riders".
However most of the time our hero is to be seen only from some distance, depending upon camera position. The view from which we watch him, changes repeatedly - however quite balanced, so that you can always find orientation quite easily, again substantially more easily, than in the before mentioned "Dragon Riders", which additionally takes place in a 3D-environment.
Orientating yourself in Venice is quite easy - with the F2-key you can reach the inventory where you can click the map-icon of the section of Venice, in which Casanova is. The hero's position is marked on it with a red circle and all important places are included.
Clicking on the upper right corner of the city map will bring up a to-do-list. If you should have forgotten, what's to be done, you find a list of the pending tasks here. If a task is completed, it's checked off.
The game is mouse- and keyboard-controlled. Sometimes however it is not clear, why sometimes keyboard and sometimes the mouse must be used. Casanova is controlled with the arrow keys and you can get him running by pressing the left Shift-key simultanously.
And just like typical in keyboard games - actions like speaking, looking, taking up etc. are executed with spacebar. Besides there is still another whole set of keys, which deals with jumping, fencing and cross-bow handling. All keys can be changed by the gamer, using a special menu option in the main menu, which can be found through F1. This was really vital for me, since I played Casanova on a laptop, on which some built-in functions can only be called with combinations of keys.
Key allocation only very slowly burns into memory, and it is really necessary to attend the fencing school for a longer time in order to practice. The cross-bow is controlled, e.g. on the fair, with the mouse. I was near giving up here several times, since the mouse pointer didn't react properly and exaggerated my movements. Not a beautiful feature with time-limited tasks! If Casanova must execute a far jump, you should hit the three necessary keys with the right feeling - again no easy task. Turning the hero around a bit with the keyboard is a rather rough action, therefore it is advisable, if he must balance e.g. over a plank, to use the mouse for this. Sounds complicated - and it is indeed!
While Casanova is exploring the major part of the city at the beginning, addressing ladies and solving his tasks, which is simple puzzle food in the first part of the game, like opening doors, find a certain object or the correct person for a conversation, in the further process much more action will occur. In the first half of the game puzzles still outweigh, there are only a few jump&run -, shooting- or fencing combat elements and you are free most of the time to let the happenings affect you without rushing each 10 seconds to save the game.
In the first half of the game Casanova will die more rarely than in an old King's Quest adventure. When progressing, things turn around however. The puzzle parts - now more fastidious - decrease and make room in the end almost exclusively for elements like jump&run, cross-bow shooting and fencing. It is almost always possible and also extremely recommendable to save your game, but here really in the long run one action sequence lines up to the next and death is always close.
One puzzle in the second half of Casanova reminded me strongly of an old Access game "Countdown" - here the gamer also had to find his/her way under time pressure past the guards back into his/her cell - contrary to "Countdown" the gamer in Casanova is not forced to collect some objects in between however. The inventory is usually only meagerly filled - and it is usually immediately clear, where and how an object is to be used.
There are always three indicators visible on the top of the screen, showing money, politeness and life-points. Points of politeness can increase or decrease, depending on how successfully Casanova speaks to the ladies. He will lose points of life with each fencing fight but can always get a cure from the barber for some money. He gets the cash on the one hand by the redeemed letter of credit on the other hand through playing at the fair booths. He can also repeatedly find coins somewhere on the ground.
You can save as much games as you like, but the loading times for those games are quite long and also sometimes the loading times when changing to the next scene can take 2 minutes or longer watching the loading screen.Summary
Story and dialogues really succeeded, are exciting and dragging along. A story of craving for power, defamed love, ambition, political plots and even conjuring ghosts before the background of a fascinating city. The story with its surprising turns binds the gamer from the outset. Unfortunately the puzzles represent not really a big challenge for the experienced adventure gamer and are finally completely covered by fighting, shooting and jumping.
Even if you cheat yourself through the many fencing scenes and the other action elements require a portion of consideration, it nevertheless makes finally no fun to sit hundreds of times before a loading screen because Casanova again has exhaled his life.
The estimated playing time will be between 30 and 40 hours (without using a walkthrough) depending upon your finger dexterity. It's also possible to omit subplots and puzzles and nevertheless achieve the final sequence.
Finally a 3rd-person game by Arxel Tribe, marvelous 3D-backgrounds and the exciting story
Too much action and too little challenging puzzles for adventure fans, complicate and unmanageble controls
Casanova is a game for those, who already dared into the action-adventure genre and are also not shocked by inaccurate and complicated controls and many deaths. If you give it a try you get a graphically opulente, binding coat-and-sword story. Gamers, who preferred so far rather calm, mental exercise-stressed adventures in the style of Schizm, or believe, that this game would be similar to former adventures of Arxel Tribe, could probably get rather frustrated and disappointed.My rating: 68% Adventure-Archiv-rating system:
80% - 100% excellent game, very recommendable 70% - 79% good game, recommendable 60% - 69% satisfactory, restricted recommendable 50% - 59% sufficient (not very recommendable) 40% - 49% rather deficient (not to be recommended - for Hardcore-Adventure-Freaks and collectors only) 0% - 39% worst (don't put your fingers on it)
- Windows 98/2000
- Pentium 300 MMX
- 64 MB RAM
- 3D graphic card
- 500 MB free space on hard disk
- Keyboard, mouse
- Windows ME
- Pentium III 850
- 128 MB RAM
- Sound- and Graphic cards DirectX-compatible
- Toshiba DVD-ROM