Mini-Review: The Egyptian Prophecy: The Fate of Ramses

Review written by Andrew Plotkin

I didn't intend to write a review for this one. I jumped in and look, it's an educational game, which is usually a fast way to lose my interest. (I started Egypt 1156 BC: Tomb of the Pharaoh once, and gave up almost immediately.) Thin story piled on a bunch of historical research, and they're really proud of the research.

Puzzles are a bunch of fetch-quests, strung together in the very standard way. Plus a few puzzles with timers. I'm not opposed to a timer or two for a good cause; but these puzzles really would have worked just the same without them. The time limits were there solely for dramatic tension. Ennh.

Interface vaguely clumsy. (I felt like I was clicking exactly twice as often as I should have to, getting into and out of menus.) Dialogue vaguely clumsy. (When a person asks you for something, you have to end the conversation and then select the object from your inventory. You're constantly saying goodbye to people in the middle of talking to them.)

And then, in the middle of the game, I dropped into a dream/mystical/prophetic sequence which is entirely beautiful, and entirely constructed of new and original puzzles. In fact there are two of these sequences. Both of them left me with my jaw bugging open. The scenery was strikingly well-imagined, while still wholly in tune with Egyptian mythology. Every puzzle was either completely new, or -- at worst -- an interesting new variation on some puzzle theme. I want a physical copy of that three-dimensional puzzle lock. It was gorgeous.

(Okay, there was the fox/chicken/corn puzzle. That was a retread. But that was the only one.)

And the rest of the game, outside of those dream sequences, was just standard fare. Oh, the endgame was pretty cool, with a magical battle and a board-game puzzle. Which are good if you like timed puzzles and board games. Which I do.

But, sheesh, did there have to be such a contrast? Yes, every adventure game will have some routine "go-get-this" puzzles. You need that for pacing, and to give the player a satisfying path between the serious brain twisters. (And because no designer can come up with enough serious brain twisters to fill an entire game.)

Only, you're supposed to mix them up. A game like this, I wanted to just play the dream sequences, and skip over the real-world chapters. Or go back and play a surreal-fantasy game instead.

Before I fling this up to the Net, I want to be confused about story for a minute. I am never sure, playing these historical/fantasy/myth games, how accurate they're being. Obviously the designers have read lots and lots of Egyptian mythology. They have all the elements right: prophecies, gods, the flood of the Nile. They've found rituals and spells and magical potions from the correct period of time, and incorporated them into the plot.

But do they have the stories right? The Egyptian Prophecy is about one of the gods getting nasty, and trying to overturn the natural order, end the life of Pharaoh, and destroy Egypt. Is that the sort of conflict that Egyptians saw in their world?

I mean, "one of the gods is evil and tries to destroy the world" -- that's very much a story of modern genre fantasy. I always get suspicious when I see it applied to ancient mythology. The Greek and Roman gods were pretty much all a pack of jealous back-stabbing bastards; Norse mythology has entire races of hungry monsters who are fated to devour reality and all the gods; and so on. Trying to cast Ares or Loki or whoever as "the evil antagonist" is simply a mistake.

But, for all I know, this story is a direct retelling of some Egyptian myth. I have no clue. Such is my distrust of the game industry. End of tangent.

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