Sentinel - Descendants in Time
Release date Germany: 31.01.05
Publisher: The Adventure Company
Game language: German
USK: no age restrictions
A review by MaryScots 1st February 2005
Polish developers Detalion, already known for the puzzle adventures Schizm: Mysterious Journey and Mysterious Journey II: Chameleon, now present their newest game Sentinel: Descendants in Time. Once more they signed Australian Sci-Fi-author Terry Dowling to write the story of this mystic adventure, which is based on his short story The Ichneumon And The Dormeuse.
1900 years from now in the future mankind will have witnessed the rise and downfall of another advanced civilisation, that of the Tastan. This wouldnt be the first time and will probably not be the last time, either. More often than not, the only way to gain knowledge about lost civilisations is the exploration of their places of eternal rest. But there will also be tomb raiders in the future, which must have been clear in the minds of the creators of the 85 Tastan tombs and therefore they employed their supreme technological skills to guard and protect their ancestors graves by an A.I. the Sentinel.
Beni once was one of the young hotspurs who broke into the graves for the thrill of it and perhaps find some sort of treasure. Many of them never returned. Only Ramirez who became famous for narrowly escaping the most dangerous of them all, tomb 35. But Beni has put this part of his life behind him.
One day, though, Benis younger sister Carrie is kidnapped by the unscrupulous black marketer Doba. In return for her release he demands Beni to enter tomb 35 - no less - and bring back something valuable. Beni doesnt see any other way out of this dilemma and so he submits to the will of the thug and descends into the vast crypt.
Almost as soon as he sets his foot on the ground the Sentinel appears in the guise of a beautiful young woman.
Of course, she knows what Beni is about to do and strongly suggests his turning around and leaving the tomb. But Beni refuses. He explains to her that his sisters life is at stake and asks her for help. Now she offers him a deal: if he succeeds in overcoming the challenges she puts in his way, she will let him go unharmed. Who would have believed that an A.I. could actually show compassion? Or does the Sentinel only try to double-cross him?
The program is stored on 2 CDs and was installed fast and without problems on my system. Afterwards we can put the CDs aside as the game runs completely from our hard drive.
We start in the main menu where apart from the usual options like new game, save, load and continue we also have access to the controls setup. We may change the keyboard- and mouse-functions, activate help texts and subtitles or adjust graphics- and sound-settings. The save menu allows for an infinite number of savegames, which are automatically provided with a screenshot, the time and the name of the current location. Better add your own remark or you will pretty soon lose track of your recent actions. In addition, the game itself automatically creates saves in short intervals.
I decided to control the game completely by mouse so I programmed the left mouse button for forward movement and the right button for interaction. I only needed the ESC key for access to the menus and thus navigated quite comfortably through the 360° locations without having to remember several keyboard functions. The centred cursor usually appears as a small white dot, which shows hotspots by an added white ring or, for a better orientation in new locations, will be supported by arrows.
Sentinel was developed with Touchdowns Jupiter 3D engine, which was already used for Mysterious Journey II. In first-person-perspective we wander real-time-rendered three-dimensional locations. Not every player will adapt to this style at least I had my share of problems with it. I couldnt look at the monitor for longer than one hour at a time before I felt dizzy. This is not criticism in fact the game lasts longer!
There is one thing all of the eight gameworlds have in common an incomparable atmosphere. We stroll through a fishing village made of wooden huts and walkways, erected in the middle of the sea, a surreal steppe landscape where giant roses grow and visit a place reminding me of a meteorological station far above the clouds. One location is found under a glass dome construction at the bottom of the sea and another on a volcanic island surrounded by an ocean of red hot lava. While exploring these sceneries art enthusiasts might be reminded of works by Edward Hopper or Salvador Dalí. They make the impression of accessible paintings, minimalist, but nevertheless imaginative in their diversity. Minimalist is not meant in a negative sense, rather only the necessary means are employed to create a surreal, mysterious or even peaceful atmosphere. Animations like water lilies swaying on the waves, dancing snowflakes or the floating ocean turtles in the under water world, are used rarely but to their best effect.
What I would call anaemic in other games, in this case underlines the feeling of wandering the memories of a stranger. It seems plausible taking into account that you are inside the thought projections of an A.I. After all, our alter ego has never been to these places and can only perceive that, which is suggested to him.
We will never meet Beni, whose shoes we walk in during the game, face to face. In the beginning we will only meet Doba and his accomplice who holds Benis little sister captive. The latter both appearing rather flat more like 2D characters and Doba himself moves like hes partly made of wood. Even his coat sticks out from his body when he turns around. This problem was solved very elegantly regarding Tamara, the Sentinel, as she is presented in a skin-tight dress. Her movements are fluent, sometimes even lascivious. Her hair is a little static, though, and her features could have used more work on them, especially the eyes look very inhuman. As far as 3D-face-design is concerned the developers could well have thrown a glance at Broken Sword 3 The sleeping Dragon.
The subtle, never interfering soundscape compliments the graphics to its best ability. The surreal feeling of some locations in particular is emphasised by atmospheric, experimental sounding synthesizer tones not disturbing our thoughts while solving puzzles but supporting them. This might be hard to imagine, I guess, but thats exactly how it worked for me. Locations, which are created with a stronger link to our reality are provided with realistic sound effects like the wind whistling in the snow-covered mountains or the soft ripple of the sea in the fishing village.
The puzzles, too, come with believable sound effects. Each interaction with the most diverse mechanisms produces a matching sound, this being very noticeable while solving the sound puzzles.
The few characters voices are well dubbed, though again I have to remark on the faulty sync of voices and lip-movement, they still fit the characters personalities very well.
Do I have to say it again? Well, I guess I must. Sentinel is a puzzle game just like its predecessors from the house of Detalion. This kind of adventure is also usually called a Myst-clone as among other aspects the nature of the puzzles is comparable. Despite my general aversion against these puzzles, I was quite positively surprised and I am happy to explain why.
As you already gathered from the story outline the Sentinel puts trials before us. This is why one doesnt wonder automatically about a logical implementation of the puzzles into the story anymore. Thematically though, they do fit perfectly into the worlds we are send to.
However, mechanics is the magical word! Theres nothing going on here without switches. The main task is to free the paths through the worlds, which we may visit in random order by the way, by looking for the nearest available switch or panel with switches and then trying to figure out what activating them will lead to. We wont always see the result of our actions in front of our eyes. More often than not we will have to take a thorough look around, maybe take some notes of symbols or draw sketches of objects and their arrangements, then go to another spot in order to operate said switches according to our notes, and afterwards return to the object to check the result.
All this comes with a hell of lot of running around and those of us who dont pay close attention will quickly get confused. Observational skills and a good sense of hearing are vital because you will often need a little time to figure out the connections between the mechanisms, though most of the puzzles are based on logic.
Also I would have liked to have subtitles for the various noises you have to match in the sound puzzles. As it is, I had to totally rely on my sense of hearing and take some notes myself whether for example the sound of a creaking door was rather high and short or long and dull. Colour-blindness would also be an obstacle. Sometimes even sounds are identified through colours.
To successfully finish each gameworld we have to find a crystal and take it with us. Only then should we return to tomb no. 35 and embark on our next journey.
Another very helpful feature is the hints option, which can be switched on and off in the game menu. While activated it provides clues in short sentences as soon as we draw near to an interactive area.
I liked playing Sentinel. My only problem was the way I was to move through the 3D environment. Sometimes I had only just understood how I could solve a puzzle when a feeling of dizziness interrupted my game. I overall enjoyed the brain-teasers having been very proud of myself when I worked out another one. It was a 25 hour grey matter training for me. My art-loving eye was totally pleased with the design of the gameworlds. And I always looked forward very much to the Sentinels sudden appearances. Through these short conversations, which take place during non-interactive video-sequences we learn bit by bit more about the Tastan civilisation and Tamaras motives for sending us on this quest. Those interested in psychology get the opportunity to indulge in some speculation, though this doesnt account for a missions success but adds depth to the story. I still recommend this game mainly to those who liked the predecessors, the Myst-series and similar puzzle-oriented adventures.
Rating: 79 %
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)
Minimum sytem requirements acc. to readme-file:
- Windows 98/ME/2000/XP
- Pentium III 1.0 GHz (2.0 GHz recommended)
- 128 MB RAM (256 MB essential on WIN XP)
- 16x CD-ROM-drive (24x CD-ROM-drive recommended)
- DirectX 8.1-compatible video card with 64 MB RAM or higher (128 MB recommended)
- DirectX 8.1 or higher
- DirectSound-compatible sound card
- 1,6 GB free space on hard drive
- Windows XP
- Pentium IV 2,6 GHz
- 512 MB RAM
- 16x DVD-ROM SD-616 Samsung
- Sapphire Radeon Atlantis 9600 256 MB video card
- Creative Soundblaster Live! 5.1 sound card
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