In Daydream Software's Traitors Gate, you play Raven, an operative for an organization called ORPHIA. Your employer suspects that one of its high-ranking operatives is planning to break into the Tower of London to steal the crown jewels and has hired you to commit the crime before he can. Your task: to sneak in, steal the jewels, replace them with replicas, remove all traces that you were there, and then get out.
Cat-burglary is an inherently great premise for a game, as Looking Glass Studios' excellent Thief games have proven. But Traitors Gate has little in common with Thief. In fact, it has much more in common with Activision's Spycraft: The Great Game. Like Spycraft, Traitors Gate gives you a selection of intriguing tools and devices and puts you in a situation where you must learn to use them. You'll need to learn lock picking, security-code deciphering, and computer hacking; it's like job training, albeit for what seems like a really, really fun job.
What's even better is that unlike in most adventure games, in Traitors Gate the illogical obstacles that tend to plague even the best games in the genre are absent. Instead, it presents you with a series of logical challenges that can be readily solved, as long as you understand the tools at your disposal. That's not to say Traitors Gate is easy - at times, it can be quite difficult. But it's refreshing to play an adventure game where a padlocked gate can be opened with a pair of bolt cutters rather than by something like a frozen fish tied to a honey-covered balloon.
However, aside from the nature of its puzzles, Traitors Gate is an adventure game through and through. It uses the standard point-and-click interface, and you move from node to node in the Tower of London in the same way you moved through the environments in other first-person adventure games since Myst. At each location, you can look around in a full 360-degree radius. The graphics aren't especially remarkable, but the amount of attention paid to rendering each room and item is noticeable. Those who take their time with Traitors Gate are sure to get the most out of it; the whole tower has been re-created in detail, and you'll find yourself reading plaques and placards that detail the history of the site despite the fact that very little of the information has anything to do with your mission.
But there are bits of information that are not only important - they are also crucial. Computer passwords, keys to secret passages, and the like can all be found among the facts presented along your path to the jewels. Luckily, you can photograph anything and send it back to ORPHIA for analysis. Your many tools also include a global-position system (which comes in very handy), a set of lock picks, a keypad-code analyzer, a mechanical rope lift, knock-out gas, a crossbow, a grappling hook, and much, much more.
It's learning to use these tools in various situations that makes Traitors Gate enjoyable. Waiting while your PDA deciphers a security door's password adds tension to the game, and using your crossbow, grappling hook, and rope lift together to move from one high window to the next is really exciting. And the subtle music heightens the suspense, particularly when it mimics classic spy themes like Mission Impossible when the situation gets tense.
Although the game can be exciting, it can also be frustrating at times. Most of the frustration comes from the fact that Traitors Gate is so unstable. On one of the test systems, the game would only start about one out of every five tries. And the game requires two different versions of Quicktime to run - 2.0 and 3.0. The game was plagued with problems using Quicktime 4, and the in-game video (such as walking guards) won't run unless you install version 2 as well. Furthermore, the game takes up four CD-ROMs, and you'll switch between all four frequently.
Even so, it's good fun once it's actually working. Traitors Gate is admirable for being both logical and nonlinear. The latter is especially noteworthy - you could easily play through the game several times and take a different route each time, at least until the somewhat linear endgame. And if you don't mind the unrewarding ending, you'll most likely want to play it more than once just to see all of the locations you missed the first time. Traitors Gate isn't an excellent game, but it's very good.