The Mystery of the Druids (Druid for short) may have started life as a good game, but the developers lost sight of it somewhere in its production process. Druid isn't an awful game, but the last evening of play elicited a sigh of relief from both myself and my wife.
Graphics (quality, animations, cut scenes)
Druid consists of 3D characters in front of pre-rendered backgrounds. The backgrounds were detailed, nicely lit, and very beautiful, and the cut scenes were detailed and extremely well done. On the other hand, the 3D characters were blocky, and moved in an extremely unnatural manner. Also, regardless of the setting I used for rendering (software, hardware, slow, fast), some of the joins between polygons would be visible as bright orange lines on the characters. My GeForce 2 MX graphics card had the latest drivers, but I still couldn't find any setting that eliminated the problem entirely. The end result was that the character's rendering and movements detracted from the game, which is never a good thing.
Sound (music, voices, special effects)
The voices acting wasn't anything special, but it was usually good enough to be acceptable. There were a few exceptions, such as the voice for Lord Sinclair's butler; the voice actor was obviously attempting an upper-class Brtitish accent, and failed miserably.
Story (plot, theme, depth)
I won't give away too many of the plot details here, but I did find the entire concept to be difficult to swallow. The game starts out as a standard mystery, in which you play Brent Halligan of the Scotland Yard. The problem is that the game immediately starts getting silly, with a boss that refuses to allow you to use your telephone, coworkers that won't lend you a pair of scissors, and so on. The story just gets weirder from there on; the script writers for this game really had some problems coming up with a coherent storyline that was believable, even in a fantasy setting.
There is a rather gruesome cut scene in this game, showing a man being butchered alive (and later eaten). You probably don't want your children watching or playing this game.
Characters (depth, development, interaction)
Considering the sheer amount of dialogue, I expected rather more than I got. The characters themselves were pretty well drawn through the dialogue, but a lot of the personal details were obviously just pasted on, and not an intrinsic part of the plot. If this game was a novel, then it would rate no better than "potboiler."
Puzzles (difficulty, uniqueness, suitability, ugliness, linearity)
I had serious problems with many of the puzzles, and I think this was due to a lack of game feedback. I found myself solving a puzzle that I din't even know about at a certain point in the game. In other words, I was collecting bits and pieces of inventory for no known reason, and I only found out about the need for them at (or after) the actual point of usage. It made the game feel extremely frustrating to play, since I was doing things before the game provided any motivation to do them.
Conversation trees get tedious, since you must revisit entire conversations just in case something new has shown up deep in the bowels of the conversation tree. There were several times where I needed the walkthrough to tell me exactly which conversation branch I had failed to revisit in order to trigger some action in the game.
The game's use of hot spots was extremely inconsistent. There were hot spots all over, and only some of them are good for things other than right clicking and getting a description. The problem is, you never really know which is which, except by pulling out an inventory item and seeing if you got a red X or not when it was passed over the hot spot. Even worse, there were a few hot spots that didn't show up at all via the cursor. You just had to know that an inventory item could be applied to a certain area.
In addition, you end up with a large number of inventory items that you are forced to carry around for the entire game. This wouldn't be problematic, except that periodically I was reduced to trying every inventory item on a hot spot, which could take a long time.
Druids also has a puzzle-based bug that play testing should have eliminated -- a dead end. I had to replay a good chunk of the game because I inadvertently combined two inventory items (apple juice and a flask) before I should have. If you do that, you will be stuck forever waiting for a conversation item that never appears.
There were several timed puzzles, but the timing was reasonably generous. I don't know why the designers bothered, since many other puzzles had no timing constraints at all, and they worked just as well.
Controls (user interface, save/restore, sound/video adjustments)
Druid uses a basic point and click interface, with the right mouse button used to elicit descriptions of items and the left mouse button used to pick up or manipulate objects.
The save game system was acceptable, and the game also had a built-in gamma adjustment, a feature I always appreciate.
Bugs or problems
The game was extremely bug-ridden.
The very first problem I ran into was the dreaded Safedisk copy protection -- the very first time I ran the game, I got the Safedisk logo, and then it promptly hung. It hung like this about every third time I tried to run the game. I hunted around and found an executable called "unsafedisk" that completely removes SafeDisk (and allowed me to start the game). Macrovision, which invented SafeDisk, has a lot to answer for, as do any game manufacturers that use it in some misguided attempt to prevent copying. For those of you that run into problems with SafeDisk, go to www.gamecopyworld.com and search for a "cracked" version of your game executable.
The second problem I ran into involved some extremely long access times to load some scenes, and sometimes the scene never would load. The game didn't come with a full install, but a visit to the support web page had some instruction on how to copy both CDs to your hard drive. After doing this, as well as removing SafeDisk, I finally had a game that would start reliably, and it never needed to access the CD drive.
The game would hang completely three or four times in an evening's play, alway during a conversation sequence. The only way out was to completely reboot, forcing us to replay everything since our last save. We very quickly got into the habit of saving very, very frequently.
I already mentioned the dead end, which I consider to be an outright bug.
There was no full install option on CD, but the support site tells you how to do it.
The game requires DirectX8.0, P200, 32Mb ram, 150 Mb disk space.
Beautifully drawn backgrounds and well-done cut scenes (pun now intentional).
Obscure (backwards) puzzle design
Obscure (and deep) conversation trees
Unbelievable story and plot elements
I didn't hate this game, but it just wasn't any fun to play, and that is what a game is supposed to be all about. For those that have read my review of Beyond Atlantis II, you will notice that I ranted quite a bit -- the reason being that there was a really good game hidden under all of its problems. Mystery of the Druids doesn't have enough "goodness" in it for me to get nearly as excited. Not recommended, with or without a walkthrough.
This article copyright © 2002, Murray Peterson