Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Total Eclipse

Name:Total Eclipse
Publisher:Incentive Software
Developer:Major Developments
Time:1 hour 30 minutes

Now we're back into games I've played before. A long time ago, like back in the '00s, I played this game. I don't even remember why I wanted to play this game, because its not exactly an appealing looking title and I definitely fell victim to graphics snobbery back then. Was I drawn to it by its early nature or by the Egyptian theme? I don't know.
This title has a bit of a backstory. Hundreds of years ago in Ancient Egypt one of the High Priests was upset people were not sacrificing people to "Re", the God of the Sun. So he cursed his people so that should the sun ever be blocked during the day, the offending object would be destroyed. Or had the pharaoh build a pyramid that would do this. Pretty soon, 2 hours in-game, the moon will totally eclipse the sun...and the moon will be destroyed. Pretty sure that the moon would be destroyed several times over since even 30 BC, calling that the latest of Ancient Egypt, but I assume this is just a sign that the story doesn't matter at all.
Past the unimportant backstory, we've got a few gameplay changes. Heart rate, which seems to be akin to previous game's health, and the addition of water and light. My thoughts turn to that of your classic text adventures, the ones with light, mazes and sometimes food supplies. I wonder if this is an intentional similarity or if I'm just filling in some blanks? Once again its sound effects OR music though, lovely.
Such a nice-looking effect
Once the game begins, I am greeted by the sound of a heart beat. I've heard this kind of thing before and this one isn't too annoying, especially since its a vital element to the game. It gets faster if you've been hurt, lowers if you rest or find treasure. Time is more akin to Pathways into Darkness than Dark Side, which is good. I never died owing to time, or even water.
A puzzle of sorts, walking into that pillar removes it, causing the treasure above it to fall down, on you if you aren't fast enough

The light mechanic is somewhat annoying. You can click on the flashlight on the menu or press T. Using the mouse to turn it on and off is troublesome, because the game expects you to click a specific area on the flash light to change its status. One can always use the keyboard command for it, but one is more likely to follow the siren call of the mouse than anything else at first.

One of the many symbols around

What about the central three pillars of the game? Avoiding enemies, level design and puzzles? A few enemies are killable, including I do believe the first enemy who has a weak spot in a FPS. However, these situations with an enemy are almost always something to be avoided. The levels are an indistinguishable mess of stairs and doors. The idea is to map it, and I didn't feel like doing that. The week I played this I was dealing with the aftermath of upgrading my OS, and while I tried doing it legitimately, it was too much like work. The map I found was in Polish, so all I lost would be the time spent making a map.

Yes, even I have to admit there's something nice about this game at times
That leaves the puzzles. While the engine's puzzles were never really that impressive, I can't help but feel here like we're getting incredibly simple now. For instance there are a lot of puzzles that simply amount to finding the symbol that matches the one on a door. Otherwise just shoot anything that looks suspect, especially walls, and then walk into it if it isn't. Once you take mapping out of the equation, which also removes a maze puzzle near the middle of the game, the only clever puzzle in the game is one where you have to gather five ankhs or keys before opening the final door. In true text adventure fashion, its more than possible to screw yourself by opening too many doors, since these ankhs are universal.
The black parts here are holes

Still, unlike previous Freescape games, this title has a pretty good flow to it. It goes from mapping the game area, to solving the puzzles, then mapping some more, before going through the upper floors of the pyramid rather quickly. The problem is once you've figured everything out you now have to deal quite obnoxiously with rationing out the ankhs. There are 7 ankhs and you get absolutely no leeway in how you use them whatsoever. This, combined with the low amount of enemies in the game, makes me think of this even more like an adventure game than a proper FPS. Were the platforming any more complex than walking over precarious walkways, I would be tempted to call it a proto-Tomb Raider, but without that key element this is just strange.

This one way to win, also requires one to pass over the entire map multiple times in the most inconvenient way. Every single walkway that looks like a nightmare to navigate, you will navigate. The biggest problem with it is that you don't have a good feeling for where you are in relation to everything. This makes walking over the various walkways a very nervous process.
And yet somehow, this is the most popular game by far, and I have to admit there's something compelling about this game. I can't put my finger on what. Is it that we always have a reason for driving forward? Is it that I can actually finish it for once? The Egyptian theme? The last one seems most curious, there's no shortage of Egyptian-themed games around, and yet there's something about the engine and the theme that feels like it goes together. Unlike science fiction, Egypt works rather well with the large polygons of this game. They were a consistent fan of these big geometrical shapes as we all know. Egypt was big into making massive monuments.

The final boss, not the most fearsome opponent in gaming history
The game ends with a rather unceremonious final boss in the form of a giant pharaoh head/sarcophagus. Just walk behind it and then start blasting the back of it. The game's over after a few shots.
We get fireworks, not the best, but nice, and then the game starts again. Guess the fireworks are the closest thing we get to an ending.

The same weapon/interaction beam we've had since Space Station Oblivion, except now its a pistol. Its a nice effect, but its still the same thing. 1/10

You've got actual enemies and some turrets, but outside of the boss they're closer to traps to avoid than serious fights. 1/10


By this point, things have been cut down into effectively one giant maze. I guess there is a certain cleverness in the layout of some sections, and the secrets, though required, do reward exploration. 2/10

Player Agency:
Without any form of jumping, the control scheme feels limiting somehow. The true 3D combined with the very limiting controls feels plain weird. 2/10

Things are back to Space Station Oblivion levels of scenery destruction. Mind you, most of it is destroying parts of the game you need to progress, but the thought is nice. 3/10

Yes, its feels like Egypt. Its the cheapest form of atmosphere possible, but its there. 1/10

Yeah, its a Freescape game all right. 1/10

Nonsense, even for a story that only matters in the manual. 0/10

Your typical sound effects at this point. The music's nice, but it doesn't really fit the theme and it has some weird sounds in it for some reason. 2/10

That's 13. I wonder if any Freescape game is going to surpass the original. Its not like that's a hard thing to do or anything...

What about reviews? Well, most of the statements are about speed or the impressiveness of the 3D. Neither of which are concerns today. (although I will note I had slowdown when looking at some things) I do find it amusing that someone said this was too big, a different person, I presume, to the person who said Dark Side was too small. I was actually going to complain myself that this is somewhat small, and acknowledge my hypocrisy in the process.

I know I said in Dark Side's review that this was it for 1988, but unfortunately that was based on a misconception I had regarding 1988's The Colony. When I checked it after Dark Side, as one does when one is going through these titles, it didn't sound like there was any actual gunplay going on, even something as pathetic as this game's, I assumed it was a game about solving some puzzle in a 3D world because there's another game like that from around this time. Only, it actually is a FPS. Oh, well. The next Freescape title is not going to be very long to reach either, being 1989's Total Eclipse 2: Sphinx Jinx, released exclusively in a compilation with the original on 8-bit platforms, not even a DOS release.

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