|a game by||Confounding Factor|
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Bristol-based developers Confounding Factor have two very powerful weapons in the shape of Paul Douglas and Toby Gard. Members of the original Tomb Raider team left Core to pursue their own, more innovative project. Galleon is that project. And what a game...
You control a number of gallant treasure hunters, including Rhama, a sabre-wielding pirate, and Faith, a rather swarthy-looking female with - surprise, surprise - large breasts.
Fabulous AI is another of Galleon's strong points. When you're not controlling a character, they actually help out by completing tasks themselves. When you are in control, the process of picking up things and using them is simplified with the help of an interface that allows you to lock on to the object you want, and then scoop it up in one fluid movement.
This is one swashbuckling pirate action/adventure that promises to be very special indeed. More news soon.
Galleon is the first game from Confounding Factor, the Bristol-based development company founded by Toby Gard, creator of Lara Croft. Like Tomb Raider, it's a third-person action adventure with a combination of puzzling, combat and exploration. Set to lead on Xbox and GameCube, the PC version will follow soon after.
What's The Big Deal
Rhama, the game's hero, could just be the most agile, responsive and resourceful game character ever, with an unsurpassed degree of fluidity and dynamism of movement. Secondary characters to order about and beautiful 3D environments will also figure heavily.
Never have so many pixels had so much coverage as those of the incomparable Miss Lara Croft. But while she has settled happily in her place as a cultural icon, the man behind the temple-plundering heroine, Toby Gard, has spent the past four years on a far greater challenge.
It doesn't have a plait and it probably won't be the focus of millions of young boys' frenzied pubescent obsessions, but it may just make equivalent waves in gameplay terms. It, or rather he, is Rhama, and the game is Galleon.
Like Tomb Raider, Galleon is a 3D, third-person action/adventure with a mix of exploration and puzzle-solving, a splash of combat and an emphasis on narrative. In fact, Gard has been quoted as saying that Galleon is what he would have liked Tomb Raider to have been, had he not been constrained by hardware limitations. Luckily, his dream game has been delayed so many times (it was due out last year), that processing power has caught up with his vision, and the world now waits to see what his team at Confounding Factor can pull out of their hats. All the signs so far are that this will be no sad bunch of flowers either, but something that pushes what Tomb Raider achieved beyond all imagining.
You are Captain Rhama Sabrier, a sword-wielding, seafaring man of action, who is summoned by the obligatory wise old man to investigate a mysterious ship that has drifted into the port of one of the six islands to be explored. Unsurprisingly, the ship isn't what it seems, but a vessel of secrets waiting to be discovered and reward the finder with great magical powers. Enter the bad guy, who caps the old man and makes off with the ship. Guess it's all down to you from then on.
To accompany you are Faith, the daughter of the murdered old man who's out for revenge, Mihoko, a shapely assassin who joins you after you rescue her from slavery, and a fellow named Calverley who somehow transforms into a monkey. 'The secondary characters have their own intelligence but you are able to issue commands," explains level designer Hayden Duvall. "So they will do their own thing until you either move location or have a particular problem that you want help with. Faith has magical powers - she's able to heal, cast light and melt ice, things like that. Mihoko, being a fighter, has extra strength and agility."
One of the most striking aspects of the game is the characters' fluidity of movement. No one could fail to be impressed by Rhama's agility as he scales walls, swings across rooftops and leaps and tumbles through the Galleon world. "Rhama," Hayden says, "is able to react to every piece of geometry and every kind of surface depending on the texture and the different friction values and speed. It's all combined into the control system." The upshot is, Rhama actually moves intelligently, negotiating his way through his environment, jumping up those little ledges and elevations that would normally require assistance from the player. This has allowed Toby and co to introduce an exceptionally intuitive and minimal control interface, the intention being to increase the game's accessibility as much as possible.
This ultimately points to the fact that Galleon has been designed with a console audience primarily in mind, with a PC version to follow. While this won't do anything to endear the game to the PC fraternity, perhaps Rhama's athleticism is just what's needed to scale the walls of PC snobbery.