Sentinel - Descendents in Time Review
We descend through time in this adventuire game.
Review by Rob Edmondson
Published 22nd November 2005
Sentinel - Descendents in Time
- Developer: Detalion
- Publisher: Dreamcatcher
- Release Date: 18th March 2005
What is it that makes you play videogames? Is it to test your skills and judgement against a machine? Maybe it’s to try and simulate a real-life activity, which would otherwise be dangerous or out of bounds to you, or perhaps, it’s simply just to relieve your boredom. Whatever your answer is, it’s unlikely to run along the lines of wanting to get absorbed into a gripping plot and thoroughly believable alternate world, albeit with absolutely no action at all, because even if this was an activity you’d enjoy, you just wouldn’t expect it from a computer game. We get these thrills from films and books and there they usually stay. Well, what if you were to take the above conditions and apply them to a videogame? The answer is you’d get a game which is even harder to stop playing than it is to put your favourite book down and one which also leaves you with a tremendously satisfying feeling at the end. Only two games have ever done this for me, the first being the legendary Myst, over ten years ago and the second being Sentinel - Descendants in Time which I just finished ten minutes ago.
With this being the case it is perhaps appropriate, even predictable that Sentinel will have a lot in common with its not too distant cousin and this is indeed true. Both are games in which you are thrown into a lonely alien world with occasional pre-scripted interludes from NPC’s. Both also have ages or in Sentinel’s case “domains” to travel to. In fact the similarities are so common that if it weren’t for the fact that Sentinel was set in the future you’d probably think you were playing a game from the Myst series. This is no bad thing of course, from the consumer’s perspective, as although there are plenty of Myst clones out there, few capture the magic of the original as dramatically as Sentinel – Descendents in Time.
What helps to bring this magic out? Well first and foremost are the absolutely jaw dropping visuals. Now I’m not saying that the developers have produced a ground breaking new graphical engine which is going to set the pattern for future games; far from it. What I am saying is that they have taken an existing, aging engine, the one used for No-One Lives Forever 2 in fact, and squeezed absolutely every ounce of goodness out of it. A phenomenal effort has gone into designing the 8 different worlds which you explore, making them as diverse and interesting as possible. You are treated to sights such as an underwater base, a shipwreck, a lava flow and a sky station, all of which have so much detail packed into them that you could spend hours just admiring the view. What makes this all the more amazing is that the whole thing is in full 3D, viewed from a 1st person perspective so in essence what you see on the back of the box is exactly what you get with no still screens to disappoint you. Of course you will tire of this eventually and want to proceed onto the puzzles and again you will be mostly pleased.
Like Myst (again!) Sentinel – Descendents in Time employs a puzzle system that does not rely on an inventory, except for the rarest of occasions. Most puzzles can be solved just by manipulating the device at hand, which means no wandering round looking for randomly placed items. In an additional (unique?) feature, a handy arrow appears when you are within a certain radius of any interactive object. This is an excellent addition and bodes very well with the philosophy of most of the games puzzles – that the main challenge should be solving the puzzle and not pixel hunting which is sadly so often the case in similar titles. Unfortunately in some of the later levels of Sentinel there are a few puzzles which involve a lot of needless running around after you’ve already guessed at the solution. This is a shame, because if the developers had been able to keep up to the earlier standard of puzzles all the way until the end, Descendents in Time would have been almost flawless.
The game also includes a hint mode if you require that little bit of help. This works very well and adds to the ease of accessibility for any newcomers to the genre, lightly prodding you in the correct direction.
Another thing to note should be that Sentinel is a relatively short game (it took me around 12 hours to complete) but this is somewhat justified by the low recommended price tag of £19.99.
Voice acting, so often a problem in videogames, rears its ugly head here again. I’ve deliberately refrained from discussing the story so far, so as not to include any spoilers. I will however reveal that there are two main characters, one whose voice acting is mostly excellent while the other, your character in fact, has a disappointingly almost emotionless voice. With Descendents in Time playing so heavily on the story and atmosphere side you could be concerned that this would severely dampen proceedings. You would, however, have no need to worry, as the rest of the game is so finely polished that this can easily be overlooked.
It remains to be seen whether Sentinel – Descendents in Time will be seen as a leap forward (or is it backwards?) for the adventure genre but it’s certainly a game which stands out as one of the better adventure games produced in recent years, and thoroughly deserves to rub shoulders with the likes of Myst. It’s just a shame it didn’t come up with the idea first.
Review Score: 8.8/10
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