Zelenhgorm - The Great Ship - Episode 1
Release date: 10/2002, German release: 06/2003
Developer: Moloto Productions
Game language: English with subtitles
in German, English, Spanish and Swedish
A review by slydos 3rd October 2002
Zelenhgorm, Part 1 - The Great Ship, Episode 1 is a fantasy adventure in 1st-person-style. The Swedish developer company Moloto plans many more continuations of this game, altogether 3 parts with 4 episodes in each case, thus altogether 12 episodes.
Actually the already finished game should have been available since last month at least in on-line shops, but short before publication the publisher jumped off, so the release delay explains.
In the 12 episodes we will experience more about the long and complicated history of Zelenhgorm, about the origin of its inhabitants, which lies hidden in the fog of dark myths. We will get to know about the 6 ancient, magic treasures, guarded by the 6 tribes of Zelenhgorm, about the mysterious water folk and the power of the left-handed people in the conflict area between science and magic.
Zelenhgorm, The Land of the Blue Moon, is a fictitious continent on a earthlike planet. In this episode we become acquainted with the Deyrec people, who live on the level of the European Middle Ages. Humans, clothes, houses and environment remind however of far-eastern traditions. The Deyrec believe, because they are encouraged by their leaders, that their village Senava is the center of the world and only some confused souls live outside of their country.
But one day their idyll is seriously disturbed because two things happened: The lighthouse of the village began to shine and an enormous, strange, abandoned ship stranded at the river bank, just in front of Arrikk Vaheirr's house. These extraordinary events are interpreted as fatal by the superstitious inhabitants. They say that the lighthouse is a contact to the water gods, who want to warn them of coming mischief by this light. The mischief for them is that "Thing" - one doesn't dare to name it - the great ship, which, according to their opinion, didn't land in Arrikk's garden by coincidence. Most inhabitants rather assume that it is a bad omen, which was called by Arrikk, because Arrikk is a left-hander!
In former times, it was told, that left-handed people were drowned! Actually that would have been not at all so bad and if one would have drowned Arrikk, one wouldn't have to face this abomination now. But today one is more civilized and tolerates the left-handed people. But again you can see, where this leads! Left-handed people are bad and have magic forces! One should keep oneself and the children away from them!
Arrikk Vaheirr is a young man, who invents strange machines in his garden. His parents are dead, they're drowned (perhaps they were also left-handers?) and he was raised by his grandmother. His grandmother is a great woman, who sticks to him and encourages Arrikk to fathom the secret of the ship and to explore the surrounding countryside.
But before our hero can enter the mysterious ship and start his journey, he must still settle a lot of things in Senava.
Zelenhgorm comes on 3 CDs. One should read the readme file, because there is described, what you must do, to avoid CD changes during the game. I didn't do that, however got along with two CD-drives also nearly without changes. You need approx. 650 MB free hard disk space.
After the starting screen we arrive immediately in the main menu and can select a language for the text output here, because Zelenhgorm is offered even in its homeland Sweden in the English language version with sub-titles. We can choose between German, English, Spanish and Swedish. Then also the main menu appears in the selected language and the game remembers this language selection too, if you quit and restart.
The main menu looks somewhat blurred, shows a little grammar mistake in the German version and the representation appeared to me a bit improvised. Nevertheless one gets along fast: the standard menu options "Quit", "Save" and "Load" are carried out fast on mouse-click. Exiting the game happens immediately, without hasting through many screens. Also saving and loading works fast: it's possible to store 10 savegames with a text length of 20 letters, you are right back in the game after clicking the save button. Loading works just as fast. Besides there is the long list of credits and the possibility to watch to intro again from the main menu.
The intro leads us into a dream of our hero Arrikk. While we watch short scenes from a strange and alien world, voices tell us that it is reality and not a dream and that Arrikk must awake, in order to follow his fate. He must follow the way of the water and wake up the ancient ones. When Arrikk awakes, he is in his house - before his window he discovers an enormous sailing ship, the ship from his dream, which has really landed here. From now on we, the gamers, can join the game and interact.
Zelenhgorm is exclusively mouse-controlled, up to the ESC-key, which calls the main menu. Nevertheless the handling caused some difficulties at the beginning: The cursor only becomes visible if you can leave the scene, start an action (triangle arrow) or can take up an object (circle). We can look around us in a 360° panoramic view, also upward and down. Of course sometimes an always visible cursor, as e.g. with Dracula 1+2 could be a little disturbing, but on the other hand would also be a help to localize hotspots.
Since the always visible cursor is missing, one can only find hotspots to use inventory objects by pure trying out. That is not very comfortable, gives however on the other hand a lot of freedom to investigate the locations. The scrollable inventory opens at the bottom of the screen by right-clicking and closes again this way. Objects are stored there without a describing text. One can however increase the inventory icons by left-clicking. A further left-click closes the inventory and the cursor takes over the shape of the object in transparent form. If you then drive your mouse over an area, at which an object can be used, then the inventory item becomes opaque.
Combining inventory items is likewise possible, however you must therefore select only one object - the correct first - and then drag the second object with pressed left mouse button over the first.
One can also enter most of the locations just from the beginning. But it's possible that you might miss a scene, since the triangle-arrow cursor can be seen constantly, even if you are at a place where you actually can choose between the left or right path. Then we follow the camera with our eyes up to the next scene or can observe Arrikk a short distance in one of the interspersed film scenes.
Altogether a satisfying and simple control, which is however still worth improvement.
The entire game consists of FMV-graphics (Full Motion Video), supplemented by filmed actors, rendered backgrounds, side scenes and objects. In order not to let the disk space requirements of the game increase enormously, the developers had to find a compromise between compression and graphics quality.
So the nearly full-screen FMV-graphics of Zelenhgorm are good, however not the sharpest and most precious, particularly not during movements and camera turns - but they succeeded, in my opinion, to make the best of it on 3 CDs. While many other FMV-games fill either only a small screen window with film or offer a worse graphics quality, Zelenhgorm took a good middle course. In addition I should mention that the gamer by no means moves through lonely scenes. A multiplicity of actors, to a large extent extras, who have no or no interactive text, are crowding the area.
A really animated village is introduced to us, in opposite to all the lonely 1st person games, where you have to explain why all the inhabitants vanished. Altogether 148 actors form the cast, among them also international well-known names.
The inhabitants of Senava were equipped with eastern eyelids, carry head decoration and clothes seeming likewise far-eastern. Especially the nordic blond actors among them deliver a good alien population on another planet in this combination.
Even if they do not have a text, some of the actors react on Arrikk while he passes and look at him e.g. from top to bottom or cross their arms before their chests, as sign against the evil. Children are playing and customers are bargaining with dealers on the market. Everything is in motion in this living scenes. Even a dog barks on left-click!
We can watch Arrikk from time to time in 3rd-person-view, when he moves from one place to the other in one of the short intermediate sequences or when he looks into the mirror.
It is possible for Arrikk to dive at some locations. Here the movements of Arrikk which are of course the movements of the camera are very close to real life-movements. The light beams and the underwater scenery look great.
We don't find continuing music during the game, but only in places, which should be particularly emphazised. Thus it will suspensefully warn us, if we come near a guard and in other exciting situations. Also under water it shows us clearly, when the situation becomes critical and Arrikk's air goes out.
While we pass the inhabitants of the village, we hear their conversations on the right or left of us growing louder and tuning down or suddenly stop when they see Arrikk. We hear child laughter, murmurings of the people on the market in a subdued and close-to-reality way. I only missed Arrikk's steps - he is walking on completely quiet soles.
All spoken words are in English with more or less strong accents. If we get involved however in a dialogue with one of the characters, we can follow it in the text area below the panorama screen in the selected language version. For the German language version I can say that the translation of the spoken words is done correctly and is very well readable. However one place was noticeable to me, where the text translation from the English was simply forgotten (see screenshot of ferryman).
First Arrikk will actually take up everything, what is not nailed down. So the inventory fills very fast. But not everything that we can collect is actually of applicable importance in this game. The degree of difficulty of the object/inventory-based puzzles is increased by the fact that we can combine objects in the inventory on the one hand. On the other hand the hotspots, which offer the possibility to apply the collected items, are not shown by the cursor if you are not in inventory mode. All these puzzles however can be solved through logic and references within the game. In order to solve some puzzles, we need pearls, the normal currency in Senava. New pearls can be found by diving - a beautiful intermezzo.
Beside the object-oriented puzzles there is a whole set of dialogue-based puzzles. If we should select mismatching questions or answers, or insist too much during a conversation, it can happen that the interlocutor calls the guards and we are condemned again to one night at the pillory. we can also die here and there, for example if we dive too long. Dangers lurk around every corner, already with simple approaches of the "tainted one" - therefore one should save often. However one should endure some nights at the pillory, because they will be different from time to time.
The story too will be different depending on your actions. It is nonlinear in large ranges and offers the gamer a lot of freedom in the sequence of solutions, in visiting the different locations and during the dialogues.
Beside object- and dialogue-based puzzles there is also a quite complex door opening task and a rather short labyrinth puzzle, in which one must get along in a dark cellar. Besides one must face a jester, who offers us a lot of different puzzles.
One can fight in Zelenhgorm, but must not necessarily. Brute force is not always the key to the secret.
In episode 1 we already find a lot of apparatuses and symbols, which could possibly be part of a puzzle in a later episode, anyhow this additionally wakes the curiosity about the next parts. But this also results in the question whether one can or should play individual parts or episodes independently and whether e.g. inventory objects can or should be taken into the next game episode.
The puzzles are partly simple, partly challenging. They take the main part of the total play time apart from investigating the environment and the times at the pillory. Normally I play without using a walkthrough, in order to determine the actual total play time. But if I would'nt have looked up a problem this time, I would perhaps still stand today at the jester. Those who play with a solution and don't take their chances of own investigation, will probably finish this episode in less than 10 hours. Those who like to make however more own experiences and like to play situations with different endings, will probably need about 15 hours and longer.
The episodes of the 3 parts of Zelenhgorm can't stand alone and are not closed, one must thus acquire 3 games, in order to be able to play the first part, "The Great Ship", to the end. One must ask oneself, looking at the large number of episodes, whether normal gamers will be able to pay the total offer, if each episode is sold for the full price of $39. In addition the individual episodes, in contrast e.g. to a TV series, will be published in longer time intervals, so that the surely waked curiosity isn't so fresh anymore and much can be forgotten.
Moloto anyhow dared to create an adventure in Full Motion Video technology again and proves that such a game can offer much more, than being only an interactive video, in which the gamers remain only spectators. With "Zelenhgorm" you find a high measure of interactivity and freedom of movement paired with a promising, imaginative and also very exciting story, which tells about prejudices and discrimination, imaginativeness and courage. It may be that I'm somewhat embarrassed as left-hander, but I felt entertained in the best way and was made very curious about the coming parts.
Rating: 79 %
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)
Minimal system requirements:
- Windows 95/98
- PII 266 Mhz
- 64 MB RAM
- DirectX version 7.0 compatible 3D graphic card, min. 8 MB RAM
- DirectX version 7.0 compatible sound card
- 16x CDROM-drive
- 650 MB hard disk space
- 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
To magnify click on the pictures