Wait a minute...
... I thought I already took World History class! What's with all this Turkish mumbo-jumbo? Byzantine: The Betrayal brings you right back to your freshmen year in high school where you'll investigate a mystery of stolen jewels while exploring ancient Turkish monuments and various sites in the city of Istanbul. Before I continue, let me share with you an equation I whipped up: (Entertainment + Education) does not necessarily = fun. When most people play a game the whole purpose is to run away from school or work. They (me) feel cheated when a game tries to teach us things, that's what we're trying to escape from! Byzantine tries to teach you about Turkish culture and the ancient Byzantine time period, but luckily, unlike your teacher, you can shut it up with a click of the mouse.
You're a freelance American journalist looking for your big break. The game begins when you receive an e-mail from Istanbul offering you the scoop of a lifetime. Your old college friend, Emre, has stumbled upon a secret that could bring an international antiquities smuggling ring to its knees. You fly to Turkey to meet Emre and investigate the current happenings in Istanbul.
This game, in essence, is a Full Motion Video (FMV) adventure. Vaunted in earlier years, these FMV games of late have been bashed gleefully by magazines and gamers alike. You too may already be groaning, but Byzantine isn't a bad game. In fact, many of the actors are quite good (the cop comes to mind). However, some of the actors are what we've come to expect - really, really, bad. The fact that it was shot on location at Istanbul is neat, but when the actors English is hardly understandable, it's not quite suited for an English speaking country. But most of the actors pull it off, and some do so with pinnace.
The majority of the game is spent navigating through these 360 degree environments where you can spin around and look at different things. These are actual photos that were shot on location in Istanbul, and they are exquisite. They've captured the culture perfectly at these sites. The other parts of the game are spent solving puzzles in a VR helmet (yawn) and talking to other characters.
The sound and music quality is great. It's mostly comprised of ambient sounds - they sound like they could have been recorded right at the location your character is standing. The music was originally scored for the game and is beautifully crafted to be reminiscent of ancient scores.
The biggest downfall of this game is the difficulty. As a reviewer, I got a little packet that described how to solve every puzzle. Now, if I didn't have this handy little pamphlet, I would have been frustrated out of my mind. If you consider yourself a puzzle master I'm sure you won't have too much trouble, but then again, you might.
Byzantine is a game with puzzles of mind-numbing difficulty set in the mysterious locale of Turkey. It tells an engrossing, although somewhat convoluted, story - which is commendable in the current day of shoot-em-ups. Although the 'frustration quotient' is quite high, Byzantine: The Betrayal actually does manage to pack a bit of fun and learning into the same package.