Game Design 101 pop quiz, class!
When you're the developer of two successful installments of an adventure trilogy, do you make the third game:
A) a carbon copy of the existing template (the "don't mess with success" model)
B) a slightly modified and polished version of the first two games (the "tune-up as needed, but if it ain't broke, don't fix it" model)
C) a significant redesign that pushes the series in a new but risky direction (the “Journeyman Project 3" model)
If you answered A or B, you've grown too accustomed to the sequel-itis disease that has infected the gaming industry. (You also happen to be extremely unobservant, since I tucked a brilliantly subtle clue in the question, but this is about games, not you.) Fortunately for adventurers, when the trilogy in question is the Journeyman Project, and the developer is Presto Studios, the answer is a resounding C.
They say the third time's a charm, and Presto was hoping that proved true with their 1998 release of The Journeyman Project 3: Legacy of Time, the final entry in their time travelling sci-fi series. They obviously listened closely to the criticism of the previous games, but they weren't prepared merely to implement the changes needed to silence the complaints. Instead, they went back to the drawing board to create a refreshingly different gameplay experience. No doubt some will argue that they changed too much (and that's the risk of alienating established fans), but when all is said and done, the finale is not only the most accessible of the three games, but the best of them.
Legacy of Time picks up several months after the conclusion of Journeyman Project 2, in the year 2329. The dramatic turn of events at the end of the second game remains unresolved. Although the manual blatantly reveals the identity of the culprit in the previous story, I'll just say that this nemesis is lost in the time stream, and presumed dead. Meanwhile, the interplanetary Symbiotry (a galactic United Nations, basically) is now pressuring Earth to dismantle its time travelling devices, having had two separate disasters only narrowly averted. Unable to justify its own mismanagement of the technology, the Temporal Security Agency (TSA) is ordered to suspend all time travel. Of course this is the worst possible timing, as shutting down leaves no means to protect history against the potential influence of the missing villain. Lucky that person's dead, right? Oops. Maybe not.
No sooner has the TSA effectively crippled its conventional security, than a massive time distortion occurs, and the only hope is an untested prototype jumpsuit. Once again assuming the role of the heroic Agent 5, Gage Blackwood, we hop into our new time travelling duds, and after a brief demonstration, our adventure begins. Actually, before doing any real adventuring, we run smack dab into the cause of the temporal rip—a jumpsuit abandoned by our former foe with a recorded plea to follow the trail of clues through three exotic historical locations to a new and much more sinister alien crisis.
Veterans of the series will appreciate the seamless way the third game continues the narrative established by the first two. However, it certainly isn't necessary to have played those to enjoy Legacy of Time. Presto has done a nice job of recapping the relevant facts, and with their usual attention to detail, even include a plausible explanation why you may have no memory of past events. Before long, everyone will be feeling right at home in the Journeyman universe.
The first thing you'll invariably notice about the game is... its large viewscreen!! If you're perplexed about the emphasis, then you haven't yet played the first two games, which utilized a—shall we say… compact viewable area, to put it charitably. The artistic aspect of the graphics has been stellar throughout the series, but Legacy of Time is the first game to demonstrate the beautiful design in an adequate scale. Now you can admire the waters of the Mediterranean, a sunset in the Andes, and the snowy landscapes of the Himalayas without having to squint. The larger image does have a tradeoff, however, as the graphics are rather pixelated. Nevertheless, this move was a much-needed step in the right direction.
Like its predecessors, Legacy of Time plays from a first-person perspective with node movement. Transition between nodes is cinematically animated with no loss of graphical quality, which is a rare achievement. This time around, each node offers full 360-degree smooth panning, which is another huge improvement over the choppy directional view feature of Journeyman Project 2. It still isn't quite as comfortable as other games employing the same engine type, however. Panning requires clicking and dragging the cursor, and since all movement functions have also been moved onscreen, you'll undoubtedly find yourself clicking the forward arrows instead of panning. It sounds like a small adjustment, but it'll likely happen enough to become an annoyance. A few other sacrifices are also made as a natural consequence of using this updated engine. Backgrounds are now noticeably blurry, and there is very little animation to help bring the game world to life. Still, most players will find that the ability to freely look around more than atones for the shortcomings in other areas.Continued on the next page...