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Dark Earth Preview

Enter this strange world of darkness from Mindscape where light is not merely a commodity, but your only chance of survival


In a title that might raise the bar on 3-D adventure games, Mindscape prepares to send players on an elaborate adventure through a world hidden under a dome of black dust and cold, thick air. In Dark Earth, you must face this harsh planet in order to uncover her secrets and myths and, eventually, find the truth.

With a demo at May's E3 convention that practically silenced the room, the developers at Mindscape Bordeaux gave the industry a glimpse of their 3-D technology talent and showed off just how realistic their characters and backgrounds could be. The team's attention to artistic detail, featuring multiple light sources and multiple shadows, is nothing short of amazing.

William Malabry, a Product Manager at Mindscape Bordeaux, explains some of the team's devotion to realism, saying, "We have gone all out in Dark Earth to avoid the too clean, too clear-cut, too plastic look that often comes with computer imagery."

Using Softimage and 3D Studio, Mindscape Bordeaux has created a universe with over 50 locations and more than 400 different camera angles. Add this to over 80 realistic 3-D characters and creatures animated in real time with 3,500 animations, and it's easy to see how much Dark Earth has going for it visually.

Fortunately, though, Mindscape is not just a pretty animated experience. Like Bioforge, this adventure includes a well-developed, dense storyline. The setting - three centuries in the future on our earth - is a world where the absence of light has created strange new social, political, and religious structures.

As its background, Dark Earth uses and reinterprets some of the great myths of the human race. Some of its aspects are reminiscent of the works of Jules Verne, while others are close to the Steampunk movement.

As Arkhan, the hero, you strike out to uncover the truth surrounding the thick cloud of darkness that blankets the planet. Your journey, however, develops into a quest for your own survival when you are exposed to a strange parasitic substance that begins to mutate you into one of the less than desirable creatures that finds refuge in the dark corners of Dark Earth. In a race against time, you must use the knowledge you discover and the characters you encounter to reverse the mutation process.

Unlike the character Twinsen in Relentless, who had to complete each puzzle before moving on to the next, Arkhan's progression through the game is non-linear. The story evolves as a result of his reactions, encounters, and fights. Movements are executed using the keyboard.

Mindscape has devoted a great deal of time and resources to making Dark Earth one of the biggest adventure releases of 1997, and if they manage to continue on their current path of development they'll succeed. Dark Earth is surely a good game; more importantly, though, it marks the birth of an entirely new world for future games and adventures.

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