Galleon: Islands of Mystery Impressions

We take an updated look at the upcoming pirate action game from Confounding Factor.

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We recently took a look at a new version of Galleon, the upcoming action game from Confounding Factor (a studio headed by designer Toby Gard, one of the original creators of Tomb Raider). Galleon will let you play as Captain Rhama Sabrier, a dashing and nimble sailor who, in the grand tradition of stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen's Sinbad movies, possesses an incredible agility that allows him to perform death-defying feats.

Interestingly, Rhama himself is being modeled in great detail, right down to his every footstep. As designer Toby Gard explained, Galleon's physics model will encourage players to explore their surroundings by actually modeling Rhama and environmental objects physically rather than surrounding them with invisible "bounding boxes." This means that Rhama will be able to scale narrow catwalks and climb up over obstacles that he normally would have bounced off of in a different game. He'll also have two movement speeds using the Xbox's analog controller--a cautious walking speed that ensures that Rhama will never fall off a ledge and an "unsafe" speed that will cause him to accelerate the longer he runs or swims forward. After running for a while, Rhama will accelerate to a nearly superhuman speed--a handy skill to have when negotiating the game's six major areas, each of which will be a huge island.

Rhama seems to possess even more movement abilities than Lara Croft did. For instance, not only can he run, jump, and hang onto ledges and run at incredible speeds, but he can also scale walls. Galleon will have a first-person view with a glowing cursor that indicates which walls Rhama can and can't scale. Those that he can interact with can be clambered across hand-over-hand, scaled horizontally or vertically, or run across, like in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. The game will also take a much more forgiving approach to falling from heights--typically, Rhama will be able to recover from falling from a great height by snatching onto a nearby ledge, and even if you don't make it, you'll sustain little to no damage from most falls (unless they're from incredible heights). In fact, Galleon's simplified camera system is intended to further assist you when performing these feats of derring-do, since it's attached directly to Rhama's perspective. If you're running along a corridor and get turned around, you won't have to rotate the camera to compensate, because the camera snaps to and remains focused on whichever direction Rhama is facing so that you won't have to manually correct your view. Jumping puzzles will also be less-demanding; according to Gard, the development team wished to avoid the system in the original Tomb Raider games in which falling usually killed your character instantly and forced you to restart. In addition, the game will have an auto-save system that will save your game after major plot points, though you'll also find save checkpoints in some of the game's more-challenging areas.

Galleon's environments will all generally be wide-open spaces but with different looks, feels, and challenges. One of the islands we saw was a green, forested area with a huge, hollowed-out scaffolding in the center with a gigantic windmill mounted on top. Rhama's challenge in this area is to eventually climb to the top of this immense structure, then solve a puzzle that requires him to manipulate the windmill. Another area was an arena, in which Rhama fights off a possessed female martial artist, Mihoko. This battle, and other sequences in the game, is preceded by an in-engine cinematic that shows close-ups of the game's major characters as they speak with each other. Galleon's characters are presented in a simple, cartoon-style manner with exaggerated, expressive facial features that seem to do a good job of keeping the story moving.

After battling with, and defeating, Mihoko, Rhama can gain her services, as well as the services of the red-haired lass, Faith. Both characters will assist Rhama in his adventures in battle and in solving various puzzles, though Rhama will fight many battles on his own. Galleon will feature a streamlined combat system that lets Rhama perform a normal physical attack, a damaging "special" attack that can affect enemies in a wide radius around him (at the cost of a small portion of his own health bar), and grapples, which let him pick up and throw his enemies. Rather than locking onto a specific enemy, Rhama can easily attack any enemy in front of him by pressing forward on the left analog stick and attacking, and he can attack enemies behind him by pressing back on the stick and pressing the attack button. If he defeats enough enemies in sequence without pausing too long between punches, he'll earn "combo points," which will progressively unlock more special maneuvers, including charging and explosive attacks that can fell entire groups of enemies in a single blow. And after you complete the single-player game, you'll also unlock a free-form arena mode that will let you simply duke it out with waves of enemies.

Galleon has been a long time coming. The European version of the game is all but complete and will ship in early June. UK publisher SCi hopes to announce something in the next few weeks with regard to a US publisher and a US release date.

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