Azrael's Tear is a great first person 3D adventure game that places you in the shoes of a twenty-first century thief. Your goal is to recover the Holy Grail. Along the way you'll be faced with many mind-bending puzzles and inhabitants. Some of the locals will talk to you asking questions and providing answers while others will simply consume you whole. The interface is similar to many of the other first-person 3D games, but instead of killing everything that moves you spend more time exploring and experimenting. Unlike the other 3D-shooters out there, however, this game's 3D engine is no speed-demon. Sometimes the graphics are majestic enough to steal your breath away while other times they're so blocky it's impossible to distinguish what you're looking at. The music and sound effects are incredible; as are the talents of the voice actors. All of these elements are blended to form a game that is challenging and fun.
Any comparisons to Quake or Duke 3D would be an insult to Azrael's Tear because it's not an action game by any stretch of the imagination. It's a good thing too, because the 3D interface to Azrael's Tear is slow. There are 4 video "modes" you can play the game in though the graphics resolution of the monitor is always 640x480. In the highest video mode, movement is stilted and clunky. In the lowest video mode, the 3D environment becomes blocky, but plays significantly faster. Though there is the option to have the game move in the lowest mode and switch to the highest when you stop moving, there's still a noticeable pause. What's worse is when you're moving in the lowest mode you can't tell what anything is because everything looks like a bloated pixel.
On the positive side, the interface is easy to learn and simple to use. The keyboard is supported, but the mouse is the preferred input device. Hold down the right mouse button and you can take in the world around you as you look up, down, left, right, and in any other direction you can make that little rodent go. Press the right mouse button and you're off and walking. The intelligent pointer will let you know when there's something to pick up, use, open or turn. This helps remove the "find the hot-spot and click on that pixel" problem. You still need to use the keyboard to do little things like strafe, back-up, and ready your gun.
The graphics in Azrael's Tear are very inconsistent in terms of quality. Objects that you interact with or pick up are well defined with various details. The rooms that you explore look fine at a distance but halfway across the room you notice that the walls become blocky and undefined. One of the most elegant rooms I've encountered was the Planetarium room. After solving some of the puzzles, the orrery was in full working order and provided several moments of visual awe. The walls and floor surrounding the orrery were less defined with pixels threatening to destroy the beautiful object. The disparity in image quality is probably a factor of the slow screen updates. If the graphics were any more detailed, the game would play much slower that it already does. To be completely fair, though, you do get used to the graphics shifting from high detail to low detail as you move and shift back to high detail when you stop.
The strongest elements in Azrael's Tear are the music, sound effects, and voice acting. The music in Azrael's Tear is some of the best MIDI my ears have heard in a long time. The majestic melodies help define an air of dignity, suspense, and wonder. The music is truly incredible. (Those who don't have a wavetable soundcard, you don't know what you're missing.) The sound effects were used very well to help describe an environment that is alive and dynamic_very effective. Also refreshing were the credible voices of those you spoke with. All too often poor voice actors are used to mimic various accents. The talented voice actors used in Azrael's Tear were consistent and believable throughout the game.
Azrael's Tear an adventure game that I had though was long dead. I'm glad I was wrong. It's been so long since an adventure game has been targeted at the advanced game player that Azreal took me by surprise. I started the game, got through the first couple easier puzzles and then was stumped. I was stuck for quite some time while trying to figure out what I might have overlooked or what the answer to a certain puzzle was. This game is not for the beginning adventurer, the puzzles are tricky and quite challenging. Be prepared to spend several weeks (and maybe a month or two) working your way through Azrael's Tear. I love it.
If you are easily frustrated by "not getting anywhere" and "I hate getting stuck" then this game is not for you. However, if you enjoy a solid game with intelligent puzzles and an intriguing story then Azrael's Tear is for you. Though the graphics have a tough time deciding if they're going to look great or blocky, it's not enough to make the game unplayable. In fact the game is quite enjoyable with the thick atmosphere woven by the medieval-like music, the realistic dialogue, and the mind-altering puzzles. Azrael's Tear is a fun game that carries you into another world altogether. Forgive the slow 3D engine and the graphics (at times) and I'm sure you'll enjoy the epic search for the Holy Grail.
-- Louis Stice
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