When Science and Fiction Collide
Science fiction is such an easy sell because it’s rooted in promise and potential, no matter how outlandish the subject matter may seem. The inquisitive, expansionist nature of the human race, and the speed at which our technology continues to develop, makes for some truly compelling speculative storytelling – especially when combined with the potential for life beyond our small corner of the galaxy.
Whether it’s a blissful utopia without disease and conflict or a scorched Earth ruled by sentient toaster ovens, it’s not hard to imagine the broad range of possibilities the future could hold. The Immortals of Terra: A Perry Rhodan Adventure adeptly explores one variation of this vast theme in a point-and-click adventure format that melds an excellent sci-fi mythos with slightly less-than-stellar gameplay.
Don’t feel too flustered, if you’re wondering who or what the hell Perry Rhodan is. Like the rest of the folks living in North America, you’re probably not alone. Perry Rhodan is an epic German space opera revolving around the intergalactic exploits of a human space explorer-turned-immortal bearing the same name. The science fiction series originated in the 1960s as a series of short novellas focused on an expansive and continually growing fictional universe. The novels never quite caught on in this part of the world, but they’ve inspired comics, toys, plays, music, and other spinoff works in Germany and elsewhere. Bringing an all-new chapter in Rhodan’s story to North American PCs is a bold move, considering few gamers are likely to be familiar with the series. Whether you’re familiar with the “Perryverse” or not, it’s hard to resist being drawn-in by the style and slick, futurist vibe of this sci-fi affair.
As the immortal Terran Regent, Rhodan ends up in a bind when his home city falls under attack and his lover, Mondra Diamond, is mysteriously abducted by rogue droids after conducting research on a mythical race of alien beings. While attempting to track down Diamond and discover the motivation for the assault, Rhodan finds himself embroiled in a deeply rooted conspiracy that threatens the peaceful existence of his people. The plot itself is occasionally dry, and there are moments when it slowly meanders onward. Also, there’s a ton of back story that’s never completely explained; you’re basically launched-head-first into the action and are meant to sort things out as you go. The main elements directly relevant to the gameplay do become clear, but this is only after delving through lots of in-game text gained from scanning information and items into computer terminals.
The Immortals of Terra is largely successful because it’s such a beautiful game. The story and sci-fi setting are amplified 110 percent by the lushly rendered 3D landscapes Rhodan will travel across. The broad scope of the game’s visuals become immediately apparent from the first moment you gaze out the window of Rhodan’s residence hall to view the vast futuristic cityscape set among the clouds.
Amazingly realistic lighting effects glint off the buildings and a stream of hover cars commutes to and fro in the background. The initially impressive level of detail in the characters, scenery, cutscenes, and interactive objects flows steadily throughout the entire game. It’s one of the best-looking adventure games out there – a wonderful thing for a genre that seems to be often marred by half-assed production. Though Rhodan will do plenty of running back-and-forth across many of the same rooms in his pixel hunting space adventure, the game’s locations are each unique in their own right.
From a third-person perspective, you’ll guide Rhodan around by clicking the mouse on the different elements of the environment in any given scene. The cursor changes to indicate whether an item can be interacted with or picked up. The point-and-click controls are functional and basic, but they’re nothing special. Veteran adventure gamers may only use it as a last resort, but tapping the S key to scan the screen and reveal any hotspots definitely keeps things moving along.
Combining inventory items and using them on different hotspots makes up a substantial portion of the puzzle aspect of the gameplay. Clues to solving these puzzles are often subtly buried in vast reams of text uncovered by researching in computers or examining inventory items. This causes players to have to do some actual thinking and detective work at times. The game does suffer from a few wildly unintuitive puzzle challenges, though they’re mostly reasonable. Rhodan’s personal wristband computer will keep you on the right track with objectives, but it’s not always clear what the next required course of action is.
Between examining for usable items and clues to the puzzles scattered throughout the route, you’ll also get an earful from the human and alien inhabitants you meet along the way. Some of what they’ve got to say is interesting, but the inability to skip through the more boring elements of dialogue can be problematic, if you accidentally trigger a conversation you’ve already had. The voice acting is a little campy at times, yet it fits the game well. Humor pops up in strange places, along with some eyebrow-raising moments. In once instance, a rather burly alien with a long snout is murmuring about how he’s lost his pals and needs physical contact; he offers a snuggle. Later on, you’ll run into two strange beings arguing on in painfully screechy high-pitched voices about who will keep a stuffed dolly. Then, of course, there’s getting hit on by the scantily clad space chicks at a seedy “odor” bar on a disease-ridden mining colony. Rhodan, you stud.
Overall, The Immortals of Terra is a pleasant surprise. The gameplay could use a little spice (some form of combat or other elements would liven things up nicely), but it’s an impressive game – both visually and in terms of the expansive sci-fi universe laid out before you. There’s some serious potential here for the series to take root on North American PCs with a sequel. The Rhodan mythos contains far more intrigue left to be explored. Lovers of all things sci-fi would do well to give this one a go, and keep your eyes peeled for any signs of life of future installments.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.4 Graphics
The art direction and detail is stunning. This is one of the best looking adventure games around. 3.0 Control
The controls are unexciting and basic but functional. 3.9 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Subtle background music ebbs and flows to fit the moody plot. The dialogue can be a bit cheesy, but the voice acting is strong. 3.7 Play Value
Sci-fi and adventure game fans will dig right into this one. 3.8 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.