GameOver Game Reviews

Game & Publisher Riverworld (c) Cryo Interactive
Overall Rating 65%
Date Published , , ,

Divider Left By: Rebellion Divider Right

Based on the famous book by Philip Jose Farmer, RiverWorld brings a rich atmosphere to build a intuitive realtime strategy with some complex role playing concepts. In a very lush 3D enviroment you will need to create, defend, and conquer the various territories and advance your people through the ages.

You are Sir Richard Francis Burton, the famous English explorer from the 18th century. You came, and saw, and died, yet somehow you are here. You explored the Nile, visited Mecca, but now you have been resurrected along with other famous characters on this strange and artificial "RiverWorld." Surrounded by the unknown, you decide to strike out and build an empire and advance your people through the ages.

From the moment I started up the game, I was intrigued. It looked like Myth, handled like Age of Empires, and was dark and mysterious. First off, I was confused. I had some people, but there were all these unclaimed people on my screen, so I decided I'd start building houses. Lo and behold, the people started flocking to my little town. You assign citizens to do various tasks, from collecting resources, to training other citizens to do specialized work such as workers and scientists.

It runs along very similar to Age of Empires, as you progress, you build laboratories and armories to advance your civilization and defend it from attack. The Grail Stone is the center of all territories. In order to capture a territory, you must attack the Grail Stone. Burton is the only one that can do so, so the armies you build will have to see to it that he's successful. Burton can never die, but he is resurrected back at his starting place, so it's in your best interest to make sure he captures the Grail.

The game is broken down into four levels. This doesn't sound like much, but each level has quite a few territories to capture and it's not exactly a fast process in doing so. You have limited populations in each territory so it makes it somewhat hard to just create a huge army and go stomp on someone else. The biggest issue I found in this game was that in order to advance to the next age, you needed to find a special character to teach your people this new age. I found it extremely difficult to find this person and spent way too much of the game time searching for him, while my computer opponents easily advanced to the next ages and took over the territories. They should have colored the special units in a different color so they'd be easier to spot. Like I said before, the worlds are huge and the people aren't. I found hunting down every white dot in the game a little too frustrating.

The advancing from each age is very interesting. You start in the Wood Age, progress to the Stone Age, then to more modern ages, and on into the future. There's eleven ages in all, but you only have access to four ages in each world. Each age has its own vehicles, weapons, buildings, and resources. Each territory only has one age and it does not advance to a new age, so you must conquer an advanced age in order to gain the benefits of being trained in this age. All of the ages are visually distinguished which makes it easy to tell which age is which. Of course, each age is also more powerful then its predecessor. This means you will need to push for advancement in order to achieve anything further in the game.

Graphically, it's quite good. It supports 3DFX and Direct3D and appears to be hardware accelerated only, so for all of you without the graphic power, you'll have to hold off for awhile. The water wasn't transparent, but it had a metallic reflective effect that was pretty nice. Explosions could have been better, it tended to be smoke and noise and no flames. Destruction was somewhat similar to Wargames since the buildings didn't have a realistic collapse or explosion. It's all 3D modeled so no sprites here. Objects are nicely rendered, but far from the best I've seen. The people working do work although they have no tools in their hands to use. The action is good but it looks unfinished without objects in their hands. The console looks nice and fits well with the gameplay.

It seemed to lack a lot sound effects. It had some, but it just didn't seem like enough. It also was strangely devoid of speech. All player interaction was done through pop-up boxes. Maybe it was just me, but I didn't hear any speech and didn't see any options for it. The music is done through CD Audio and should easily fit the mood of the game.

It was perplexing. I was very interested in the way the game took shape. I wanted to progress as quickly as possible, but it seemed to never work out the way I wanted it to. I found it challenging to accomplish the goals to progress to the next level before my opponents overpowered me and left me with nothing. The view screen is pretty well done. You have an overhead map with your local area, along with a map of the entire world. If you click on points in those maps or your main display, it will move the camera to that position. From here you can spin around with your mouse and move the angle up and down. You can also click on people and the camera will follow them as they move. It will also allow you to see through the eyes of your people, which sort of seemed a little disconcerting, but somewhat similiar to Dungeon Keeper.

It's long and complicated. It's definitely not going to entertain the mass of average gamers. It gets frustrating trying to find these special people to advance your empire, especially since your opponents are rapidly growing closer to you. It may be a desirable game to fans of Myth and AoE, but it seems too slow to really appeal to that category either. It's definitely a different game that doesn't mesh too well with other games in its genre. This sets it apart, but a lot of times being set apart doesn't make it a fun game.

It says it has multiplayer, but I (like the speech before) found no options for it. I decided I will split the score here between multi and storyline. The storyline is very well done. It is for the most part interesting. I'm now interested in the book this is based on. Even if it is famous, I've never heard of it, but the game seems like I should take a peak.

RiverWorld is definitely not a game everyone will enjoy. It seems to be a game that will get some diehard fans while everyone else will just look at them funny. It's intriguing and interesting enough at first. It is very deep and any player that is up to the challenge and can make it far enough into the game is bound to enjoy it. For the rest of us, I'd say pass on this one. This isn't the game to break out and create its own genre, but it will stand out alone.

Graphics: 16/20
Sound: 9/15
Gameplay: 23/30
Entertainment Value: 11/20 (Someone who gets into this game will enjoy it more)
Multiplayer/Storyline: 3/5
Overall Impression: 8/10

Tested on:
PII 300 under Windows 98 with 128 Megs RAM and a 8 meg Voodoo Rush (the banshee will be here this weekend wooohooo!)

NOTE: I was unable to run RiverWorld under 3DFX/GLide, but the Direct3D was nonetheless impressive. (I'm assuming it was just a problem with the Rush chipset)


Divider Left By: DToxR Divider Right

Basing a game on a movie or book is definitely a risk. On one hand, you get the "brand name recognition" which presumably sells more copies, but you also risk bastardizing the plot by trying to cram a boatload of great ideas into a tight streamlined concept for a game. The question remains - would Riverworld fall into this trap?

The developers of Riverworld describe the game as being... "Based on the series of classic science fiction novels by Philip Josť Farmer, this game challenges you to find the resources, order the people, build the structures, fight the battles and invent the tools that will propel you from the stone age to a world of super-technology."

Well I haven't read any of these "classic" novels and this sounds suspiciously like another bland real time strategy game. So I put on my rubber gloves and prepared to sort thru some garbage...

...and was pleasantly surprised by the intro sequence. The cutscene had me misty-eyed remembering fantastic demos from days gone by ( With nice 3D rendered artwork and good transitions between sequences, the Riverworld cinematics are very well done. But in the grand scheme of things, cutscenes are nothing more than eye candy and gameplay is what counts, so on to the action.

The basic premise of the game is that you are some famous explorer who has died and emerged on the banks of some great river. The "river world" is full of dead people from eras gone by and it is your mission to gather together a band of like-minded dead people and dominate this world filled with rivers and dead people. If it sounds like I'm being facetious I probably am - the story has very little to do with actual gameplay and it ends up being like one of those annoying intro blurbs that they use to substitute for a plot in many action games. This seems rather odd considering it was based on what I am sure is probably a really good book - it's just that good books don't necessarily translate well into a game format. Publishers, think twice before you sign on that "fantastic license".

Gameplay itself is laid out in a 3D polygonal world where you navigate using the standard point and click routine. You also have use of a mini map with coloured dots representing key items in the level - this can be a real time-saver for switching between units or issueing commands. You peer down from an overhead "god" view, using mouse clicks to rotate the camera angle. You WILL be rotating the viewpoint, and often too. As with many 3D games, you find yourself looking at the action from bad angles on a regular basis. It's almost like buying cheap-seat tickets to a hockey game that turn out to be right behind a huge cement post. Unit selection is a little rough too; sometimes you just want to select a peon for a quick job and instead the whole window zooms onto that worker, leaving you disoriented and trying to navigate your way back to the view you had before. Gameplay in general can be fairly confusing at times; you can bet that you will be reaching for the instruction manual in record time if you want to have any hope of passing even the first level of Riverworld. This is because everything in the game is just a little different than RTS fans are used to. You attract units by building empty houses and then talking to people who just happen to be standing around doing nothing (how convenient). After you have "converted" these neutral natives to your team, you can then put them to work collecting wood or train them in your buildings as scientists or warriors. Scientists are then used to research new developments along similar lines as Microsoft's Age of Empires. Other units you have access to are engineers, explorers, and military specialists.

Landscape is made up of rolling hills and a few simplistic tree models scattered here and there. Cryo-Interactive has made generous use of fogging effects in this game to limit the distance of the horizon; I find this very odd since the graphics themselves are very rudimentary - surely they could have extended your field of vision significantly without requiring a NASA supercomputer to run. Characters consist of basic 3D polygon-based models. In fact, other than the cinematics, the whole game has a "raw" unfinished edge to it. Two years ago these graphics would have been adequate, but when you bring out a game using plain polygons at the same time as Trespasser is released with bump-mapped, "living, breathing", textured dinosaur models you KNOW you're behind the times.

Sound is rather plain. You get your basic "Unf!"s when your men are getting their ass kicked by computer guys as well as ambient sounds of people talking when you have a house centered in your view screen. The basic sound goes hand in hand with the basic graphics.

There are no training levels or tutorials in Riverworld. While you are hard at work trying to get used to the interface and gameplay style, your computer opponents are going full speed ahead with their civilizations. I think it was a big mistake to leave out some sort of starter missions; this game is different enough from anything else out right now that there is no way an average game-player can be expected to pick up the gameplay instantly.

Multiplayer was also non-existent in the copy I reviewed. After checking with Cryo-Interactive I found out that there are two versions of the game - standalone and network. WHY?@? This makes no sense. Cryo - put the network features together with the single player game like everyone else does.

Riverworld had a lot of interesting and unique variations that separate it from the rest of the other real time strategy games. The actual execution is not quite up to par; the game feels like a beta to me. With a better 3D engine and some more time spent on sound effects this game could be a real groundbreaker. As it stands now, Riverworld will go down in gaming history as a release that "almost was, but not quite".

Graphics: 13/20
Sound: 9/15
Gameplay: 19/30
Entertainment Value: 13/20
Multiplayer: 0/5
Overall Impression: 6/10


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