A brave archer stands alone staring at the sea. A great storm is raging across the waters. The wind is fierce and the waves are dangerous. It would be suicide to set sail in this weather. The Viking warrior prays for the storm to end soon. Thorgal simply wants to go back home and be with his family.
Knowing full well that he cannot leave the village through the sea anytime soon, Thorgal walks into the chieftainís hut. He intends to find an alternative way to travel out of the village and towards his island. Just as Thorgal is about to give up all hope of leaving that night, a magician walks into the hut. Nolan has traveled across a great distance to meet Thorgal. The wizard carries the burden of a dark prophecy. Nolan instructs Thorgal to look into a mirror to see the vision of a possible future.
The mirror shimmers for a moment as an image forms. Thorgal finds himself looking at his own house. His beautiful wife is hard at work just a few feet away and his son seems to be walking towards her. At first it looks like this might be just another peaceful day at Thorgalís island. But then the Viking warrior sees himself. He shoots an arrow to kill his own son! Thorgal is terrified by the vision. While he does not know exactly what the vision might mean, the warrior knows that he has enemies more than capable of changing their appearances to imitate him. He does not know when the vision might come to pass. But one thing is clear. Thorgal has to find a way out of the village. He has to reach the island as soon as possible to save his sonís life. A dangerous journey lies ahead.
Curse of Atlantis: Thorgalís Quest is the story of a journey. On a desperate quest to save his son, Thorgal will have to make his way out of the village and navigate a dangerous forest. But the Viking will see much more than trees and a gang of bandits on his journey. The warrior will have to pass through magical lands and glimpse into the realm of shadows before he can reach his island.
Played from a third-person perspective, Curse of Atlantis has a simple mouse-driven control structure. The only slightly tedious aspect of the interface is that you have to click interactive objects twice to use them or hear a description. When you click for the first time, Thorgal will approach the object. You have to click for a second time to hear a comment, use the object, or pick it up to put it in your inventory. The game does feature great looking backgrounds that make the environments more pleasant to explore.
The voice acting remains good throughout the game. Thorgal in particular has a fitting and pleasant voice that gives the character some welcome depth and a touch of emotion. While the sound effects are passable, the soundtrack is another solid element of the game. There isnít a huge variety of music available, but what you will hear is always fitting for the overall theme of the game and helps enhance the atmosphere.
The game starts with a fairly simple, but nevertheless engaging premise. Seeing the mysterious vision immediately sets a tone of urgency. As Thorgalís journey continues, players have to overcome a number of obstacles and find more about the warriorís past. The Vikingís origins are key to the mystery behind the prophecy. Unfortunately, the storyline never gains any kind of true depth. The game is far too short to allow that.
Curse of Atlantis is one of those games that can be easily completed in one session. Sure, the warrior goes through a handful of different locations, but there isnít much of anything to do at any of them. Players are usually limited to a small number of screens they can explore at any given time. There is usually some kind of major obstacle keeping Thorgal from making progress. By solving a couple of simple puzzles, you overcome the obstacle and get to explore the next set of screens. While confinement to a relatively small area is not inherently a problem, having only a few things you can do to proceed through the adventure makes the game rather simple and easy. By the time you really start getting interested in Thorgal and want to find to out more about the setting, the adventure is over. And once you complete the game for the first time, there is essentially no reason to go back and play through it again.
It is truly a shame that Curse of Atlantis is an extremely short game since some of the environments can be quite interesting. Thorgal meets a small number of colorful characters and gets to deal with a handful of magical contraptions. It would have been great to have a few more things to do, richer environments to explore, and see more of the gameís world. The second part of the game is particularly strange and interesting at the same time. Thorgal travels through a mystical land where we gain a little more insight into his character.
Part of this section seems straight out of a science fiction novel. Admittedly, traveling through a technologically advanced environment in the middle of a fantasy-themed game seems very strange. And it is easy to tear the game apart by questioning how Thorgal is not more surprised by what he is seeing or how he knows what it takes to operate some of the devices. However, there are story reasons for the inclusion of this environment and the fact that it is so out of place actually makes it appropriate considering that Thorgal is already in a magical land. Once the brief foray into science fiction is over however, you are treated to the true highlight of the game. Thorgal explores an interesting and imaginative magical realm that is easily one of the best segments of the game. Unfortunately, it is a true letdown to realize there is so little to do in each section you get to explore. The game would have immensely benefited from more locations or at the very least a few more puzzles.
The challenges you have to face through the course of the adventure also leave a lot to be desired. The biggest problem is the fact that archery comes into play in far too many puzzles. Twice in the game you will have to prove Thorgalís skill as an archer by shooting at some kind of target. During several other sections, you will need a carefully fired arrow to make progress. There are also times where you have to rely on your archery skills to survive a fight. The sheer number of times Thorgal relies on his bow and arrow in this short adventure almost makes the game feel like a tribute to archery.
The action sequences in the game can also be rather irritating. A few times during the adventure, Thorgal will have to face an opponent. But you will not be fighting against your enemies in the traditional way. Getting past the fight depends on finding an indirect way to defeat your opponent. As the enemy is trying to kill Thorgal, you will have to make him run around the screen while you try to find the trick to winning the fight. Instead of being engaging and exciting, these challenges often seem a little tedious if not somewhat silly. It is questionable whether or not they add any real value to the game.
It should also be noted that the name of the game can be a bit misleading. Hearing a name like Curse of Atlantis, you might expect to spend a good chunk of the game at the lost city. However, the only connection the game has to Atlantis is through Thorgalís origins. Thus, if you are looking for an opportunity to rediscover the city for the umpteenth time in a video game, you will be disappointed.
A technical problem encountered playing Thorgalís Quest on newer systems is also worthy of noting. Modern video cards seem to have trouble displaying the character models and the interactive objects. When you try to play the game, you might see character models starting to disappear into the background or important interactive objects turning invisible. Needless to say, this makes it extremely difficult to play through the game as you might miss a critical object because you couldnít even see it. Fortunately, the problem does not seem to exist on older systems. If you decide to try the game, it is highly recommended to play it on a system fairly close to the system requirements.
Curse of Atlantis: Thorgalís Quest is a difficult game to recommend. It starts with a fairly interesting premise, but the plotline never gains any kind of real depth. The adventure is far too short for a commercial release. Too many of the puzzles rely on the use of Thorgalís archery skills and offer no real challenge. There are annoying fights and timed sequences in place of puzzles that really make you think. As long as you take the time to carefully examine each location, the game should be a breeze as the puzzles will be extremely easy as long as you have the right items. The positive aspects of the game are unfortunately greatly overshadowed by its problems. With more places to explore and additional puzzles to solve, Curse of Atlantis could have been a good game. As it stands however, it can only be recommended to players who must own every single adventure game. Even then, you should look for a very good bargain.