It is lost in the vast waters of the ocean. It is hidden from those who would threaten its serene beauty. The ancient city of Atlantis is a peaceful and proud bastion of civilization. The white towers reaching into the sky and the beautiful palace of Queen Reah are home to many marvels. The island city lies in solitude, defying time itself. Yet under the gorgeous, soothing visage of Atlantis, darkness brews. A terrible conspiracy threatens not only the Atlanteans, but all of mankind.
The game begins as your character, Seth, arrives at the palace grounds. Flying across the skies in a mystical aircraft that seems to be operated solely by willpower, Seth lands at the palace courtyard. He is the newest member of the queen’s companions. Among the most loyal subjects of the queen, the companions live to serve and protect Reah. Acceptance into the order alone is considered a great honor. Seth however, is destined to do far greater things than serving as a bodyguard. His quiet arrival at the palace is only the beginning of a great adventure.
Shortly after reporting to the headquarters of the Queen’s Companions, Seth hears the terrible news. Reah has been captured and the assailants have left without a single trace. In the queen’s absence, her consort Creon is the ruler of Atlantis. Strangely enough, Creon has specifically asked the companions not to interfere with the investigation of the queen’s kidnapping. Seth and Agatha, the leader of the companions, are appalled by this demand and refuse to obey it. Thus, the young hero Seth takes it upon himself to conduct the investigation on behalf of the companions.
The story in Atlantis – The Lost Tales begins with a very simple setup. Seth sets off to conduct what appears to be a simple investigation around the island. However, as he starts uncovering clues, the plot quickly thickens. Seth makes many discoveries around Atlantis and eventually reveals a great conspiracy. He is forced to constantly keep his guard, question everything he hears, and find allies in the most unlikely places. The story gradually expands far beyond Atlantis and the missing queen. Seth’s journey takes him all the way to the North Pole and Carbonek. At each new destination, Seth uncovers secrets about the origins of the Atlanteans and their incredible civilization.
The game beautifully merges the investigation with the much greater plot involving the origin of Atlantis and all of mankind. Each step of the long journey takes Seth deeper into the past. While never abandoning his quest to find the queen and put an end to the conspiracy, Seth finds the path to a deeper knowledge that changes him forever. Yet Seth does not find all of the answers. While core parts of the mystery are clearly explained throughout his adventure, certain details and the origins of a few characters are left to the imagination. This omission feels deliberate and can actually give the experience further depth for some players. Upon completing Atlantis, players may find themselves wondering about the true meaning of the mystical powers encountered and how civilization as we know it might have begun. Especially if for those who like mystical places and a sense of discovery, Atlantis is the kind of game you could play several times to experience the story and be immersed into the game’s beautiful atmosphere.
Atlantis is played from a first-person perspective. Players can stop at predefined locations and examine their surroundings. When players choose a new direction and move forward, the game uses animations to depict the movement. However, there are a few sections where movement animations do not exist and screens are navigated in a slideshow pattern. The inventory is accessed with an easy right click on the mouse. Atlantis uses a uses a simple, familiar mouse-driven interface that works well and does not take any chances.
Atlantis – The Lost Tales was originally released in 1997. At the time, the game’s graphics were simply stunning. Nearly a decade after the first release, Atlantis still looks remarkably presentable and can easily compete with much newer games. The many pleasant environments are depicted with a great degree of detail. Whether you are traveling through the forests of Carbonek, the frozen landscape of the Artic, or the secret passages of the palace, Atlantis manages to maintain visual appeal throughout the game.
Character interaction plays a fairly significant part in Atlantis – The Lost Tales. Throughout his journey, Seth will meet a number of interesting characters at various locations. Some of these characters are delightfully cryptic and will often leave you with uneasiness as to what their advice may have actually meant. Others are enemies pretending to be friends. The different personalities and the changing attitudes of the characters give them a certain degree of depth and serve as a constant reminder that things are not always as they seem.
From a graphical point of view, the character models are fairly nicely handled and the lip-synching is successfully implemented. However, it is worth noting that the character animations can become overly fast on modern, high-end computers, making it difficult to focus on the story and enjoy the experience. This problem does not exist in computers closer to the system requirements specified for the game.
The conversations are handled through a simple system of selecting predefined topics. Each topic is represented by a small picture. Upon selecting it, Seth typically asks a question and the other character responds. While this conversation structure seems highly intuitive and does work well enough during most of the game, it can cause a good deal of frustration during certain sequences. Atlantis features a few sections where Seth needs to talk his way out of a situation by making the right comments or asking the right questions. Since the questions or comments are represented by icons, there is no way to know what Seth will actually say before you select the topic. The icons do give some hints about where Seth might take the conversation and players usually have two or three chances to steer the conversation in the correct path. However, it is still all too possible to accidentally make mistakes and choose the wrong topics. It would have been much more helpful to see the actual words Seth is about to say before selecting a topic.
The game features a number of inventory-based puzzles and healthy doze of logic puzzles. Starting with the initial palace area, the locations you will visit are laden with mysterious contraptions waiting for Seth to understand and unlock. With the exception of a few rather obscure clues, the challenges are generally reasonable and fair. However, the game’s puzzles do have a couple of problems that can seriously detract from the experience.
First of all, Atlantis – The Lost Tales features a few too many ways in which players can lose the game. For instance, there are a number of moments where the player is asked to accept or decline an offer. Seth is always given only two options and selecting the wrong one results in immediately losing the game. The correct choice is not always obvious, so players are likely to choose the incorrect response at least once. Upon making a mistake, the game does immediately start from a moment before the decision, which somewhat alleviates the impact of the problem. However, with only one right and one wrong answer and no alternative paths through the adventure, even making then decision in the first place becomes arbitrary.
The game does have a couple of sections where Seth needs to time his actions carefully to avoid being detected. Players will have to listen to the movements of the guards and observe their behaviors. While these sections are not particularly hard, failing them will once again result in Seth’s untimely demise. Finally, Atlantis has a few moments where the player is given a very limited amount of time to choose the correct path or discover the solution to a puzzle. Responding incorrectly results in losing the game and starting a few screens before the timed sequence. Arguably, the timed sequences do make certain parts of the game more exciting. However, when you find yourself playing various sections over and over again to figure out the correct solution, the excitement can quickly turn into frustration. Thankfully the timed-sequences and the arbitrary decision-making affects only a small portion of the game and does not greatly take away from the experience.
The game also reuses a few of its puzzles, which can become rather tedious for some gamers. For instance, players are required to solve a puzzle to unlock the entrance to a secret passageway in the palace. This puzzle needs to be solved at least twice before the game can be completed. It would have been nice to have Seth automatically solve the puzzle when players return to the area after initially figuring out the correct solution. Another example is a slider puzzle that is encountered three times in the game. While the puzzle features a different picture and is presented at a different location each time you encounter it, there is always the same number of tiles and their starting positions are always identical. Thus, players will be essentially solving the same puzzle three times with a different picture. Once again, the repetition of the puzzles is not a great problem and it is not encountered too often; however it could have been avoided altogether.
In the end, Atlantis – The Lost Tales is a very enjoyable game, but it does not live up to its full potential. The story is quite immersive and fascinating. Seth’s journey cleverly builds from its humble beginnings into something deeper and more insightful. The environments are quite alluring and beautiful. The graphics depict truly pleasant landscapes, beckoning players to unlock the secrets of an ancient civilization. The mystical tunes of the game’s soundtrack are extremely fitting for the locations you will be exploring. The voice acting is generally nicely handled and there is most definitely enough content over the game’s four CD’s to keep adventurers busy for a while. However, an array of problems does hurt the game play experience. The issues with the puzzles and the conversation system might be too hard to overlook for some players. If you are looking for a lengthy adventure game with a solid story, interesting locations, and a myriad of puzzles, Atlantis – The Lost Tales is an easy recommendation despite the game’s problems. However, players should go in with the understanding that Atlantis is not a perfect game.
Largely due to the intriguing story, pleasant atmosphere, and the fascinating locations, the final grade is 86/100.