Wheel of Time, The Download (1999 Arcade action Game)

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Despite the title The Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan apparently had very little to do with the development of the game. His name is nowhere to be found in the instruction manual's credits, not even in the special thanks area. The complete storyline was written by the developers, Legend Entertainment. Legend Entertainment did a fine job with the story but it is not extremely detailed as the player spends all game chasing down the seals. Basically, you know who the bad guys are and they have the seals you want so you have to kill them and take the seals.

The most impressive feature of The Wheel of Time are the graphics. They set a perfect atmosphere that is dark, creepy, and mysterious. However, this game is very taxing on just about any PC so it is likely most players will have to set the details on medium to low. Options for hardware settings are rather numerous and include: master detail, geometry detail, texture detail, decoration detail, max number of decals, particle density, sound quality, and music on or off. Although I played the game on a Pentium III 500, I could not keep everything set at the highest levels or the game would stutter slightly. This is due primarily to how much RAM you have. It is recommended that you do not even turn on the music if you have less than 128MB. That recommendation is a good one because with only 64MB the music will cause the game to sputter along with constant choppiness.

Graphically the game also shines during the cut-scenes. Characters look and move very lifelike. Also impressive are the sounds that lend themselves to the cut-scenes as well as the atmosphere effortlessly. Characters speak clearly with voices that match their persona nicely. In the background you will hear many effects that add to the dark feel of the game. Early in the game you will just be walking along and out of nowhere a huge crack of thunder and lightning will be enough to make you jump. When making your way through a cursed, abandoned city you will hear a voice say "Diiiiiieee" in a very low key numerous times.

Controls for the game are very easy to navigate and respond quickly. So the game looks fantastic, sounds great, and has accurate controls. However, that does not mean it is a truly worthwhile experience. While level design is fine, it is not extremely varied. Level after level you may get the feeling that you have already done this before. You will constantly need to find a way to go from point "A" to point "B." Pull switches to open doors or go for a swim to reach your next destination. Something more needs to be added to some of the levels to give them a new feel as the graphics cannot carry the whole game. Something else that lends itself to the repetitiveness of the levels are the enemies. There are very few different enemies. From the first level on you will be seeing the same creatures over and over again. Occasionally a large enemy will make an appearance but otherwise it will be the same ones you have already fought. Aside from the same few creatures the other primary enemies are humans. Some do have magical abilities while others attack with swords but there still needs to be some more variety.

Also, despite good controls fights are not all that great. Weapons come in the form of magical artifacts called Ter'Angreal. No hand-to-hand combat exists for your character. Instead you must run while aiming and shooting items that usually either slowly track the fast moving enemy or simply shoot directly in one line allowing the enemy to avoid them. When an enemy is close to you and you are able to blast them it is very possible to injure yourself. The game can be saved at any time so at least you do not have to restart a level every time you encounter a bunch of enemies you cannot easily defeat.

Single-player games are okay but won't have players coming back after the game is completed. The multiplayer games are a split. Arena is your standard deathmatch. Players can choose one of four characters to play as and alter that character's hair and clothing colors. This game just isn't a great game for deathmatches though due to the lackluster weapons. Most gamers will opt to play deathmatches in games such as Quake and Unreal instead. Citadel is really where the heart of the game lies. Originality and strategy come into play here as players get to set traps and place their troops before heading into their opponents' traps and strategically placed monsters.

Graphics: It is in the various buildings that the graphics look their best. High levels of detail result in the player feeling as if they are in another land.

Sound: Background sound effects provide the game with a dark and creepy atmosphere.

Enjoyment: The game's atmosphere is enough to warrant a look and the multiplayer Citadel game is something new.

Replay Value: Once you see everything there is to see then there is little reason to play the game again.


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