"I haven't felt this way about a game since Myst."
In the dawn of the third millennium, humanity has taken a turn for the worse. In a chaotic world where only the strong survive, a hellish force of depression and destruction rules the land from sea to sea. The only hope for your entire race lies in the Holy Grail and your ability to retrieve it.
You set out to the underground sanctum of the sacred cup. You are armed with a gun, but more important is your ability to reason, read in-between the lines, and sense of cunning. Your mission: To bring back the holy cup with its healing power in order to heal a dying world. But this is no walk in the park. Strange creatures lurk in the darkness, and 12 guardians have been trained to defend the Grail with their lives. To them you are just another thief. The only things you have to rely on are faith, and fate.
Azrael's Tear is a mix between Myst and Quake. Combining the game play of Myst with puzzles, reading, and exploration, with Quake's first person 3d graphics and full freedom of movement, Azrael's Tear is an adventure game in a new genre.
Unfortunately, the game has a bit of a shaky start. The controls are difficult, and overly complex because half of them are useless. At first, game play is very slow and the objectives of the game aren't very clear. And the types of puzzles that are to be solved are too hard to find for the beginner player. The first hour I was playing this game, I was bored, depressed, and angry at the people who chose this game to torture me with.
However, after a while, with a few puzzles solved, the story starts to unfold, and you begin to realize and appreciate one of the best masterpieces in plots I've ever encountered. Now, I must admit, hearing the plot from above does sound a little corny, but Azrael's Tear has done the best job I've ever seen in developing a good story line and interesting, interactive characters.
Some great improvements since Myst: puzzles can be solved in numerous ways. There is more than one way to skin a cat. There are many puzzles that I didn't have to solve simply because I found a shortcut. Lateral thinking. Another good improvement that really added to the game was that the puzzles actually had an effect on your progress; just like making decisions and your tone of voice when talking with characters. Choosing which puzzle to solve and the way you solve it effects the outcome. Although the interface is a little difficult, the story line and plot makes up for those details missed.
The only significant drawback with this game is the graphics. The quality of the pictures and environment were above average (better than Quake), but the speed and frame rate of the game was absolutely horrible. You can switch between high resolutions and lower ones, but I ran this game on a P133, and I don't even want to imagine the poor soul running it on his 66 (which qualifies for minimum requirements). Soon you begin to pay less attention to the utter choppiness or the vulgarity of lower resolutions and adapt, but nevertheless, this was a big spot missed when making the game.
The sound effects are well done, and realistic. It keeps the game alive on the audio side of things. As for music, it varies. Some tracks are very good. They set the mood of the environment, tend to be on the eerie side, and give that mysterious tinge to the setting and tone. Other tracks are straight out of "Home made MIDI tracks in 5 minutes or less." All in all, besides those few annoying tracks, music and sounds are above average, and chosen well.
In conclusion, if you liked Myst, and you enjoy problem-solving games with a hint of mystery, fantasy, and religion, Azrael's Tear is a game well worth a look. However, I must warn you, if you have little patience, and you don't like games without action filled sequences dripping blood and guts everywhere, this is not for you. Try down the hall in the 'mindless, first-person, shoot in the general direction of whatever moves' department. Azrael's Tear is an intelligent, perceptive, thinker's game, and if you don't have what it takes, chances are you won't like the game a bit. Choppy graphics, and an occasional boring 15 minutes wondering what the hell to do next, was well worth this excellently made adventure and its intricate and brilliant plot. Myself being a proud member of those who beat Myst without any books, cheatsheets or advice, in under a week, still found Azrael's Tear extremely challenging yet fun and entertaining. This is a very difficult game but well worth time and energy. I haven't felt this way about a game since Myst, and I hope all you other adventurous types feel the same way.