In the world of the future, archaeologists don't get their hands dirty by excavating dusty tombs in the hot sun. Instead, they grab a gun, don their MS-2 helmets, and haul ass through dinosaur-filled catacombs. This is the world of Azrael's Tear.
Azrael's Tear is a first-person perspective adventure game that combines elements of fast-paced shooters, role-playing adventures, and Myst-type mind-benders. You assume the role of a futuristic archeologist/thief who scavenges antiquities and sells them to the highest bidder. The ultimate prize in Azrael's Tear is the Holy Grail, which should fetch a handsome price since it is possibly the only thing that can save a doomed earth from complete annihilation.
The virtual world builders at Intelligent Games definitely worked overtime on this one. Although a bit pixelated, the texture-mapped graphics in Azrael's Tear are detailed and beautiful. Set in a subterranean world, the game is steeped in shadow that hides a subtle richness; it may take several game sessions for you to truly appreciate the brilliant artistic design included. The sound work in Azrael's Tear is some of the best I've ever experienced, complete with ecclesiastical background music that sets an eerie tone for the game, and volume that increases as you draw nearer to the appropriate event, adding to the realism. The extra attention to detail really immerses you in the world of the Knights Templars.
The designers also did a good job of incorporating the puzzle aspects of Azrael's Tear into the storyline. The bane of many of the games in this genre is that the puzzles break the flow of the story, adding little to the overall ambiance of the game. In Azrael's Tear, the puzzles generally actually affect the game world, so they fit into the plot well.
It's too bad that, after combining beautiful graphics, mind-blowing sound, and an entertaining story, the design team didn't put more thought into the interface. This baby is clunkier than a pair of Doc Martens on a four-year-old. None of the buttons are labeled and the controls are definitely not intuitive. Positioning yourself in the correct spot to perform some actions can be frustrating in the extreme.Azrael's Tear is creative, intriguing, entertaining, perplexing, and a bit violent... all elements you would expect in a good game. If you can get past the interface, and I encourage you to give it a few game sessions, you can easily get lost in the underground setting of the Knights Templars.