Traitors Gate Review

As you begin Traitors Gate, you enter a CIA briefing room to receive the details of your mission. One of the CIA's top brass has gone bad and is going to steal the British Crown Jewels using the CIA's own secret information. Naturally, rather than inform the Brits as to what is going on, the CIA wants you to secretly replace the real treasures with fakes that have a homing device in them. This is the simple story that controls everything that you do in the Traitors Gate.

This is not a short game, or a particularly easy one. The puzzles involved are all very logical, and you are left to discover all the details of your mission by solving them one at a time. There are very few skill or timing based puzzles in the game. Sometimes you must shoot a guard with a tranquilizer, and sometimes you must wait before doing something, or do something within a certain time. But basically almost all the puzzles are ones where you figure out what to do with the items you have to solve the problem at hand. There are a lot of interconnected paths you can find, Daydream says 1200 different paths are possible.

Traitors Gate is very non-violent; in fact the only person who can be killed is your own character. The are no curse words or blood gushing from severed limbs. You are working on a stealth mission, so this makes perfect sense from a plot perspective, but it is also good to know if you are playing this game with children. The puzzles are mixed in difficulty, but some are hard enough that this is probably not a good first adventure for a very young gamer. Expect about 100 hours of play, depending on your experience and whether you like to poke into every spot possible.

The graphics in Traitors Gate are extremely good. A tremendous amount of detail is in the game world, which is very accurately modeled after the real Tower of London. The game system relies on two kinds of views, one which you use when you are at a location and another while you are moving. From any fixed spot, there are only a few allowed moves. This is similar to the system used in The 7th Guest, but done much better. As you are moving, you see full motion videos, which are very well done. This movement adds a lot to the 3D effect that the game gives you. When you are in one location, you have complete freedom to look around you, from the floor beneath you to the ceiling above, and all 360 degrees around. The game does not use real 3D, however, so you won't need to have an accelerated video card to get the full effect.

The only drawback to the graphics is that they don't adapt very well to your screen resolution. You must either choose to change your screen to 640x480 resolution during the game or play in a small window. The game screen is split, with the top half for your world view, and the bottom half for your inventory. This gives the effect of a wide angle view of the world while you play. The colors are good, and the game has an easy brightness calibration at the start to ensure you can see the details you need to pick out in some of the darker areas.

The sounds are also very good in Traitors Gate. You can hear your footsteps, doors opening, valves turning; almost anything you do makes an appropriate sound. There are some dramatic effects that happen at certain points in the game, which may tip you off that they are important locations. There are often long stretches with no music at all, which adds to the sneaky atmosphere.

The game interface is fairly intuitive. You have a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) and two inventories. One inventory is for your personal items and the items from the cache that you are given. The other inventory is for items that you, in true adventure gaming style, liberate from the areas you visit. Some items can be inspected closely in the main view window, others cannot. If you pick up too many things, it takes a while to sort through them all. The PDA is central to your quest, as it controls the camera, the Global Positioning System, and your live link back to Central Intelligence, where they will analyze your photos while you wait. The PDA has several other functions as well.

There are a few technical problems with the game. The original number one CD must be in the CD-ROM drive to start the game, even if you are currently in some other part of the game. This means an extra CD swap to get started again. Also, on my computer the game had problems getting started when I clicked on the game icon. I had to click multiple times to have a chance of getting the game to start. I believe this problem has been corrected: you can check to see if your number one CD has "Traitors Gate" in white or in silver. The white labeled disks have this problem fixed, the silver ones do not. You can exchange disks if needed.

Another problem was that swapping CD's is a chore. First, the game asks you to insert another CD as it plays background music. So far, so good. Then, after you manually try to eject the CD, the computer complains that you are trying to eject a CD that is in use. You have to give it the okay to continue. Then, while the CD is ejecting, the background music stutters. It can be annoying especially if you are switching CD's often when traveling through the sewers.

A third minor technical problem is that the cursor loses its shape sometimes and converts back to a standard Windows arrow. After clicking on the open inventory tool, it usually snaps back to its proper shape. Cursor shape is very important to the game, as it lets you know what options are available at a given site. All these problems may be specific to my particular configuration, so you may not experience any of these.

Overall, I would give Traitors Gate 4 out of 5 stars for its clever puzzles, beautiful attention to detail, and atmosphere.

-- Robert Norton