by Marko Susimetsä
previewed on PC
Good action adventure games with elements of exploration and archeology are few and far between and, in recent years, this genre has been ruled mainly by Lara Croft in her numerous incarnations. Deadfall Adventures is an interesting new arrival to the genre, although it steers more in the direction of FPS action than puzzle solving. We got our hands on a preview copy from Nordic Games / The Farm 51 and took our first, tentative steps into the 1930’s world of adventure.
Deadfall Adventures is, first and foremost, an action-oriented shooter, but when the main hero is called James Lee Quatermain whose great-grandfather was the famous Allan Quartermain himself, you are certainly led to expect more than mindless action. James Lee Quatermain is a treasure hunter with a happy trigger finger and a talent for making money with the weight of his name. The plot starts when he is asked to escort Jennifer Goodwin, a US agent, on a mission to find an ancient artifact – The Heart of Atlantis. Naturally, Nazis are after the same treasure and will confront James Lee and his companion every chance they get. No matter how many of them James ends up killing, there are always more.
In the final game, there will be eleven levels taking you from Egypt to the Arctic and eventually deep into the Mayan jungle. The final game will also include multiplayer, spanning six levels, and survival co-op, five levels. The preview showed us as little as nothing of these aspects, so a lot of the gameplay is still shrouded in mystery. The preview version basically included two levels in Egypt and two in the late-game jungles. The developers stated that there are still many areas that they are polishing, such as the enemy AI, particle effects, weapon balance, and field of view, so our preview will not touch too heavily on these areas.
Of Muzzles and Mummies
Our game started in Egypt where Quatermain and Goodwin navigate their way to pyramids and then enter them to find clues towards their eventual goal. The FPS elements work pretty well, but offer nothing especially new to anyone who has played shooters before. You can carry two main weapons: a pistol/revolver (dual wielded or not) and a larger weapon, such as a shotgun, rifle or one of many sorts of submachine guns.
I was especially pleased to find a Suomi (Finland) submachine gun and I ended up wielding it most of the time. I’ve had a chance to use the weapon in real life a couple of decades ago, so it was nice to reacquaint myself with it, even if only in digital world – the accuracy was as bad, in modern terms, as I remembered, although I did not have to suffer from the heavy weight this time around.
The levels are relatively long and complex and although you are clearly held onto a predetermined path, there remain many side paths and areas for you to explore if you want to. These side paths often hide collectible treasures that you can, quite inexplicably, use to advance your skills, so some adventurous spirit is beneficial for long-term survival. Finding the treasures is made easier by your compass which seems to sense and point towards treasures instead of pointing north, as it should. When there are no treasures around, the compass handle just keeps turning and turning...
The occasional puzzles are fairly simple, at least at this stage of development, and everything you need to solve them is usually within your field of view, with no need to travel back and forth between locations. Many of them involve you simply shooting at stuff to disable traps or render them inoperative for long enough for Quatermain and Goodwin to pass through. And where guns don’t help, you do have the old journals of Allan Quatermain to help you out. It seems that your fore-sire explored all the paths already, but left the treasures lying around for you to pick up...
In addition to Nazis with different kinds of weapons and grenades, you will also encounter monstrous creatures, such as mummies. Curiously enough, Quatermain seems to be carrying an anti-mummy torch that is able to momentarily render these otherwise immortal creatures vulnerable to bullets. The torch will only have a limited amount of this supercharge before it needs to take a breath, however, so you will have to be careful when and where to use it – or otherwise the mummy horde will use that pause to overwhelm you.
At this level of development the graphics are already showing their general style, although details are clearly still being worked on. Basically, the graphics style is not very realistic and reminds me of a well drawn comic book. With the yellowish filtering, this approach makes the general style very much 1930’s and you’d expect Indiana Jones to make an appearance sooner or later. Still, I cannot imagine these graphics – even if the particle effects and environmental elements are still being worked on – making anyone gasp in wonder. Like the FPS mechanics, the graphics are functional rather than groundbreaking.
Although the graphics are still being worked on, there are areas that the ‘upcoming modifications’ list did not mention but that left room for improvement. One of the first things that bothered me were the stunted arm growth of all the male characters. This is not quite so evident in most postures that the characters take, but when one of the side characters clasps his hands behind his back to give a grandiose speech, it actually seems like his shoulders just popped out of their sockets. His words fly by you as you keep staring at that disturbing sight. It seems as if the developers used a ‘dwarf male’ model from some RPG, instead of the ‘human male’ that they intended. I hope that this is something that will still be fixed and was merely left out of the ‘to do’ list by mistake.
For that Pulpous Feeling
Since Deadfall Adventures is still under development, there were a lot of aspects that we did not get a proper feeling for. The main one is the story. We only got a taste of what is to come and it seemed interesting. But will it be interesting enough? Given that the FPS elements and graphics are not going to stun anyone senseless, the eventual attraction of this game will be hanging on that story. We remain hopeful and look forward to trying out the final game!