Legacy: Dark Shadows

2004 Razbor Studios
Designed by Dravorin Horak, Zvonko Grseta, Zeljko Kos
Reviewed 2005 March 7

Rating -1 Linearity straight, segmented
Reasonability reasonable Connectivity moderate
Difficulty easy Relevance strong
Interface 3rd paned simple Real-time none

You play Ren, a private detective in the year 2138, initially on vacation to Mars. You are notified that your friend has gone missing, and return to Earth to look for him. Your investigation eventually uncovers a grand conspiracy to take over Earth.

You get help along the way from your partner, Hacker, who mostly provides you with relevant information to move the plot along. There are several minor characters to talk to and deal with, but they have no personality.

The strength of the game is the story and its world creation. The story develops continuously through play, in a series of short episodes as Ren moves from Mars to Earth and back, and to other places as well -- somewhat similar to the story flow of the Broken Sword games. The setting and backstory of the world are interesting. The plot is mostly Ren following a series of leads, but there are several important events along the way to change the direction of the story.

While the story is good, the telling of the story is not always smooth. One element of the interface is Ren's log, and you must sometimes read that log to discover what Ren has just seen or deduced, or what she intends to do. The worst example is when Ren finds what she is seeking on a base, there's a cut-scene of her flying away and the base blowing up. You must read the log and/or wait a few minutes until the details and reasoning are revealed in a discussion with Hacker. The "missing" information should have been told either in-game or in a cut-scene.

The game plays almost completely linearly, usually with narrow scope. With the exception of one sequence of tired puzzles presented to you by a broken computer (sokoban, pipe valves, and vector combination), the challenges are relevant to the setting. Almost all are very easy, and none are difficult. The biggest challenge is pixel hunting: it's often easy to lose an object in the scenery.

The presentation is the common 3D characters on drawn/rendered backgrounds. Both are well done, but not impressive: there's no distracting jerkiness in the characters, but there are also no breathtaking images as from Syberia or The Longest Journey.

Razbor is an eastern European studio -- I'll guess Czech. The English voice crew are all Czech, and their English isn't very good. Poor grammar and word choices abound, both in spoken word and the matching subtitles. Every voice actor has a strong Czech accent. Neither are so bad that they impair comprehension, and I actually liked Ren's accent. The biggest problem is that some of the characters are trying to affect regional American dialects, and the results are distractingly hilarious. It's unfortunate, since there's no reason in the story to need such specific accents. Execpt for the opening sequence set in WWII Stalingrad (where the accents fit), everything takes place in a generic Earth city and on Mars.

Legacy frequently crashed on me, roughly every hour. Maybe it's just my ATI video card, but other games have managed it fine. Fortunately, there's a good, unlimited save system. Also, you are supposed to be able to examine inventory items with the middle mouse button or the 'L' key, but neither of these worked for me. It didn't seem to be required to get through the game (the aforementioned log contained all the needed info), but it might have helped fill in some rough spots in the story flow. Finally, in the list of annoying implementation features: the manual was not included, and had to be downloaded from the Razbor website.

Legacy has a good story and few serious game-design faults. However, there's little challenge and no great eye candy to compensate (as in Syberia or The Longest Journey). It's entertaining, but not likely to be memorable.

Beware! Here are some spoiler-ridden notes on the game. They're only recommended for people who have played the game and want to see some of my rationale for my evaluations.
David Tanguay's Game Reviews
Here's a description of all the gobbledygook in these reviews. It's also a bit of an essay on the nature of adventure games.