GC '07: The Golden Compass Updated Impressions

Lyra and Iorek are set for adventure in our latest look at this game based on the classic novel and upcoming film.

LEIPZIG, Germany--We'll admit it: Before our first look at The Golden Compass, the upcoming Sega action adventure game based on the upcoming New Line Cinema film, we had never read the original source novel from which both are being drawn: Philip Pullman's outstanding The Golden Compass. Soon after seeing the first game, however, we cleared up that problem and, boy, are we glad we did. Still armed with the experience of having read Pullman's excellent fantasy novel, we've got higher expectations than ever for the game that bears its name. Today, Sega was showing off a slightly expanded look at the training mission that starts off the game. The mission features the star of the story, Lyra Belacqua, and her friend, the mercenary panserbjørne (that's fancy talk for huge, armored, talking polar bear) Iorek Byrnison.

The level shown off was actually an expanded version of the one shown at this year's E3, featuring Lyra riding Iorek through an icy, mountainous land looking to rescue a child from a remote location home to the Samoyeds. Though this is the first mission in the game, it actually comes from a point that's roughly in the middle of Pullman's book (and, presumably the film). As game producers explained, once you've finished this mission, and learned many of Iorek's special moves, the game will move back in time to the opening of the novel and film in order to properly introduce Lyra and the rest of the characters.

Still, it's probably a good idea to start off with the rampaging Iorek as he sprints through the icy wasteland, taking on hordes of nasty-looking wolves as he goes. In addition to taking out foes with a variety of attacks, you'll need to jump chasms by pressing the Y button, and take part in brief minigames such as a strength test, which challenges Iorek to push over a huge slab of ice so that he and Lyra can continue along their path. Because the game is aimed at a slightly younger set, the controls are appropriately simplified; even Iorek's most powerful attacks require little more than a two-button combo.

As Iorek and Lyra continue on, they eventually run into a mysterious ship that holds a clue to the whereabouts of Lyra's missing friend. Once close to the ship, it's time for Lyra to take over. Though she doesn't have Iorek's strength, she's certainly not helpless. For starters, she's agile enough to make skillful jumps between ledges, and she possesses a keen sense of balance (which you can test out as she walks nimbly over thin ledges and narrow ship masts).

Lyra's also got Pan on her side. This is her daemon, who, like all daemons in the magical world of The Golden Compass, assumes animal forms. Because Lyra is a child, Pan is able to switch between different forms--two of which, the ermine and the sloth, we saw on display during today's demo. The ermine can help Lyra balance on narrow paths by moving across her body to help her counterbalance; in addition, the ermine's watchful gaze can help the player out with helpful gameworld clues for how to proceed when stuck. In sloth form, Pan can use his long arms to swing Lyra from one ledge to a next, helping her reach otherwise inaccessible areas.

Now what about that alethiometer, another name for the titular Golden Compass of the series' title? In the book, Lyra "reads" the symbols on the compass to help her divine the truth of any situation she encounters. While we still have yet to see it in action in the game, producers told us that the compass will have a place in the game. It will function mainly as a way of encouraging exploration of the gameworld (picking up symbol meanings as you go), as well as unlocking new content, such as making-of documentaries and interviews with the film cast. Unlike the film and novel, it seems that Lyra's mastery of the alethiometer won't be a requirement to saving the world in the game.

Given that we only got to see an expanded version of the training level, we're still wondering how the rest of The Golden Compass is set to turn out. We do know the developers are creating 11 levels in the game, nine of which come from the film, and two of which come directly from the novel. In addition, the game's story will be propelled by cutscenes lifted directly from the film.

So will The Golden Compass be a good game, or another shoddy movie tie-in? Time will certainly tell, but we can say that there are few licensed games that have richer material to draw from. We'll be keeping a close eye on the game in the coming months as we lead up to its release later this year.

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Discussion

18 comments
tclvis
tclvis

After seeing the movie today, I'd say it's anti-moron, anti-oppression, and pro-free thinking. If that's anti-god, why would you want to follow that god?

living_dead17
living_dead17

"we had never read the original source novel from which both are being drawn: Philip Pullman's outstanding The Golden Compass." Erm... thats Northern Lights actually... God this has to be the worst book to movie/game idea I've ever seen. Lets face it, there is no way either is going to include the same anti-religious tones or even the same amount of scientific detail as the books.

Alfredozero
Alfredozero

This game looks like a PHUKING DS game, have you guys seen the screenshots for this game?

jimbob01000
jimbob01000

ANTI-GOD??? well bloody good - god aint exactly the best role-model Burn the infidel, smite the non-believer, persecute the heretic why dont we just make spanish inquisition the game and be done with it???

ringwraith58854
ringwraith58854

"Anti-God" come on get real its a game. i happen to be a Christian, and have been gaming for most of my life, i have yet to see a truly anti-god game, so ill judge that when it comes out, not by the book. the book may be source material, but that don't mean its gonna be a copy.

bad_furby
bad_furby

I definitely agree. So it a little anti-god. Anti fantasy god! its not like its directly bashing any god that may exist in our world or any real established religion but anyways shying away from any religion based politics (which i hate lol) this game looks like it has a possibility to be good, unlike many movie adaptations

ukillwegrill
ukillwegrill

Anti-God Oh no ................... Plz dont be againts god in an alternate reality in which armoured bears roam free and "DUST" reigns supreme. Besides its not really agints god its more agints the arc-angelwhos taken over for god it touches on many issues in todays life but ultimately.................Its a fantasy book

guywithashotgun
guywithashotgun

"This is heavily anti-god. Just so ya'll know..." So?

KingBahamut
KingBahamut

I don't expect this to be good film/book tie ins raely are but the good ones are very good

Relys
Relys

This is heavily anti-god. Just so ya'll know...

star77241
star77241

What?! No Wii game. Come on! I hope they make this for the Wii someday.

Bozanimal
Bozanimal

I'd be shocked if the game lived up to the book, MiamiRedHawks.

MiamiRedHawks
MiamiRedHawks

Pullman's His Dark Materials series was one of the best stories I have ever read. This game has a lot to live up to, and frankly I think they are going to have some trouble recreating the story accurately...

qsbre
qsbre

owen349 what are the other forms for pan?

Owen349
Owen349

well im pissed that pan only has 4 forms but the forms they picked are not bad ones, glad they kept the ermine... when ppl say this is just the begining or just the tip of the iceburg well thast what this book/movie/game is. (for me) the second and most of all the third book will show every one that hasent read the books how sweet this series is. angels fighting, witches fighing, specters fighting, bears fighting, flying machines. if they do it how they should. this game is just the begining to a story u dont want to miss. p.s the golden compas and the alethiometer were never meant to be the same thing.... stupid american publisher

king_bobo
king_bobo

It seems to me that game-companies are making things great that could potentialy be shoddy. I think that most of the game-developers out there working on games deserve a pat on the back, seeing as they're are pushing next-gen to the limits :D