Chronicles of Mystery: The Tree of Life - game review
In November 1872, a small merchant ship named Marie Celeste, under the command of Captain Benjamin Briggs, left New York Harbor with a cargo of alcohol. Apart from the crew, there were also the captain's wife and little daughter on board. On December 4, Marie Celeste was spotted outside Gibraltar. The brig was drifting, there was no living soul on it, and there were no signs of a pirate attack, no other attack or any event that would result in everyone having to evacuate (the lifeboat remained on the ship). The reasons for the disappearance of ten people have never been established. This issue remains a mystery to this day.
On the basis of this story, the creators from City Interactive in Rzeszów decided to tell a story about the next adventures of the young and promising archaeologist Sylvie Leroux. The protagonist accepts a job at a museum in Brittany, where a place has just been made available by luck. Lucky for Sylvie, and a little less for her predecessor, who one evening mysteriously fell off the cliff. The aforementioned Marcel was working on a historic chest - trying to establish its origin, and above all - to open it. Miss Leroux continues her colleague's research, taking over his studio, his position and ... his adversaries, who clearly want the girl from the chest's past and its owner to discover as little as possible. The mysterious collector Count Saint-Germain is also involved in all this, it is not known - friend or foe, especially since the boy suffers from amnesia, so it is not surprising that he himself does not know what his intentions are.
I have terribly mixed feelings about this game and basically every aspect of it. What I don't think about, I immediately find something to reproach, but also to praise. Which means the Tree of Life is really just average. It's a pity, because the potential was clearly there.
Even the story itself - a good starting point that creates a lot of possibilities. It would be great to keep the player in suspense, slowly adding more pieces to the puzzle and building the atmosphere. And it does, but it doesn't work very well. Briggs' story and Sylvie's subsequent discoveries are not particularly interesting, which should be the driving force for continuing the fun. Meanwhile, more (at least in my case) it was curiosity about the next locations and puzzles, and not how the story will unfold and what is really going on here. As if the authors weren't quite able to sell a good patent for a nice story. Even despite attempts to introduce the so-called twists and turns - unexpected escapes, unexpected night guests or a surprising maneuver with a pistol, which, in my opinion, was also wasted. It is a pity, because based on this situation, it was very nice to change the direction of history for a while, which would certainly add life to it.
Or is it the fault of characters that unfortunately (including Sylvie herself) are simply bland? It is a pain in most adventure games (except for the crazy ones, where the characters are usually pretty crazy). Sylvie does not become for the player a person with whom he would feel integrated in some way, with whom he would be particularly concerned or wondering what she really was like. It's just a little guy on the screen, and in addition, it is moderately pretty (in the first part it looked nicer), which is used to move to the next stages of the game. It's a pity, because once in a while there are titles ( Overclocked, eXperience112, Dreamfall ) in which we "live" with the fate of the characters and even bite our fingers out of helplessness if we get bitten by them. Meanwhile, here the heroes appear and disappear, playing purely functional roles and 5 minutes after changing the location, we forget about their existence, and if the authors thought about killing them (and in some cases it happened), we would care about the button. But maybe I demand too much from games ... Who said they have to be emotional? Heh heh.
But let's assume that it is not that the authors' intention was not to move the audience, but to just give them some fun. And this one is not bad, although if the characters were a bit more colorful, no one would really be offended. And so the director of the museum or the organizer of the reading merge into one, the count is gruff or too pathetic, Sarah not particularly persuasive and in fact only intrigued by the fraternity members appearing in the cutscenes, as to who they are at all. There were no such characteristic, aggressive people adding a bit of pepper to the whole, such as, for example, the two brothers eating each other with the hilarious parrot from the first installment of the game.
Another difference in minus compared to the previous part is that the "two" seemed uglier (the program works in the archaic resolution of 1024x768, and widescreen monitors have black stripes on the sides). And to make it funnier, the cutscenes look even less nice than the game itself, mainly because of the clunky animation, it's also important that most of them are very dark. The whole game is quite gloomy and dark in terms of colors (I had to set more brightness on the monitor), which does not fully justify the plot. All in all, it is difficult to say why the authors adopted such a convention, because apart from the last location, the action of which takes place in the shade of a huge title tree, except for the cemetery illuminated only by a few lanterns and Venice at night, the other places should not give the impression that they have never seen the sun. The Cairo market is a nice, joyful touch here. And that's basically it. And sorry, it is worth going to the upper deck during the yacht cruise - although there is virtually no premise for it resulting from the game, that's just - it's nice to watch the boat rip through the waves, splash water droplets, and the light of the beacon (who knows what that is), comes and goes.
But you also have to give the surroundings what they deserve - they are very nicely designed, detailed, varied and in some places nicely animated. It is the wind that moves the crowns of palm trees, flags or open shutters projected from the windows of buildings, impressive clouds glide across the sky, smaller and larger birds fly, leaves from trees fall, lights are turned on and off in the windows, fireflies are dancing around the lamps, and here and there Unidentified human beings are hanging around.
However, I did not like Miss Leroux's gait (all characters are a bit stiff anyway), especially when she is facing us, so to speak, with the front, she moves like a guy. Plus, it has an annoying way of trying to get things done. Even if she stands nose to nose with an object on which she has to do something, she has to perform a dance-dancing, that is, position herself in her own way. But when she rests, waiting for the player's inspiration, she shakes her head, moves her hands, looks around, even ... yawns (which is quite justified, since we make her bored).
Generally, however, the girl does not have too many opportunities to do anything. The authors made sure that the player had something to think about, and Sylvie why run back and forth. The puzzles are really nice - logically follow the situation, do not require Doda's IQ and allow us to guess what we should do. It is not very easy, and in some cases, especially the so-called board puzzles (windmill rulez), sometimes you have to figure out a lot, but it is also not that we become helpless and we do not know what to do next. In a word, thinking is one of the pluses of the game, it is the element that rewards the fact that we are not necessarily taken over by the plot. In addition to repairing numerous devices, opening combination locks and playing with various puzzles - we play dice, make a three-dimensional copy of ancient ceramics, set the course of the airship or regulate the flow of water in the Cairo bazaar. In addition, the adrenaline level is slightly raised by the time trials, when the clock is ticking inexorably on the screen, you can see that time is running out, and we have to do something ... often on the run. But take it easy - without getting discouraged right now, unsuccessful tasks can be repeated, and in the one and only moment when shaking hands and the loss of Sylvie's creativity can pay for her life (because there is such a motive, and what?), The game automatically saves.
The second element to which I absolutely have no objection is the controls - all in all, always comfortable and intuitive in CI adventures. Traditionally, we can check whether we have missed an object on the board, there is no pixel hunting, you can view old dialogues or read Sylvie's diary, it is also worth looking at the objects up close, because then useful tips about their purpose are given. If we have something with us that someone else asked us for, we can give it to him or just ask him.
Regarding the dialogues - the characters' voices are very well selected (English dubbing - we have traditionally received the Polish cinema version) and these characters are played very well. Naturally, reliably, a person does not get tired of listening to their conversations, and there is quite a lot of talk, as in adventure games. It is a pity that the characters practically do not have facial expressions (the count - speaking - sometimes does not move his lips at all). On the other hand, the sounds of the surroundings are quite satisfactory, especially nostalgic sounds are the squeaking of gulls and other birds around the quay.
Throughout the game, even during the conversation, music is played in the background, which becomes more and more liked as you interact with the game. It is varied and kind to the location (Arabic rhythms in Cairo, gloomy in the cemetery, choral songs in the intro). It can be listened to, sometimes even with a real pleasure. Sometimes it just does not necessarily match what is happening on the screen perfectly, because there is probably no one particular track assigned to a given place. I got the impression that these melodies, smoothly and imperceptibly flowing into each other, wander around the spots quite freely (although not so completely stray, because, for example, those from Cairo are not repeated in Gibraltar, but those from Venice, yes - yes), so it happens that we stand in some completely non-dramatic circumstances, and here the muse suddenly becomes too monumental to the situation. Nevertheless, this element of the game is probably the only one compared to the previous version, which is clearly a plus, although here you can hear the sound characteristic of City Interactive games, but this time the developers have tried harder.
Generally, I do not want to convince anyone that the game is bad, weak or worse than "number one". Scorpio's ritual irritated me with the fact that it was going to be a more elaborate title, it suggested some side threads, then suddenly everything stopped unexpectedly and ended, leaving the player feeling unsatisfied. On the contrary, we have no chance to focus on something more, the gameplay exhausts all the origins of the action, which we did not know - we find out what was supposed to be explained - remained. That without great shocks, fireworks and emotions - well ... As I said, the game is just average, but that doesn't mean boring or not worth attention. On the contrary, despite all the reservations I raised about it, I had a pretty good time with it, although I admit that it would be beautiful if the authors took to heart the suggestions, desires and expectations of such adventure freaks as me and you.
Katarzyna "Kayleigh" Michałowska