The original Traitors Gate, released in 2000, saw special operative Raven infiltrate the Tower of London. Traitors Gate started quite slow sales-wise, but really took off about a year after it was released. The Adventure Company was very successful in marketing the game in North-America, selling around 250,000 copies of the game in total.
Needless to say, The Adventure Company was interested in publishing a sequel. It’s been four years since the original game, but the developers had their own reasons for not starting work on a sequel right away. Designer Nigel Papworth explains: “I didn’t really want to go back and do a pre-rendered game. It’s an awful lot of administration and the actual workload is huge. But I said [to TAC]: ‘I’ll do it if you’ll let me do it in real-time 3D.’ The advantage is that it gives me a huge amount of freedom for the gameplay. We can do things we just couldn’t do in a pre-rendered game, but now the 3D engines are sufficiently good that we can get the graphics up to the standard that I wanted.”
The team has put a lot of effort in creating real-time 3D graphics that have the same kind of richness as pre-rendered art. The game uses multi-layer textures and dynamic shadow and light effects, among other techniques. The result is very impressive. Screenshots sadly don’t really convey this, but walking around a room with a beam of light flowing in from a window above is quite a great sight.
The story of Cypher sees the return of agent Raven. Something goes wrong in the Pentagon, as someone has stolen a satellite communication unit along with some top-secret codes. A virus is turning up in all the communication satellites, and it’s up to you to find whoever planted it there. The antagonists are traced back to a well-guarded laboratory which is built into a bunker in the middle of the desert. It’s too well-guarded to go into the front door, so Raven tries to find a way in through the ruins that are lying by the side of it.
“In the first two thirds of the game you are working your way through the ruins. It’s about 26 chambers, each with a unique gameplay moment in it,” says Nigel. The puzzles we saw were very big and more mechanical in style, which seems to fit well in the large environments of the game. Some of the rooms were booby trapped, which requires the player to disarm the traps. There are still written and visual clues that are cause for more investigative puzzles, however. “In the last third of the game you make it to the lab and there’s armed guards and computers, and all the hi-tech James Bond gadgetry.”
Cypher certainly looks like an interesting title with a lot of potential. Some of the visuals we saw were breathtaking, especially owing to the lighting and shadow effects. Hopefully the visual style will be more diverse than the screenshots we saw, however. Another possible nag might be the game’s camera view. Even though the game is in third-person, it may be hard to relate to a character who you only get to see from behind. Of course, these issues also relate to your personal gameplay preferences.
Cypher will be released on PC this fall.