Adventure Gamers Awards
In the Lands of Dream, the Fortunate Isles may need a change of name. Whilst this group of land masses has enjoyed peace and prosperity in the past, all that has recently changed. Now the island economies are in collapse. The forces of Lord Urizen have swept in to seek payback of loans the locals never even knew they had, and he seems to have the local civic leaders turning a blind eye to his depredations. One household badly affected by this financial plague is the ancient, living druidic residence of Underhome, which is threatened with foreclosure. Urizen’s ham-fisted goons have driven the house into a state of panic, sealing the residents inside and throwing internal conditions into disarray. However, the head of the household, The Mysterious-Druid, has grown a portal to seek aid from a person in our world. Players answering this call will find the resulting adventure in The Sea Will Claim Everything to be a wordy but entertaining journey across a world of wonder.
In his first commercial venture, indie developer Jonas Kyratzes has returned to the setting of three earlier freeware titles. The Lands of Dream is a fantasy realm that is home to many creatures of myth and legend, including a dragon and various anthropomorphic animal races. The technology of this world is organic in nature, with computer systems carefully cultivated, and some growths such as Underhome have minds of their own. Magic is a reality, mainly through the application of alchemical potions, and cultural history includes many stories right out of a fairy tale book. These fantastical elements are mixed with locales we would find in our own world, such as a brewery and a doctor’s surgery, though here they are run by a boarman and a sentient piece of toast, respectively. The resulting blend is a wild and exciting place to adventure, with enough touches of our reality to make players feel at home.
Whilst retaining the same hand-drawn children’s storybook feel used throughout the previous games, the graphics have undergone a significant upgrade since Kyratzes's initial foray into this world. Whilst still not filling the screen, the display size is significantly larger than in prior games, taking up roughly half the viewable area. The drawings themselves are also much improved, with proper use of proportion and colouring without the overlapping felt tip line effect sometimes evident before. The look is further enhanced by shadows with graduated shading on some objects, giving them a real sense of depth. The artwork brings locations as diverse as the gloomy, root-filled cellar of Underhome and the brightly-lit desert on the Isle of the Sun to life. The picture book style also suits the story well, making the game feel like a fairy tale come to life. The only thing missing is animation, the display being limited strictly to a static slideshow presentation.
First-person navigation through this world is primarily handled by means of arrows showing available exits in the top-right corner of the screen. Clicking any of these immediately takes you to the nearest scene in that direction. You also have a magic map which allows you to instantly travel between major locations. The map includes not only places you have already visited, but also places that the various characters you encounter tell you about. Whilst this system works well enough, there are two oddities that may cause problems. When moving around via arrows, the new view is sometimes displayed in the same direction you travelled, and sometimes in the direction you were previously facing. Without any consistency between these two options, it is all too easy to get disoriented, forcing inadvertent backtracking or losing track of which paths you have used. The other issue is that many major locations are only accessible through the map, even though they are near other locations with clear ground between.
The world created by the pictures is further enhanced by a variety of well-crafted music. Every major area of the game has its own tune, each fitting the locale in question. Underhome, where you start your adventure, has an echoing tubular bell anthem that goes well with the cave-like interior. Meanwhile, the Isle of the Sun has a more Eastern tune, matching the sandy locale and the look of the buildings there. The soundtrack also adopts a folk feel from time to time, which works nicely with the overall fantasy setting. None of these pieces are overly complex, instead providing a soothing backdrop to the adventure. Though the world itself provides no ambient sounds, there are a number of simple sound effects arising from actions taken. Operating the living machines of Underhome results in beeping noises, and entering dialogue or accessing the map produces a sound like a page being turned. You will also hear a scribbling sound every time you accomplish a task, as your Scroll of Quests is updated.
The scroll sound is one you will be hearing a lot, as there are many things you need to do before you reach the end. At the beginning you simply need to contend with the problems of Underhome itself, as you try to fix systems and get outside. Initial challenges include persuading a Suspicious Flower to let you use the lift, and finding the password needed to restart the literal “root” system. Once outside Underhome, you will slowly find out how widespread the problems are, and must help the island denizens with problems ranging from finding a lost recipe to unearthing an ancient treasure. Inventory is used automatically, whether through dialogue or clicking on an appropriate hotspot.Continued on the next page...