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12 years and up
A review by slydos 30th December 2002
The edutainment adventures from Heureka-Klett were so far games in 1st-person-perspective. In the newest title of the series, "Historion", they changed from 1st-person point of view to a 3rd-person point&click adventure, in which the gamer takes over the role of the 3D-realtime character Tom.
Sometime in the future the entire knowledge of mankind is stored in enormous data bases. Tom is technician of the department of time travels in Historion 3. In Tom's scope of responsibility substantial malfunctionings arose. Objects from other times suddenly emerged elsewhere and Historion 3 threatens to break down. Tom is sent into the past to repair it. Not much is functioning any longer, but they can transfer Tom into ancient Olympia, where he begins to investigate the affair. On his journey he will be able to admire four of the seven World Wonders: the lighthouse of Pharos at Alexandria, the tomb of Mausolos at Halikarnassos, the statue of Zeus by Phidias at Olympia and the Colossus of Rhodos. He will discover that it's not only a technical error, but that an ancient, evil power tries to destroy mankind.
For this review the DVD version (version 1.02) was played. The DVD version contains some bug-fixes and improvements, that must be loaded with the PC CDROM version as patch. The DVD comes together with the manual in a costly box with fold-out cover. During the installation (normal 299 MB, full 942 MB) one can already read the manual as it takes some time.
A Windows icon is not automatically created and the readme-file refers to the CDROM version of the game. Also the maximum installation does not prevent game delays when loading video sequences.
At the beginning we experience one of those video sequences, in which Tom approaches the gigantic complex of Historion 3 with a small one-man airplane. Historion 3 is now situated where in former times the Mediterranean Sea was. He's got the job for only 5 months and maintains the plasma transmitters for the 1 million possible time travels. He won't entrust himself to the outdated transmitters however he must not do that - so far. Now all the transmitters have conked and Tom is taken to task. At this point we can take over the control as players.
Predominantly Historion and Tom are controlled by mouse. Some options, like the main menu or the inventory however function only through keyboard inputs. The cursor, a large gauntlet, shows us by changing its shape whether we can interact with objects or persons or can leave the scene in a certain direction. If an "L" for learning appears at a hotspot, then we can get didactic elements according to the context.
Tom can be moved with left-click, a double-click lets him run faster. He evades independently everything that stands in his way, also humans, who cross his way. Here and there he gets stuck and cannot move away despite his implanted algorithm, then we should help him with a backward step. But that occurs quite rarely.
One of the characteristics of the game is it that Tom is not always in the field of view. When we reach a new scene, the screen scrolls automatically, in order to show us the entire extent of the accessible area. With simple mouse movements we can scroll and get an overview of the often large-scaled scenarios, which are mostly pictured in an isometric view like in Sanitarium. One can click - without seeing Tom - somewhere on the screen and he will come out of the off. (I often scrolled back, in order to see whether he is actually moving, since one hears no sound of steps, when he is outside of the current screen cutout.)
Dialogues run off automatically when clicking on a character. We can't make selections here. If we take an object, receive or exchange it from a person, it is stowed away automatically in the inventory - we hear a short noise each time. The inventory can be opened only by the key "I" and takes then approx. 1/3 of the lower screen area. If we click on an object, then we receive a describing text line. Objects cannot be combined and one has to use them by drag&drop. If we select the correct hotspot, the object is shown slightly magnified. The quantity of inventory objects keeps within limits.
Likewise only by keyboard we can open the weapon inventory and the energy slots. Yes - we will gather weapons during the game and will also have to fight. During a fight, which is simply accomplished by mouse-clicks, we can lose life energy. We can reload energy packs - visible at the energy bar at the bottom. It is very unpleasant that the handling of energy packs is not explained correctly in the manual.
During fights with heavy losses you have to use mouse and keyboard at the same time. As soon as an opponent is dead - Heureka-Klett attaches very much importance to the fact that one cannot really die in games, but only disappear - he leaves usually a new energy pack, which Tom should take as soon as possible. When fighting with more than one monster, handling gets already quite complicated: at the same time one must click on the opponent, observe the energy bar, take energy packs and then absorb them with the "E" -key, since one can otherwise die quite fast.
Which purpose this action sequences have in an edutainment adventure, is incomprehensible to me. They are also rather absurd. Anyway, the action elements are relative easy, only the last fight needs several approaches. At the beginning Tom can complete a small combat training in the Historion, which prepares him for later opponents.
During some fights Tom also gets some gold, the value is indicated in each case in the inventory. In addition, he can buy goods for it, but he can also increase his wealth by exchanging goods with dealers.
The main menu is only accessable with the ESC-key. It is likewise faded in at the bottom of the screen. Apart from the save and load functions we find options for sound and graphics here. One can quit the game here too. Historion has 25 save slots, which can be attached with a short text. The savegames are stored and shown in ascending order, so that you have to search for the right save page after some inputs.
The handling is altogether acceptable, but by the combination of keyboard and mouse control a bit baffling, in particular as there is no exact description in the manual. Inventory -, weapons -, energy and learning functions would have been better if they could be accessed by mouse-click. The handling of the limited save slots leaves to be desired likewise. The fights as well as the wide walks (they remind of Simon 3D), serve as game prolongations and are particularly nerving during the last part of the game. Positive is the simple control of Tom, who automatically evades obstacles.
The graphics, especially the background graphics, are an eye candy and sometimes really overwhelming. I can imagine that the gamers will exclaim some Oh's and Ah's when seeing a new scene! In contrast to the prerendered 2D scenes we have a bit raw 3D-characters.
As a result of the variable soft scrolling in the generous scenarios always a feeling of wideness and apparent three-dimensionality arises. The scrolling in all directions, particularly with the isometeric views of Olympia and others, makes it possible for the gamers, far more than in games with ego-view to feel like the master of the situation and keep the overview. And only this way an impression of the size and the monumentality of the buildings and places can be obtained. Thus at the first sight of the enormous lighthouse of Pharos, first the top of the tower is shown and then automatically scrolled to the bottom and the tiny humans on the bridge before it. In addition the gamers of course are free to scroll up and down for themselves and establish their best points of view.
None of the World Wonders shown in this game is still existing today. Through Historion you get a very good conception of it and to what great efforts the artists and master-builders of the antiquity were able. Since I know some of the locations and always stumbled a bit sadly over the few debris remnants, which require a lot of fantasy, I can only recommend the excellent reconstruction in Historion to all interested. Since most archaeologists unfortunately are today against a reconstruction of buildings, even if that would be possible, the digital rebirth in a computer game is of course a treasure.
The scenarios are by no means dead. Many people are running around the roads or working, like craftsmen, sportsmen or dealers. Some of the animated characters are very life-like, e.g. playing children or animals. With some of them our hero can also interact. But only one inhabitant excites about Tom's unusual clothes. Why he wears a kind of space travel combat suit, is unclear. Probably he needs the action outfit, to impress the kids. Anyhow he resembles his comic predecessor Victor Vector, who has been sent on a time journey by Sanctuary Woods 4 times - squished into a skintight dress, which emphasized his muscles better.
But there are even more borrowings from other games and films. Of course one thinks immediately of time agent 5 from the Journeyman Project series. But while you get here a logical explanation for the suit and also some background information about the time journeys, you're left in darkness about it by Historion. The outfit of the General in Historion 3 reminds of Babylon 5, the glimmering time gate of Star Gate and some of the monsters also of Starwars. At StarTrek they borrowed some special expressions, like Positronic Circuits or Plasma Transmitters.
While the wonderful background graphics pleased me excellently, I must admit that when I first saw the menu fading in, I got eye pain. The combination of turquoise and orange fits on the one side to Tom's suit, but it is the most atrocious colour combination I can think of to be presented on the wonderful background.
The comic-like inserts of the interlocutors during dialogues within the orange-turquoise frame stands out somewhat strangely against the other graphics, as if they would belong to a comic adventure.
In-game animations, like fires or water, are rare and also not particularly life-like. On the other hand gait and movements of our hero and most other characters look o.k.. But the bulky monsters can only move in dull frankenstein-manner, what helps us during the fights on the other hand. If we see Tom and the others in a close-up, we miss facial expressions, lip movements and gesturing.
If you forget the blurry video sequences and the graphics of the menus, then Historion is a successful game for the eye, giving much space for walking and is not only varied by the fantastic locations but also is by the movie-like changing points of view.
I already feared that the shellac-disk-like creaking at the start could continue during the whole game. But that fortunately didn't happen. Here and there you hear inconspicuous music and noises and the steps of our hero, which astoundingly could only be heard when he could be seen in the screen.
Tom's voice is expressionful, suitably selected and converts the texts in a professional way. The other characters were only second-rate quality, for example Cleopatra's voice or a scribe, who sounded despite his white beard like an 18 year old.
As previously mentioned, the dialogues run off automatically, if you click on a person. They can by stopped by mouse-click. Most interlocutors don't have changing answers, if Tom asks them a second or third time - a bit boring.
First of all you have to find out what to be done next. Then you have to find or exchange certain objects. There is only a small number of objects and they can't be combined with one another. If you exchange something useless at the dealers, you can back-exchange it. When trying to exchange an important object you get the message: "I still need it!" The difficulty of the very easy inventory puzzles is to find and use an object in the very large scenarios. There will be much walking and the more scenes are added, the more walking. In the automatic dialogues we get hints to solve the puzzles.
There are no mechanical or coding puzzles, no mazes or sliding puzzles, no such things. On the other hand we must survive fights against monsters that become more and more difficult. First you easily complete the action sequences, later the number of enemies increases. We can avoid some fights, but that's usually not possible, because we otherwise cannot enter an entrance etc..
If the energy is going out, Tom dies and we have to load a savegame. The action elements are not very difficult except 1 or 2 sequences, if you don't forget the energy packs. The action elements amount to approx. 15 - 20% of the game. Action sequences and monsters have a rather loose connection to the story, from which we anyway do not get too much betrayed.
We are surprised, why Tom, who is a rather simple mind, is not surprised of so many things. Only during the second meeting with a mummed character he asks him, who he is. Sometime during the game the term "Guard of the Time" is thrown in. We meet him, but who is he actually? Who is his assistent? Why do Caesar and Cleopatra know about Tom and also know about time journeys? They know about the "real nature" of this world, the intruders and the evil - we would have liked to know that too! Many questions remain unanswered. That's not very satisfying.
But we get at least some information about the different locations and epochs, which Historion is about, in the learning part of the game. Both, within the game there is context-referred information about history, culture, art, economics and politics, but we can separately open the learning part.
Of course this part can't be very detailed, the isssues are raised and give very interesting items of information, e.g. the fact that tanners in the antiquity are particularly threatened by anthrax and that the Greeks didn't know sugar to sweeten their meals.
Unfortunately here and there an info was put in the wrong place and one gets a comment on honey instead of olive oil, or an info was missing completely. Personally I missed the classification of the locations within the entire course of time and e.g. an overview of the World Wonders. They also quite often jump within the edutainment part into other epochs, e.g. from the from the crusaders to Gutenberg and the art of printing.
The different topics are really inspiring, so that you may perhaps want to read more about it and fetch a travel guide or other books about the historical topics.
Each of the scenes contains an historical potential, which could engage you days and weeks. Therefore Historion can only scribe the surface. And Historion does just this in an entertaining and sometimes exciting way. Excellent the reconstructions of the antique locations and the liveliness of the scenes. Story and puzzles are relatively slim, so there is more space for historical information. Approx. 20 hours you will be busy with Historion, which is to due however to the walking between the scenes and the interspersed fights rather than to challenging puzzles. A game, which is no problem to beginners with its wonderful locations. Except 2 crashes the DVD version ran error free. However finally the question arises to me, why edutainment titles of Heureka-Klett and others, must cost around 50 Euro in Germany, while they can be puchased for $ 19.90 in the US, thus less than a half, despite localization costs?
80% - 100% excellent game, very recommendable 70% - 79% good game, recommendable 60% - 69% satisfactory, restricted recommendable 50% - 59% sufficient (not very recommendable) 40% - 49% rather deficient (not to be recommended - for Hardcore-Adventure-Freaks and collectors only) 0% - 39% worst (don't put your fingers on it)
- Pentium III 450 Mhz
- WIN 98/ME/2000/XP
- 128 MB RAM
- 600 MB on hard disk
- Sound card
- 3D 16 MB graphic card
- DirectX 8.1 (on CD/DVD)
- Windows XP
- P IV 1,6 GHz
- 512 MB RAM
- 16x DVD-ROM (Artec WRA-A40)
- nVidia GeForce 2MX400 64 MB graphic card
- Sound card DirectX-compatible
The huge Historion
Moving with elevators
You use transmitters to travel through the time-gates
Outside the walls of Olympia
Working with leather
The tanner likes to trade
Trading at the market place
Arriving at Rhodos
An earthquake hs damaged the entrance
Only the bronze Coloss survived the earthquake
A souvenir dealer
The temple of Hera in Olympia
The statue of Zeus - another World Wonder
Night in Alexandria
The famous library of Alexandria