The Secrets of Alamut Review

The Secrets of Alamut continues exactly where the first game, The Legend of the Prophet and the Assassin (LOPA) ended. Those who did not play the first game are brought up to speed during the introductory narrative and movie with flashback scenes from the first.

The baritoned voiced, handsome Ay-Sayf "The Scimitar," still searching for the illusive Simon de Lancrois, sits beside the campfire with his companions. He is told that he must seek out the Man in the Mountain at Alamut, a mysterious rocky fortress riddled with traps and unknown dangers. After arriving at Alamut, Ay-Sayf is soon confronted with the first of those "traps," a room full of acid pools. To find the Man in the Mountain, he must get through several such rooms, all riddled with dangerous obstacles.

As the story progresses, Ay-Sayf travels to other interesting locations, each with their own mysteries, puzzles, and dangers. Among them are temple ruins in the desert, the Monastery of St. Catherine with its beautiful church, and dark, foreboding underground gold mines. Along the way, he meets others who can help or harm his quest, including ghostly apparitions and houris, beautiful maidens whose deadly kisses tempt him to linger. As his search for the false prophet Simon continues, he is taunted by strange dreams, delving even deeper within his own conscience, his soul still burdened from decades of battle and savagery. Ultimately he must reconcile his past deeds within himself, a lesson that comes after many years of tormented searching.

Impressions of LOPA still vivid in my mind, having just finished it the day before, I could not help but compare the two. The interface and 3D graphic environment of the two games are identical -- even the music is the same. So if you were comfortable with the gameplay aspects of the first game, you'll feel right at home in Alamut. In fact, LOPA and Alamut are so much alike they could have easily been released as one game, rather than two, in my opinion.

Although still linear in structure, the medium-difficulty puzzles in Alamut kept me challenged enough not to feel locked in. I am happy to report that some clues can be found in written form, something lacking in its predecessor. That's good too because there are far fewer characters to talk to in this game. For some of the situations, however, there is still a good measure of guesswork as you try to determine the reasoning behind the clues as they relate to the actual puzzle. Adventurers will encounter the same types of puzzles found in LOPA, plus many more including a sliding block puzzle and even a different variation of magic squares. The visually impaired should definitely keep the subtitle option set to "on" while working the color puzzle, for text descriptions of what they're looking at. (There are no sound puzzles and no mazes, thank goodness!) The puzzles are numerous, imaginative, and interesting, even those that were somewhat familiar to me.

There is a tiny bit of action included as part of the puzzle-solving. It involves pointing to a spot on the screen and clicking with your mouse so that your character jumps there. Sometimes portions of the segment are timed, doubling the trouble. (He who hesitates is lost!) If you remember the "ghoul jump" in LOPA, the several in Alamut use the same principle. Since the sequences are still "point and click" oriented, and figuring out where to go and how quickly is the key, I don't think they could be classified as true action.

Right from the beginning, my enjoyment of The Secrets of Alamut was deterred because of installation problems. As I mentioned in my review of The Legend of the Prophet and the Assassin, I received both games from DreamCatcher in the same box. But, even though they are named Legend Part 1 and Legend Part 2, they cannot both reside on your hard disk at the same time. You must uninstall Part 1 before you can install Part 2. (No, it doesn't work to designate different directories.) So much for wanting to play it again! (What were they thinking?)

Once I got the game to play, I suffered through constant hang-ups that caused me to hit the reset button. This happened at the most inappropriate times too! Luckily you can save your game in the middle of a puzzle ... but saving with every single, solitary move? Very annoying! It was also discouraging when I found no technical support on DreamCatcher's web site nor on Arxel Tribe's pages concerning this problem. Lurking on several game-related forums, I discovered that the cause of the problem was lack of support for my video card (an Intel 740i). Nothing short of playing the game on another machine with a different video card would work. I can't imagine players rushing out to replace their video card just to play one game, especially if other recent games have played successfully. Luckily our household does have two computers, so I installed Alamut on our older Pentium 200 MMX machine with its Diamond 3D 2000 video card. While the game ran, and I was able to play through the game much better, it still mysteriously dumped me to my Windows desktop several times and "hung up" when I attempted to save games. I was told later that a newer version of DirectX (version 7.0 is installed with the game) may have helped with those problems. Needless to say, this camper was not happy!

As a result of the problems I encountered, my rating of The Secrets of Alamut is much lower than you would otherwise expect. That's not to say that it won't run on your system just fine, but there is no guarantee. If it had run flawlessly on either of my systems, the game would rate 4 stars because of the story, the graphics, sound and music, and the medium difficulty puzzles, with a reduction only for its linear nature and timed segments. But because of the irritations I had to bear, this game gets a mere 2-1/2 stars from me.

-- Jeanne Muse