All of the major gaming magazines and web sites have published reviews about Ring, with ratings that range from good to really bad. My opinion fits about mid-range.
Story: The main character, Ish, is dropped on an asteroid in space and told to observe the events leading to the enslavement of the human race. As Ish watches, the player becomes the four major characters and directs each about the tasks at hand. After completing each chapter, Ish is returned to the asteroid and reflects upon what he has learned from his observations. The results of his observations shape the future of mankind.
Linearity: The player can jump between the four realms at will, so if you get stuck in one you can try another without losing your progress. The game is advertised as being non-linear, but the storyline makes more sense following the order listed in the manual.
Puzzles: Some of the puzzles had nothing to do with the story line, and yet others were an integral part of the plot. The designers may have added some of the puzzles after the fact in an attempt to lengthen game play. It almost seems that two different people designed the four parts of the game without consulting each other.
Sound: I was delighted with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra playing Richard Wagner's classical music in the background. While the soundtrack was fantastic, some of the characters' voices were terrible with multiple pitches and slurrings of speech which detracted from my enjoyment of the game. I had to remind myself that Ring was originally European (French, I believe) and that something may have been lost in the translation. Make sure you have the subtitles turned on if you have trouble understanding the speech.
Graphics: The scenery in Ring is breathtaking. The world is rendered in 3D with full vision in all directions. Parents be warned that the player must interact with some beautifully rendered nude maidens in the game. Most of the full-motion videos moved seamlessly, and others bogged my system to a halt. (See Technical issues).
Technical Issues: Some of my problems happened while a full-motion video sequence was attempting to play, resulting in a complete system freeze. I attributed this to either my video card or lack of memory since I was able to reboot, load a saved game and then play through the sequence. Cryo is aware of the two most common problems with the game. A patch was released (available on the Cryo website) which solves the "dump to Windows desktop" problem. According to Cryo's Technical Support staff, some CD-Rom drives have trouble reading the CDs (especially CD#6) for which they have no solution. On CD#6, the problem I encountered happened only at the very beginning of the chapter as it was loading it for the first time. I was able to get beyond it by ejecting the CD and reinserting; selecting Continue on the blue screen; cancelling out of the Set-up screen; and finally by clicking on the bottom bar (open programs).
Overall: If you are aware of its shortcomings, playing the Ring is enjoyable. It can fill some hours while you are waiting for something better to come along. I liked the fact that it was a "true" adventure and did not contain any tricky action segments. Lack of violence was one of its good points as well as the graphics and music quality. Negatives include the jerky voices, a few unnecessary puzzles, shortness of game play, and a disappointing ending. Let us hope that the advertised sequel will be an improvement!
-- Jeanne Muse