Theseis is a title that has been flying under the radar for some time now, but was front and center at E3 this year. With an elaborate booth (themed appropriately like an ancient Greek temple) in the otherwise usually low-key Kentia Hall, independent Greek developers Track7 Games were definitely aiming to make an impression. Of course, an impressive display is worthless without a decent product to promote, but Theseis definitely didn't disappoint, as it looks like one of the most ambitious adventures currently in production.
In Theseis we step into the shoes of two Greek journalists named Andronicos and Pheve, who are proprietors of a paranormal-themed website that's not getting as many visitors as they'd like. One day they are approached by a wealthy and authoritative antiques dealer, who charges them with tracking down a valuable statuette in a complex series of caves beneath Athens. However, as they go underground, they find evidence of previous expeditions -- it seems they're not the only ones hunting for treasures under the city.
Finding the artifact is only the first of their missions, as the game will take players up from the caves to the streets of modern-day Athens, into neo-classical buildings, and even into the depths of the underworld itself, Hades. From the initial mission, the story will unfold rapidly, as our journalists uncover a two thousand year-old conspiracy kept secret through the centuries. There is a mystery to be solved that blurs the lines between reality and fantasy, and the two must utilise any resource they can, from dubious mediaeval literature to ancient rumour and folklore.
Along the way, while playing as either Andronicos or Pheve, players can expect to encounter a number of colourful characters, from other explorers to beggars to actual mythological characters. There will be frequent cinematic cutscenes that progress and develop the story, and decisions throughout the game will actually matter, as the game promises to have various endings that reflect your choices.
Greek mythology will play a large part in Theseis, but the game will explore facets of it that are lesser-known. Track7 is based in the heart of Athens, where they can see the Acropolis from their office window, and they are committed to telling the story from a Greek perspective of the mythology -- and to get things correct (or as accurately as one can when dealing with legends, anyway). Being based in Greece also allows them to visit the locations featured in the game personally, for inspiration and fact-checking.
The game uses a proprietary real-time 3D engine with the camera trailing the character from a third-person perspective. The characters will be directly controlled using the keyboard, with the mouse used to move the camera. So far, so Tomb Raider. But this is Adventure Gamers after all, and this is definitely all adventure game. While player spelunking will require real time activities like running, jumping, and climbing, these are not intended to be challenges of dexterity, but simply realistic physical activities that suit the environment. The developers are committed to making organic puzzles the main focus of the gameplay, requiring mainly your wits to overcome obstacles like mythical monsters or dim-witted guards. Track7 is also planning to keep any violence in the game implied rather than explicitly shown, so there will be no blood and guts spilled here.
Hotspots will be interacted with using the mouse, with a left click to look and a right click to interact. Items in close proximity are highlighted automatically when directly in view. At least, this is how the control system worked in the very early alpha demo we saw at E3, though the developers are still looking for ways to improve the interface, and are willing to experiment to get it right. In our demo, we first saw a cinematic of Andronicos rappelling down into a cave to begin searching for the figurine. From here we went on to explore four or five separate areas of the caverns, using developer shortcuts to warp from area to area (it seems the areas in between these sections had yet to be completed). Unfortunately, there wasn't a lot of interactive possibilities available at this point, but what we saw was already very visually and atmospherically impressive.
We also saw a lengthy trailer that gave some insight into the ancient history of the titular "Theseis", which is a Greek word that means a very important idea. In this video, a guardsman and a mysterious cloaked figure burst into a temple just as a young initiate is escaping with the Theseis scroll. While his master bravely faces his fate, the young man escapes the city and is later seen paying a cloaked, skeletal boatman (presumably Charon) to cross a river to what seems to be Hades, where he deposits the scroll on a dais. This cinematic is very effective at setting up the modern day story, and is now available publicly on the Theseis website.
Due out as early as the end of the year (though early next year seems more realistic at this point), and with a planned port to the Xbox 360 in mid-2007, the game still has a long way to go from its current state. But with its combination of modern technology and visuals, an interesting setting, and Track7's enthusiasm and dedication to the game and the mythology behind it, Theseis is shaping up to be a very promising prospect that should soon be attracting as much widespread attention in the adventure community as it did at E3.