Rhodan - Myth of the Illochim Review

We head out to space for a classic adventure.

Review by Lewis Denby
Published 20th June 2008

Rhodan - Myth of the Illochim

  • Developer: BrainGames
  • Publisher: Deep Silver
  • Release Date: 20th June 2008

Based on a long-running string of German comics, novels and TV programmes, Rhodan: Myth of the Illochim starts brilliantly with a dark, edgy and exciting cut-scene, introducing the fabulous universe created by K. H. Scheer and Clark Darlton. You're Perry Rhodan, a major futuristic authority, and your ex-girlfriend has just been kidnapped by a swarm of angry looking robots. It's a more enthralling opening than it may sound, cinematically realised with some fantastic action sequences, and it looks like paving the way for a surprisingly good PC adventure.

Then the cut-scene ends and the game starts. Or rather, it doesn't, because it immediately crashes to Windows for no apparent reason. I zero the video settings and it's fine, but the minute I try to turn dynamic lighting on again it throws another tantrum, even though every game I've installed on this machine since it was built has featured dynamic lighting and all have worked perfectly, and my system spec is far beyond even the recommended machine on the back of the box.

Irritating, but not the end of the world! Once it's working there's immediately a rich and detailed world to explore, with a real depth to the story and characters that is so often sadly lacking from modern point-and-click titles. Some of it is a little gratuitous – the Hall of Fame, the second room you're likely to visit, features a series of monitors which effectively provide the entire back-story if you're patient enough to read through them – but most if it is left to the player's own devices. Dragging an item or photograph from the inventory to a computer terminal, for example, initiates a detailed search for relevant information on the object or character, often providing some new facet to the narrative. Conversations are generally subtly enlightening, and only on a few occasions does it feel like Myth of the Illochim is force-feeding the information. What's frustrating is that it only seems to crop up when it's plot-essential. Instead of allowing the player to discover a bit about the history of this world in every area he or she visits, it instead allows for this only when the discovery helps to complete a puzzle or locate a clue to the next twist in the narrative. You generally know you're in the wrong place when a room features nothing but uninteresting objects to briefly look at, before you get bored and move along.

Even more of a problem with the story is that half of it doesn't make sense. Perry Rhodan is immortal, the eponymous protagonist tells us in the opening cut-scene, but within ten seconds of the game beginning he's been locked into his residential quarters for 'fear of his safety'. A glaring error? Apparently not, as an hour or so later it's suggested he is only 'relatively immortal' – which seems just as contradictory as the earlier nonsense. Rhodan frequently comments that everyone seems to be against him, but even considering this acknowledgement, every character seems unfeasibly unapproachable and standoffish – and with no dialogue choices to shape relationships, it begins to grate very quickly.

What's left beneath this almost-good backdrop is an entirely nondescript point-and-click adventure game, which plays in the most uninspiring and infuriating way possible. The difficulty curve is far too steep, for a start, and newcomers to the genre might even struggle to make it past the first half hour of seemingly random clicking without giving up all hope of completing even one puzzle. Once you get the hang of it, it all functions fairly logically, but it becomes quickly apparent that most of the longevity of Rhodan is achieved not through a wealth of options, a variety of environments, and a whole host of characters to discover, but through making the player walk from one side of a map to the other, and back again, repeatedly, until eventually something happens that triggers the next bit of the game. Early on, an NPC calls for a technician to fix a computer, telling you he might take a while to arrive. I literally had to walk in and out of every single accessible room, doing nothing but entering and immediately exiting, before the bugger turned up. Its lazy design choices like this that mean players will often find more success from aimlessly wandering than from actually trying to apply any common sense to the core of the game. It's also an unacceptably bad idea to keep the player cooped up in the same small building for, ooh, at least the first two or three hours. If variety is the spice of life, Myth of the Illochim is a glass of milk.

At least there's a bit of aesthetic stimulation – if you can get the thing working, that is. With the options maxed out it looks reasonably pretty, though this is, at the end of the day, still a case of 3D character models floating over pre-rendered sets. On an average PC, though, you'll be lucky to get the sliders close to half way, and not only does the quality not justify this, but it looks pretty flat and lifeless with anything other than full settings. At least the soundtrack picks things up a bit, and the ambient bleeps and bloops do add to the atmosphere, but the voice acting is passable at best, cringeworthy at its weakest.

Perhaps the worst aspect of Myth of the Illochim is its consistent tendency to disappoint. Just as it gets one thing so fabulously right, it gets another five things so horribly wrong that it renders the former irrelevant. It's a great thing to take a gloriously-crafted science-fiction universe, expand on it and bringing it to a new medium. But when the result is a game as sloppy and ignorant as this one, you have to wonder why they even bothered.

Review Score: 3.8/10

Please note, this review was scored using our old system. For more information please see our review policy.

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