The Wheel of Time
Designed as a prequel to Robert Jordan's fantasy novels. Wheel of Time challenges players to control a fortress and collect artifacts in a quest for mystical seals. The most ambitious feature of this action/strategy/RPG hybrid is its multiplayer mode where four characters set complex traps in their fortresses and storm each other's castles. Powered by the Unreal engine, WOT also features levels designed by actual architeas. Offering a gorgeous, complex mix of Quake. Dungeon Keeper, and C&C. Wheel of Time may become an evolutionary step in gaming.
Download The Wheel of Time
In the Age of Legends, an Age long past and an Age yet to come, mankind unleashed the Dark One into the world. It was Lews Therin Telamon who, with his Hundred Companions, resealed the Dark One in his prison and those cuendillar seals have since been lost to time and memory. Now several groups are searching for the seals, each group with its own dark agenda.
The Wheel of Time (WoT) is based on the series of Robert Jordan books of the same name. In the game you take on the role of Elayna Sedai, one of the Aes Sedai -- an order of women who can wield the One Power. You begin the game as the Keeper of the Chronicles, the Amyrlin Seat’s second in command and confidant. It is your job as an Aes Sedai to retrieve and protect the cuendillar seals and, as the story progresses, you learn what the other factions (the Hound, the Forsaken, and the Whitecloaks) plan to do with the seals if they manage to get them.
For fans of the Wheel of Time books, you will get to see some familiar places like Shadar Logoth, the Ways, and the White Tower. You will encounter the likes of the Hound, Ishmael, the Black Ajah, and the leader of the Whitecloaks. All told, it is a great story that has the Robert Jordan seal of approval.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
The story is very impressive. It really feels like it is part of the Wheel of Time universe; it was wonderful to actually hear things from the books (phrases that are commonly used and recitations from ceremonies) and to see the representation of objects, events, and places. The Wheel of Time is mostly a first person shooter with a lot of RPG and strategy elements, so you can look forward to wandering around the world and investigating things you've read about. If you've not ever read the books, you will still find the environment impressive and the gameplay and storyline to be interesting and engaging.
In the single player mode you will travel through some of the best designed and most visually appealing levels I have ever seen in a game of this genre. From the vast libraries of the White Tower to the dark, fetid tunnels and ruins of Shadar Logoth (an abandoned city of evil) to the Ways, you will find yourself continually drawn into the story.
The weapons that you use in WoT are all Ter’Angreal (artifacts that focus the One Power into specific effects) that contain a number of charges, some of which are more powerful than others. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with all the Ter’Angreal and understand their uses, especially before you get into a multiplayer game. The balance between offensive and defensive Ter’Angreal is great. Nearly every attack has a defense, except for Balefire (a particularly nasty 'weapon' that does not simply destroy an object, but obliterates its presence for a short time in the past). The best defense against this is to run like hell.
The enemy AI is incredible. Most of the enemies are incredibly smart about projectiles and such; Trollocs will dodge side to side to avoid fireballs and the minions in Shadar Logoth will actually hide in the shadows until you walk close enough that they can catch you by surprise and inflict a lot of damage. The enemies that can use Ter’Angreal are even more dangerous; for example, the Hound will wait until you start attacking him to put up a Fork (a Ter'Angreal that doesn't deflect an assault but will aim a copy of the attack back at the aggressor). In the end, the enemy AI makes the single player game pretty tough.
Multiplayer Citadel is by far the biggest selling point in this game. It achieves a great balance between strategy and deathmatch play. Here you will be part of one of up to four teams (Aes Sedai, the Hound, the Whitecloaks, and the Forsaken) who are responsible for securing cuendillar seals within their own citadel with traps and guards, and then raiding the other players’ citadels for their cuendillar seals. The maps for these citadel games are really impressive, each with its own set of nooks and crannies to hide traps, guards, and seals. The only gripe I have about the citadel game is the limited amount of maps available at time of shipping. The guys at Legend (the game's developer) say that there are more on the way, though.
Multiplayer Deathmatch … what can I say? It’s a deathmatch. There’s very little that is new here, just new arena maps, but those new maps are also really good. One new twist to deathmatch play is the ability to use some Ter'Angreal to create computer-controlled allies (e.g. Trollocs if you are playing a Hound or Warders if you are an Aes Sedai) who will move and fight independently until killed.
The Wheel of Time comes with an unsupported version of UnrealEd. If you are so inclined to make your own levels, it is possible, although it is a bit difficult.
Stunning. The folks at Legend really put the time into making it not only look beautiful but also to make it look like RJ’s Wheel of Time. The software rendering mode is really amazing; even more impressive, though a bit buggy (some cards don’t handle D3D as well as some others), is the Direct3D rendering mode.
There are a lot of really cool things that show up in the details -- things like water dripping from a hole in the ceiling, rain falling, the fog effects in Shadar Logoth, and the very well implemented lighting (I keep remember the look of the barely visible Ways).
All the visuals for the Ter'Angreal are very good; it’s just amazing to watch someone get killed with Chain Lightning. The Fireballs start off as rocks and turn into flaming balls. The seeking Ter’Angreal are really cool to watch as well.
The only bad thing I can say about the graphics is in relation to the cut scenes. Between each level there is a cut scene that describes this next piece of the story. Although the story is truly wonderful, the animation for the cut scenes really failed to impress me. It appears that they used the same models as the ones they used for just walking around in the game. These models seem to only have two facial poses, mouth open and mouth closed. It’s like watching Skeletor talk. There are also some real bugs in the animation; for instance when the Hound is holding the Horn Ter’Angreal and talking to you, his little finger is sticking through the middle of the horn. This isn’t a huge issue, but it was irritating nonetheless. I really expected more polish from the cut scenes.
Throughout the game there is some really cool Celtic/Rock style music. It has this really dark mood and blends into the game very well. The voice acting was incredibly good, but didn’t match up to the mouths all that often, due mostly to the really poor facial features of the models. All the incidental sounds like footsteps and falling rain are awesome. One great thing you can do is hide in the shadows and listen to the footsteps of your target as they get nearer. The sound effects for the actions of the Ter'Angreal are also very good.
Although this game has a Teen rating, I do want to point out that there is an option to turn the gore up and it gets gruesome. This is more of a suggestion than a warning, though.
Minimum: Win98, P200, 32 MB RAM, 500 MB available hard drive space, CD-ROM drive, sound card, and a PCI local bus video card. For Network and Internet Play: TCP/IP.
Recommended: Pentium II 233, 64 MB RAM, & a 3D graphics accelerator.
Reviewed on: PIII 450, 256 MB RAM, and D3D rendering on a Voodoo3 2000 and also on a PII 500, 128 MB RAM, and software rendering on an ATI Rage Pro. Both versions ran very clean with a high frame rate. But the detail on the D3D render was far more intricate.
If you have a D3D compatible card you will want to download the D3D patch. There is also a patch available to fix a problem with starting a multiplayer server.
If you are a fan of Jordan’s books, or a fan of the first person shooter genre, buy this game. Buy it now. And even if you don’t like this type of game, you still might still want to give this one a try. The addition of an intricate storyline and background to the world really adds to the experience and will certainly broaden the appeal of the game.