Inherit the Earth: Quest for the Orb was an adventure game originally developed by The Dreamers Guild and released for DOS in 1994. In 2003, Wyrmkeep Entertainment acquired the rights to republish the game and updated it for Windows compatibility. The re-release also included a new digital audio score of the original music composed for the game. The port was otherwise faithful to the source.
The game hearkens back to the day of funny animals in fairy tales. Here, the animals are called Morphs, and legend has it that they are created by the long absent humans. Some human ruins, and even some working technology, remain. A piece of such technology is the Orb of Storms, which can predict weather. It has been stolen, and the prime suspect is Rif. He is the suspect solely because he has just lost a big puzzle contest which he is expected to win and because he is a fox, a race that other Morphs do not trust.
Somehow, Rif manages to talk the authorities into letting him search for the orb, keeping his foxy girlfriend, Rhene, as bail. That is not quite enough, however, so a boar guard, Okk, and an elk guard, Eeah, are sent to both watch and help Rif.
Finding the orb first involves trekking back and forth across the civilized, medieval known lands, the domain of the Forest King. After visiting a few of the major tribes, you (as Rif) eventually head north into the Wild Lands. Throughout both you must deal with tribes of rats and cats and others (but no olyphants). At each tribe you must interact with a few characters, getting a sense of the tribe's personality. Of course, the animals themselves are also a big clue to their own natures, which is the basis of the funny animal genre.
To match the heavily pixelated, cartoon graphics, the story is simple and lighthearted. It is suitable for young gamers (such as children), at about the same tone as Westwood Studios' The Legend of Kyrandia or Sierra On-Line's King's Quest. There is considerable amount of storytelling as you run back and forth dealing with various characters, but there is little depth to any of it. The characters are given distinct, albeit simple, personalities, and most give you a little of their back story. The gameplay is pleasant and interesting while it lasts, though it is quickly forgotten.
Matching the simple story are simple puzzles. Most are obvious run and fetch an item from elsewhere. There is a tanagram that can be difficult, but you can ask for in-game hints if it proves too much. There are a handful of mazes, without any twists to redeem them. There is also a maze where you are chased by a crocodile, so a little bit of real-time control is required; if it gets you, however, you are simply knocked into the water and can just climb up to a nearby part of the maze to continue. There is no way to die or otherwise end the game in failure.
Despite the fact that Rif has 2 companions following him around, they seldom (nut not never!) have any use. Mostly, they just get in the way when you want to click on an object that they are blocking. Fortunately, Rif can pass right through them, so they do not get in the way of just walking about.
Within a few broad regions, you are free to explore and learn about the world in any order you like. The act of actually advancing the story, however, follows a linear path, with only minor deviances allowed. So, even though the story rails are there, they are well hidden.
Moreover, I encountered a glitch in the game when I managed to go off the rails near the endgame. The game jumped to an inappropriate cut scene, with Rif and friends unexpectedly locked in a cell without my ever seeing how they got there. It was immediately obvious, and restoring to a previous saved game and trying a different sequence of exploration led to a proper story flow when the game was replayed.
The world is presented in a wide screen across the top two-thirds of the screen. The lower third contains a text line (for constructing actions), an action box (also for constructing actions), and an inventory. Both the action box and the inventory are also used to display menus for dialog selection when talking to characters. These dialogs are sometimes nested, menus within menus.
The save system allows you to have apparently unlimited saves with your own names attached, a rarity for an adventure game of that era.
The view of the world is too constrained in some scenes. Sometimes, there is a side view of a location. Sometimes, there is an overhead map view. Both of these work well. The problem, however, comes when there is a close-up, three-quarter tilted, 45° twisted view of the characters, particularly when they move across a larger location, such as the original faire grounds. Here, you are too close up to the characters to see the overall geography of the locale to navigate through it. It becomes particularly annoying when that geography is a maze.
Much of the gameplay is simply walking from here to there to fetch different items for various characters. Here, the fault lies in that the distance between places is often too large. For example, walking down the hall to the boar king involves passing through a handful of featureless, boring hallway screens. Just get me to the king! Similarly, walking in the map view involves a maze like meander through a large world, with only a few active destinations. There is no need to have a large, panning map for so few useful locations.
The sometimes agoraphobic view aside, the artwork is good, given the limitation of the graphics at the time. The world is bright and comfortable, and the locales have an ambience that matches the inhabitants. There are a few minor annoyances from pixel hunting, owing to the low resolution. The voice acting is also excellent, especially compared to the game's contemporaries. This matches the high quality dialog. There is also a nicely unobtrusive musical score.
Inherit the Earth is a gentle, relaxing adventure. It may not leave an exceptional mark in gameplay, but it pleasurably passes the time with an interesting story and entertaining characters. The only annoyances are the overuse of mazes and the excessive navigation. It is a good game for young gamers and for gamers who enjoy fairy tales.
People who downloaded Inherit the Earth: Quest for the Orb have also downloaded:
Innocent until Caught, Jack Orlando: A Cinematic Adventure, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Igor: Project Uikokahonia, Jack Orlando, Inca, In Cold Blood, Guilty (a.k.a. Innocent Until Caught 2)
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