Reviewed: October 2, 2003
Released: June, 2000
Iím sure some of you figured we screwed up some code when you opened this page, I mean, Traitorís Gate was released waaaaaaaaay back in 2000, itís not exactly current events. That is, unless you havenít heard about Cypher, the sequel to Traitorís Gate which is scheduled to be sprung upon PC adventure fans in a few weeks. So, thatís why weíre taking a look back at Traitorís Gate, a game which, though beginning to show its age, manages to present a fairly unique experience.
The game sets you in the shoes of Raven, a special agent who been tasked to prevent the theft of the British Crown Jewels. Under the weight of a strict 12 hour deadline, you must infiltrate the Tower of London, replace the Jewels with duplicates, avoid harming any of the security staff and escape via Traitorís Gate. Just another day at the office right?
Traitorís Gate plays a lot like Myst only it is more reliant on items and logical, real world type problem solving. The ones related to movement and panning the first person camera threw me at first, the trick is remembering what all of the little mouse icons mean. Once you figure out how to navigate the game world and how to pixel hunt to investigate rooms and objects you will quickly realize that Traitorís Gate is a game that requires you to save, a lot. Even with the aid of in-game maps (except for that @$#!! sewer) I had a lot of problems getting lost and blowing significant portions of my 12 hour time limit trying to get back on track. It feels really cheap, but if you find your way blocked you should always create a save, wander around to find the solution, load your save, and get back to it.
The PDA takes a little more than a third of the screen at all times and while it is super-useful as a communication tool and for accessing your inventory items and it also sports an email system and a nifty audio sensor in addition to other functions that frequently come in handy, it is a huge pain in the ass to find your way around the functions to find what you want, reading the game manual helps (as one would hope) but even after that it still seems needlessly confusing.
Itís not like they send you into the Tower with a piece of middle grade consumer electronics and say have fun, well ok they basically do, but there are lots of other tools at Ravenís disposal, lock-picks, grapples, ascenders, a decoding tool and a crossbow that allows you to disable guards with ice darts or fire a grapple in order to ascend to a previously inaccessible location.
The best part of Traitorís Gate, by far, are the more than 100 puzzles that are so grounded in the real world, I, ehb, mmm, jeth, Iím at a loss for words. Most adventure gamesí puzzle elements either stick out like sore thumbs or just have solutions that make no freaking sense at ALL. This one isnít like that, you come across a locked door, what do you need? A key! Not a bloody blue jewel. Most, if not all, of the puzzles are inventory item based, if you have the proper item in your gear the way will be opened, if not, itís time to go pixel hunting again. And that is the probably one of the bigger hang-ups in the game. The fact is that the game critical items are blended in so well to the pre-rendered backgrounds that, in some situations, the only way to find what you are after is to slowly move the mouse over the screen and look for the icon to change.
Traitorís Gate is starting to show itís age, but at the time of itís release, it looked pretty slick for a pre-rendered title. By todayís standards the fairly low-res 640x480 view looks pretty grainy. The look of the Tower grounds is pretty top shelf, and while I canít vouch for the accuracy of their portrayal in this title, they do have a spooky authentic feel to them.
One thing that seems just plain weird about this game is that you need to have two separate versions of QuickTime installed to run it properly, it doesnít cause any problems with my Win2k box, but it does seem a little odd and is something to be aware of when installing this title.
A word to describe the audio in Traitorís Gate is sparse, there arenít any big, in your face sound effects, the game tends to skew more towards the creaking hinges and echoing foot steps side of things and they are pretty well executed considering the gameís age. Every once in a while there is some orchestrated strains that cut through the silence to try and ramp up the gameís drama I guess. It doesnít really work and as I always say, if you put music in your title, do it right or donít bother.
The 12 hour time limit really kills a lot of the lasting play value of this title, this along with its age really work against it. You can find Traitorís Gate for like ten bucks in a lot of bargain bins. A lot of adventure gamers out there probably have already given Traitorís Gate a try but if you havenít and you like sneaky puzzle games or are interested in its upcoming sequel you should think about picking it up.
While itís far from the perfect adventure title, Traitors Gate does provide real world puzzle solving in a somewhat interesting environment, something that is pretty much missing from the market otherwise. Cypher is just around the corner and if that piques your interest, then picking up Traitorís Gate and killing 12 or so hours crawling through the Tower of London would probably suit you just fine.