A Little Too Pious
It’s usually a pleasant surprise to stumble upon new PC games that are actually playable on older machines without installing the latest graphics cards and other expensive upgrades. Lately, a substantial number of PC games feature graphics and gameplay rivaling the PS3 and Xbox 360. Not all PC gamers can afford to keep their rigs tuned up to the top end of the spectrum, yet it seems few big name developers take this into account when churning out new hits. Those who do are challenged with the task of creating a game that handles well on mid-range systems but doesn’t look and play as if it’s years behind the competition. It’s a tough balance to strike, and hard efforts don’t always result in success.
It doesn’t take much of a PC setup to run Artematica’s Belief & Betrayal, but mustering the saint-like level of patience required to put up with the game’s painful shortcomings is far more taxing than the meager system requirements. Even hardcore point-and-click adventure fanatics – who kick their morning off with a good old pixel hunt before breakfast and wrap up the evening with an item combo puzzler – may have a hard time mucking their way through this one.
Saturated in religious imagery, ancient cults, and holy artifacts, Belief & Betrayal features an adventure steeped in murder and conspiracy that sends players seeking out answers across historic locations throughout Europe. Following the murder of his uncle, who turns out to be a member of a secret holy order at the Vatican, journalist Jonathan Danter finds himself embroiled in a bizarre plot that ties back to a historic religious artifact forged with the 30 pieces of silver paid to Judas for his betrayal of Christ. Danter and his uncle’s colleagues must hunt for clues he left behind to unravel the mysteries of the relic before it falls into the wrong hands. This sounds all fine and good, but the story comes across as incredibly dull on execution. There are simply too many moments when it feels like you’re sitting through a theological history lesson as characters orate on and on about the meaning of ancient religious texts and dogmatic symbolism. The story is decently constructed, but it just isn’t all that interesting to begin with. Sadly, this isn’t the only culprit that drags the game down.
Danter just doesn’t work as a lead character. Aside from the fact you’ll likely want to punch him in the face immediately after being introduced to his instantly irritating voice and juvenile cockiness, he’s easily the weakest link of the bunch. It’s not a good sign when players are inclined to throttle the main character within seconds of booting up the game. Yes, he’s that obnoxious, and it doesn’t let up at any point in the adventure. Throughout the entire game I secretly hoped he would get blown up, dismembered, or fatally wounded…no such luck.
Consequently, it’s hard to really get into the game when the person you’re playing has few redeeming qualities and is impossible to identify with. Other characters in the game are far more likeable, though all of them suffer from unusual visual defects when it comes to speech. Occasionally, they’ll speak without moving their mouths, and other times the speech movements are so alien-looking you’d half expect them to sprout tentacles and glowing eyes. Also, once they do start jabbering, it’s hard to get them to shut up.
Belief & Betrayal features fairly standard point-and-click gameplay. The ability to switch between several different characters to accomplish goals in different locations simultaneously is an interesting touch, but it’s not implemented as thoroughly as it could have been. Unfortunately, the rest of the mechanics have been tweaked to make the experience more excruciating than necessary. This was probably unintentional, of course, but it is the end result. Looking at an item requires a single left-click, which often results in a brief stream of non-witty banter. To interact with an item you must then right-click to bring up the proper cursor then click on the item again – delivering more painful yammering in the process. This is mildly irritating to say the least.
The worst part is you often won’t be able to pick up or otherwise interact with a particular item until you’ve inspected it (at least) twice. There’s no real way to tell exactly when this is required. Players are forced to re-investigate almost every hotspot in the game, if they want to trigger the appropriate circumstances to receive crucial equipment necessary to proceed. In some instances, Danter himself will even attempt to deter you from further examining a crucial hotspot by whining or claiming it’s a waste of time. When he does this, it’s best to disregard him completely. Naughty, sadistic developers! It’s very frustrating to get stuck only to have to revisit every interactive element in the current area you’re in, in order to figure out what’s needed to progress. This requirement is equally draconian and unnecessary.
Puzzles in the game rest somewhere at the opposite end of the spectrum. In all but a handful of cases, the item combinations and manipulations required to arrive at a solution are violently obvious. However, some are rather troublesome and require vast leaps of logic to overcome. It seems the main challenge the game poses to players is requiring them to summon the perseverance to continue forth, despite a multitude of signs that loudly suggest their time is far better spent elsewhere.
The game looks decent on a medium or low-end PC. Some cutscenes are grainier than others, though the backgrounds and environments are quite good. Aside from poor voice acting and technical issues with mouth movements during speech, the character models and movements are solid and believable. The visuals may be mildly disappointing to anyone who’s accustomed to the visual marvels of current generation PC gaming, but they aren’t bad overall. Occasional graphic blips and strange visual bugs pop up early-on. They don’t really negatively affect the gameplay, and they disappear eventually.
Belief & Betrayal is more apt to irritate than titillate. Chances are it will run on your PC, but its humdrum story and unnecessarily tedious gameplay will leave you wondering why you bothered in the first place.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.4 Graphics
The solid graphics aren’t quite current-gen, but they’ll run smoothly on older machines. 2.8 Control
Unintuitive and irritating controls, even for a point-and-click title. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Voice work is annoyingly over-acted in some cases and painful to listen to. The remainder of the audio is good. 2.8 Play Value
It’s a major chore to maintain interest long enough to complete the tasks at hand. 3.0 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.