Paradise Impressions--Gameplay, Story, and Big Cats
We take a look at the next graphical adventure game from the creator of the award-winning Syberia series.
In the last century or so, the central African region known as the Congo has had a tumultuous political history, but the area has traditionally been associated with fictional adventures that involve dark jungles, jewel thieves, savage native tribes, and fabulously wealthy royalties removed from the rest of the world. These romanticized concepts led game designer and writer Benoit Sokal to conceive of Paradise, the next graphical adventure game from his production house, White Birds Productions, and publisher Ubisoft. Sokal, a native of Brussels, admits that he spent a good part of his childhood daydreaming about the wilds of Africa, the home of exotic creatures such as elephants and giraffes. The designer has already made a name for himself with his previous adventure games, namely Amerzone and the Syberia series, and his games generally de-emphasize violent conflict in favor of exploring a story-driven adventure by solving challenging puzzles and interacting with key characters. But unlike his previous work, his next game will, as he puts it, be "a tragedy; something more dramatic." Plus, it'll have at least one leopard.
Paradise will tell the story of a young woman named Ann Smith, who begins the game with a severe case of amnesia. Apparently, Smith is a student who had been on a plane that crashed in the middle of Maurania, a fictitious African nation ruled by a coldhearted dictator known as King Rodon. She awakens in the king's palace and, over the course of the game, learns that she's the estranged daughter of the king, who refuses to allow her to leave the country to return to her studies. Sokal characterizes the game's story as one of "love...between the father and his girl" and suggests that over the course of the game, you'll meet many characters with complex motivations that go beyond simply being there to give you hints.
Though we were only able to see a few of the game's different areas and watch a few puzzles in action, what we saw suggests an adventure game that will offer puzzles that are challenging but make intuitive sense. For instance, in order to leave the chambers in which Ann finds herself, she must hand off the scarf she's wearing to an admiring attendant. And in order to emerge into the lower grounds, she must first find the key to a gate in a shadowy corner and then find a means to light the gateway so that she can locate the keyhole. Like with the Syberia games, Paradise will have a simple, highly streamlined interface. Ann's inventory (in this case, the contents of her backpack) will be contained on a single screen, and she'll be able to pump other characters for information by speaking with them further on different matters.
Both the palace grounds and the desolate town just outside of it will, as fans of Sokal's previous work might expect, be adorned with beautifully rendered and highly detailed art that looks appropriate for the area. The designer explains that the layout, look, and architecture in Maurania aren't intended to replicate any specific location in Africa, nor are any of the characters intended to refer to real-life personages. According to Sokal, he most prefers to create stories in settings that are grounded in reality but still have fantastical elements.
Unfortunately, Ubisoft was not able to divulge many more details about the game's intriguing story, at least beyond Ann's companion for most of the game. At one point, while exploring the palace, she runs into a groundskeeper who entrusts her with a magnificent leopard, which she must guide back to its home. Over the course of the game, you'll be able to take control of the great cat to solve certain puzzles.
What we've seen of an early alpha version of Paradise includes several beautiful 3D environments, early details on gameplay mechanics, and some hints on the story from the game's writer and designer. Considering Sokal's strong track record for creating compelling stories, Paradise shows a lot of promise and could be the next great graphical adventure game. It's scheduled to ship later this year.
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