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Just by touching this box you have sealed your fate. Dare to explore the subterranean tomb of Qin Shi Huanghi, China's first emperor. Experience the mythology and culture of Ancient China. Match your wits against the Middle Kingdom's greatest dictator while exploring vast realms of mystery and untold beauty.

Buried under fifteen stories of earth, filled with traps and pitfalls, the tomb has defied those who would enter it for 2000 years. Now it's your turn to discover the wonder, peril and magical secret of Qin's unexplored underground palace. You control your destiny.

It's you against Qin.
~from the back of the box

Qin: Tomb of the Middle Kingdom was one of the many Myst clones of the mid-90s that took some oblique logic puzzles and place them in a mysterious world. Instead of a storybook world, Qin (pronounced Ching as the box cleverly reminds us) has us uncover and explore the lost tomb of China's first emperor; Qin Shi Huangdi.

At first, you are trapped underground with some impressive-looking terracotta army men, but it won't be long until you come up for air in the vast expanse of a massive necropolis. You have to suspend disbelief to the large underground areas that include complex waterways and snow-topped mountains. The areas, presented in the same first-person screen shots popularised by Myst, do look nice, but I didn't quite gel with them. It could be because of the keyboard controls for navigation or the many mechanics that take away immersion, but I found the visual design to be strangely alienating. Outside of the initial tomb, the city square is disconcertingly empty, the buildings theatrically staged and the environments as a whole ring false. It's not a terrible art design and each screen does look nice, but together in the game, I was left cold.

The audio ambience fares much better, being neither intrusive nor memorable, but quietly invoking the kind of emotional journey I would expect for such a game. If there is anything to praise above all else, it would be the puzzles. They tax your brain cells quite nicely with most being self-contained riddles and single-use item management (you can only carry one thing at a time). You will get stuck, but the answer usually involved hunting around for clues. These are quite easy to miss, with all in-world text being in Chinese Hanzi that those of us trained to notice the Roman alphabet might not notice. At the top of the screen, you will find an interpreter that deciphers what is being told to you, but this extra step is one of the mechanics I mentioned that takes away from the immersion. Perhaps if it were presented as something other than a gridded text box slapped over the screen, it would work better, but I found it an ugly and distracting feature.

What isn't is the Map and Archives. The former allows you to quick travel to anywhere you've been in the current environment, while the latter is a full-on encyclopaedia that highlights differences between our modern way of thinking and the Ancient Chinese one. For example, we would think of a compass as having four base directions. The Ancient Chinese had five, including the point where you currently stand. This, and other bits of knowledge are needed to solve some of the riddles and because of this, the game has an educational bent I wasn't expecting. Unlike Crusader, which I also played and reviewed recently, I feel the balance between game and history lesson is much more evenly spread here. 

Like many other Myst clones, Qin: Tomb of the Middle Kingdom doesn't quite live up to its inspiration. It is still a worthy playthrough for adventure and puzzle fans, but there were a little too many design flaws that took me out of an otherwise absorbing experience.

To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses DOSBox running Microsoft Windows 3.1 to get the game working on modern systems. Manual included. Tested on Windows 10.

File Size: 324 Mb.  Install Size: 619 Mb.  Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ


Qin: Tomb of the Middle Kingdom is © Learn Technologies Interactive
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me

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1 comment:

  1. A couple of similarly-themed games I'd like to see here are Secrets of the Luxor and Entombed/Entombed Enhanced.