Friday, 19 June 2020

VERSAILLES 1685: A GAME OF INTRIGUE


While in lockdown, I've visited a number of places throughout history without leaving the slight discomfort of my cheap gaming chair. From Ancient Rome to China's Garden of Perfect Brightness, the virtual holidays are a perfect way to satisfy any unrequited wanderlust. Recently, I travelled to Versailles circa 1685 thanks to a little game by Cryo Interactive Entertainment.

Hailing from 1996, Versailles 1685: A Game of Intrigue marked the first in a series of historical adventure games with an educational bent using Cryo's in-house Omni3D engine. During the reign of Louis XIV, Monsieur Bontemps, first valet de chambre to the King, has uncovered a conspiracy to tear down the beautiful and newly built Palace of Versailles, which was previously a hunting lodge for the previous Louis. Being in charge of security and royal secrets, he tasks one of his underlings - you - with uncovering the plot and thwart the would-be terrorist.

Over the course of a single day divided through eight chapters, you play as Lalande as he explores the impressively ornate palace looking for clues. These come in the form of pamphlets, parchments or papers detailing cryptic messages hidden in otherwise innocuous documents. One such clue is the old lemon writing trick. Hold it up to a candle to reveal the message. Another is hidden among a sheet of music, though you'll need to ask a composer to decipher it.

Uncovering a clue written in lemon juice. 
Be careful not to burn other documents as it will lead to a game over.

Sadly, that's how much of the game progresses. Any otherwise interesting brain teasers are passed on to other characters to solve. This is doubly frustrating considering a fairly extensive encyclopedia is also included. Why hand over a portfolio of sketches to a random Frenchman to find out which one is the odd one out when it'll be likely much more fun to figure it out for yourself? The historical information learned would be more likely to stick around too! As such, the game has a use-everything-on-everything design that is just boring. Surely, if I wanted to know about the past in such a fashion, I would've have stayed awake during History class.

To make matters worse, the promised intrigue of the title isn't all that intriguing either. It's as if this anachronistic story is secondary to humdrum events of history. Each chapter begins with a cutscene, but all that is entails is the King's daily routine with a scholarly narrator doing his best to sound uninterested. Those encyclopedia entries are also unnecessarily dry.

There are apparently 2000 paintings hanging on the walls to gawp at.

So, there's little incentive for anyone to play Versailles from either a gameplay, story or educational standpoint. So how about as a virtual tour of a historic location? While I was sucked in by the immersive grandeur of it all, I do have some reservations. Sadly, each chapter limits you to a small area with many doors locked, blocked or simply unclickable. I know the palace contains a load of fake doors, but I'm talking about the real ones here. Some rooms are simply ignored as you walk past them to reach the room the game wants you to get to.

Being in the first-person, you do have a pretty good view of the pre-rendered rooms you're actually allowed to see. Each room has one or more nodes in which you have a complete 360-degree view of your surroundings. It makes for an immersive experience even it the technology has dated quite a bit by today's standards. In a nice touch, each node is linked with a fully animated transition that adds to the sense of location you might not have had if they went with the still photo route. You do get a little bummed as you saunter past a room or decoration you find interesting but the game just forces you to walks on past. There are a number of clickable points in each node, including close-ups of around 2000 works of art and paintings, though most of them are simply links to an in-game Wiki page.

There's an extensive encyclopedia that can be found contextually in-game 
or in a complete version from the main menu.

All NPCs have their own page too, whether it be about a specific person or simply the job they represent. It took me a while to realise you could actually talk to some of them too. In order to do this, you have to aim the cursor at their heads where it will change into either a pair of lips or an ear. The mouth means you can converse with them while the ear means you can eavesdrop on their conversation. Either way, the camera will shift to a close-up view that truly displays how bad the character models are. Being 1996, the use of CGI was still somewhat new but even so they could've made the French aristocracy look a little less like pompous potato heads.

Versailles 1685 doesn't bode well for future visits in Cryo's series, which would go on to feature Egypt, China and Jerusalem up until the company's closure in 2002. The only thing I enjoyed out of it was the location itself and that alone was probably the reason why it was a financial success, garnering re-releases on the PlayStation and PC-DVD over the next few years. In my opinion, it isn't particularly worth it.


To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses ScummVM to allow the game to run on modern PCs. Manuals, Map and Inlay included. Tested on Windows 10.

File Size: 893 Mb.  Install Size: 1.03 Gb.  Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ

Download

Watch the Video Review Below



Versailles 1685: A Game of Intrigue is © Canal+ Multimedia & Cryo Interactive
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me


Like this? Try These...

http://collectionchamber.blogspot.co.uk/2017/07/the-book-of-watermarks.html  http://collectionchamber.blogspot.co.uk/2018/04/spqr-empires-darkest-hour.html  https://collectionchamber.blogspot.com/2020/01/touche-adventures-of-fifth-musketeer.html


16 comments:

  1. Great game, managed to play it again through dosbox a couple of months ago.
    It has a sequel, Versailles II: Testament of the King. Would be great if you add this one too (needs windows so i didn't have much luck).
    GJ once again!

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    1. I wasn't too keen on it, but I'm willing to give the others a go. I'll be curious to see if they improve. I've played a little of China: The Forbidden City and I did like it a lot more.

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  2. Both sound like good ideas to me -- China: The Forbidden City looks interesting, but I agree with michailzorzos that Versailles II would be a good companion to this one, especially since it's the one most people can't run, as it's an early Windows game and not on DosBox or ScummVM.
    As well as the Egypt, China and Jerusalem games mentioned in the review, I could suggest lockdown wanderlust might be satisfied by either: Vikings, or Crusader, or Celtica, or Timescape: Journey to Pompeii. Wherever the mind wanders, really.

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  3. I have to admire the ambition, if not the execution. A time when aspirations for games ran a little higher than ways to inflict violence on people or creatures with ever increasing fidelity. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it's not exactly the most creative use of the infinite canvas.

    Unfortunately it seems Cryo didn't have a concrete idea of what would make inhabiting such a space compelling.

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    1. Incidentally the latest Digital Antiquarian piece touches on the dynamic between the competing visions that 3D technology could offer games as it emerged in the '90s.

      https://www.filfre.net/2020/06/the-shareware-scene-part-5-narratives-of-doom/

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  4. Dooooom! How popular was Doom? A small clue: I'm a deplorable adventure-game purist with an aversion to using my lazy reflexes, yet even I got caught up in the action and in "beating that game". Answer: stupendously popular.

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    1. I go out on a limb here and guess that - as the computer game enthusiast you had probably already been at that time - your very first original Doom experience dates back between 1993 and 1994; which meant very soon after its release and perhaps even on a 486DX/33 PC that was fed by a couple of 3.5-inch Shareware disks where the game's first episode was stored onto and the accompanying installation routine had been already in the starting gates for the eagerly awaited unpacking to eventually reveal a product that was supposed to bring gaming in general to new heights and, this much not only I can say, whose success and cultural importance went up through the roof in every imaginable respect.

      Those are at least my very own first memories of a beginning new era that was about to start with highly illustrious id Software's Doom, and it is nice to hear that we share this same remembrance to a greater or lesser extent. :-)

      Which leads me to the somehow unavoidable question if your then significantly younger reflexes could be considered as - I quote you: "lazy" - in the mid-nineties already? ;-)

      Bye for now,
      Thomas

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    2. My memory is hazy, but I'm sure I played this some time in the mid-2000s. (Hey, don't age me! Remember one year in human years is equivalent to seven years in g... ) Er, yes, I probably did have "lazy reflexes" all my life, since I have always preferred adventure games. However, I did manage to complete the last level of Doom, so maybe it's not that I was incapable of using reflexes. I must have just preferred challenging my brain.

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    3. No reason to feel even marginally ashamed of your "lazy reflexes" which you probably carried throughout your entire life, as you assess it. Besides, being some kind of "Dr. Brain", as I tend to describe you, isn't that bad either and countervails your not so fast physical responsiveness well enough, doesn't it? On the other hand, to successfully challenge the final level of Doom on at least normal difficulty surely isn't a walk in the park for one's brain and even more the reflexes. That's something, indeed. Therefore, you actually can't think there wouldn't be land in sight for you and your bodily reaction times in one way or the other. So, if you like, how about setting yourself in motion (again) and starting off with an XBox 360 Controller to learn (or refresh) some computer game skills like racing, jumping and fighting the keyboard-less way it's actually meant to be? Even obtainable without a prescription! :-)

      Bye for now,
      Thomas

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    4. I think what appealed to me most about Doom was the exploration of each level, which is also a facet of adventure games - although I did have fun shooting up demons too, I'm not gonna lie! The XBox 360 Controller sounds like a good way to keep fit, but I'm comfortable with other traditional methods like running. I hate to bring up age again, but I do feel too old to start using an XBox. I don't know, but it sounds like something one should start as a child, like ice skating. (I tried to learn ice skating as an adult and kept slipping and falling onto my butt. I'm sure it would have been less embarrassing as a child.)

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    5. If you specifically enjoyed the feeling of wide-stretching exploration trips within Doom (besides sending demons to where they originally came from) and are still softly toying with the idea of getting an XBox 360 Controller for PC if only you could make good use of it, then I'd highly recommend a couple of the best Open World Action Adventure experiences out there which will cross your mind for the time being. Although I'm quite sure that particularly GTA, Red Dead Redemption, The Witcher or The Last Of Us - just to name some of the most appealing ones - definitely ring a bell, ain't it? In fact, to get your virtual exploration fix until the day you die within the most interesting 360 degree 3D environments mankind has seen so far, those and more of their stunning kind are exactly the places to be when it comes to engaging in escapism.

      Furthermore, I really like your analogy of the ice skater who is well advised to start with the techniques as soon as possible, because the older you become, the harder it will get to cut a good figure on frozen grounds, eventually. But transfering your example on an XBox Controller, which you think you feel too old for getting busy with, is something I will only understand if - to keep with your given analogy - you're sliding that much on the frozen lake you'll run into danger of breaking a leg. In fact, the initial hurdle between ice skating and using an XBox Controller is miles away from each other, because there's a good chance that even a little bit older guy who never ever seriously picked up a game controller in his life before, is able to make good progress swiftly. Just because he will find out that it feels so natural to navigate with a device like this through game genres where you won't miss your beloved computer mouse for a bit. You've got my word on that! :-)

      Bye for now,
      Thomas

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    6. Just for the record, The Last Of Us is a Playstation exclusive title.

      Bye for now,
      Thomas

      Delete
  5. Thx for game. Part of history :)

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  6. Visually such a bore.

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  7. Really? I thought the visuals were the best thing about it (bearing in mind it was released in 1996). Of course, if you're not interested in a virtual tour of the Palace of Versailles, then it would be boring no matter what.

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  8. Thank you for this release! Always wanted to play this game.

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