It has been said there are only three types of stories: man vs. man, man vs. self and man vs. other. If that's true, then Bethesda Softworks has covered all the bases with Redguard, a swashbuckling adventure game set in the world of The Elder Scrolls Adventures (of Daggerfall and Battlespire fame). As Cyrus, a disillusioned young Redguard mercenary in search of his missing sister, you must confront your own shortcomings while exploring your conquered homeland and waging a one-man war against an entire empire.
If you take your action and adventure with a sprinkle of intrigue and a twist of cliche, you'll enjoy Redguard from start to finish. Similar to King's Quest: Mask of Eternity, it's essentially a classic adventure game disguised as a neo-Tomb Raider. You're frequently called upon to jump, run, swim and slash your way to safety but the action is nicely offset by clever puzzles and a deep, sprawling storyline. It's a near-perfect marriage of the two genres -- a thinking man's action game.
Redguard remains faithful to the puzzle-solving formula made famous by Sierra but also offers plenty of reflex-based action to satisfy more adrenaline-endowed gamers. There are sword fights galore but it doesn't stop there. How does a fast-paced, life-or-death chase through your enemy's heavily guarded palace sound or maybe a frantic escape from the endless catacombs beneath the governor's fortress? Perhaps a three-against-one battle to the death with the empire's soldiers while the provisional governor looks on? If you can dream it up, chances are you'll find it in Redguard.
From the moment you set foot on the island of Stros M'Kai, it's clear that Redguard is something special. The beautifully rendered 3D environment gives you a freedom of non-linear movement previously only dreamt of in adventure games. And the controls, including the choice of keyboard or joystick, are practically flawless. Add a 3D accelerator to your repertoire and Redguard becomes the ultimate virtual adventure. This is the game that Mask of Eternity should have been.
Its one real weakness is the voice-overs. While the background sounds and in-game music is excellent (the soundtrack is a perfect fit for the game's atmosphere), the voice-overs are noticeably uninspired. The other obvious problem is its poor enemy AI. For example, if the governor's soldiers are pursuing you, they won't follow you into a building or cut your rope as you swing across a pit of molten lava. But even these flaws aren't enough to negate Redguard's nearly endless list of positives.
Whether you're exploring ancient Dwarven ruins, crossing treacherous waters or joining an underground rebellion against the empire, The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard will sweep you up and never let go. It's one of the most enjoyable adventure games you'll ever play.
Graphics: A completely engrossing 3D world.
Sound: Some rousing adventure music but terrible voice acting.
Enjoyment: One of the most enjoyable adventure games you'll ever play.
Replay Value: You won't want to go from start to finish more than once.
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