The Duel That Spanned the Ages

Oliver Ullmann (2009)

So it looks like I misjudged another game title, though Iím not sure how The Duel That Spanned The Ages should conjure up images of a science-fiction setting. This episodic game, the first of three, is an interesting pseudo-military adventure that lacks the nuances to capture a military tone, but the writing is strong and thereís a lot to do with playtime extending the two-hour limit.

Here we have a real adventure that you can sink your teeth into, if you know what I mean. Itís been broken into two solid sections, starting out with your assault force investigating why the East Aquila Mining Corporation has lost contact with a group of their miners. The game uses strong visuals within its vivid writing, creating a world that is harsh, unforgiving, and grotesque, but the whole thing has a surreal tone with a backstory thatís rather touchy feely compared to the kill, kill, kill, nature of the game play.

I did find a few things unnecessarily buried, like a piece of equipment that I already had on me. Maybe if it had its own place in the inventory I wouldnít have needed to turn to the walkthrough, but the solution I found there couldíve been rolled into the previous cut-scene since they all seem to run a little long anyways. Keep in mind though, too much of that and you get info dumps, so you do have to balance it.

This is a great game, donít get me wrong, but when I see something this good I start to poke holes at it, looking for any little thing I can find. The biggest problem I had was not being able to ENTER THE AIRLOCK. I must have tried that 15 times before going east. For me itís usually easier to enter a door than figure out which direction it's in, not here. I also wished it recognized some alternative things I was trying to do, like setting up the sentry gun so that it could go off when the entire cave came alive to eat me. Even if I still died I wouldíve liked to seen the game at least recognize what I was trying to do.

At the end of the game I started to feel a little lost, there didn't seem to be any clear objective. Running low on time I turned to the walkthrough, but I think this area couldíve been better clued. Like when I put on the demolisher armour, maybe the game couldíve nudged me, letting me know that I could now pick up a certain item that I couldnít before. We donít see enough of this in IF, and simple clues like something catching your attention can go a long ways.

I scored this game an 8. I really like this game a lot, but I think it could use a bit more work though it did have that fun factor going for it. If youíre a sci-fi nut like me I have to recommend this one, and I can't wait to play the second installment. It will be interesting to see where it goes.