- Game Reviewed With
Pentium 233, 64MB RAM, Monster Voodoo2 3DFX Card
- Overall Pros
- Beautifully designed, immersive and detailed adventure game
- Good mix of simple and difficult types of puzzles
- A well balance of sword fighting action and excellent NPC interaction
- Overall Cons
- Variety of minor bugs are annoying
- 3DFX only and sound problems may be a concern to some.
The first in the Elder Scrolls Adventures series, Redguard is a combination adventure-rpg type game which has received a variety of mixed reviews. This review is written by a long time Elder Scrolls and CRPG fan and I hope to give a detailed review of the game and what I thought about it.
 Game Type
I have seen many people who bought the game expecting another Daggerfall type game. Redguard is not the sequel to Daggerfall (which is Morrowind to be released in 2000) and is not a pure CRPG. Redguard is primarily an adventure game set in the Elder Scrolls universe on the world of Tamriel. There is little, if no, role-playing elements in the game. It does however, do an excellent job of letting the user experience the world and history of Tamriel to greater degree than the previous Elder Scrolls games.
 Starting Out
Installation was a breeze although it took some time to copy the 300-400MB on the installation CD. The game did take a while to load on my computer, most likely due to it being slightly less than average, but was not unbearably slow. Similarly, loading a game or accessing the main menu takes a few seconds but fortunately you don't need to do either very often. There are relatively few controls to learn, perhaps taking only a half-hour or so to master, although the game starts out immediately with you fighting two (weak) opponents more or less forcing you to become familiar with sword fighting quickly. The controls are all completely customizable using the keyboard, joystick, or gamepad. The fact that no mouse support is included may be a concern to some but the keyboard control is very sufficient and easy to use. Although I haven't tried using a gamepad with the game I would suspect it may be the best control to use.
 Graphics and Sound
The 3DFX graphics are simply outstanding, without a doubt the best I've seen in any game to date. The entire island, along with the various other locations, are very well detailed with quality textures without slowing the game down too much. I only noticed choppiness in the display just after I entered a map. The sound too is very well done and along with the graphics creates the most immersive game I've ever played. You can spend hours just exploring the island, admiring the scenery before you want to start any of the main plot. Some great examples of the detail encountered are the seagulls flying overhead and the gentle waves rolling in from the sea.
 NPCs and Monsters
There are plenty of people around town and monsters in the various dungeons and caverns to keep you busy. The NPC interaction is all voice (with option sub- titles) that is all excellently done, although a few voices you may find to be annoying. The NPCs have a lot to say but the menu system used is well done and it is easy to see which conversation topics you have already investigated, and which ones are new. As you talk, any important information is automatically written in your log book for later reference (which can be a great lifesaver if you've forgotten what someone said). The monsters that you fight are well designed and all have various tactics which you must become used to in order to successfully defeat them.
 Level Design
There are some 30 separate and unique areas that you will explore during your adventures. All are excellently designed and are enjoyable to explore. There is no noticeable 'scenery pasting' as in the other Elder Scrolls games (where you would see the same house/person/dungeon hall over, and over again) and each area has unique and well matched textures and themes. There is a noticeable delay when entering a new area (5-10 second on my computer) but on higher systems it would be less severe of course.
As with any adventure game, the puzzles are an important part of Redguard. Most are well designed are quite solvable with a little thought and lots of trial and error. I did find several that were rather obscure and illogical but that may be due to the fact that I don't usually enjoy or play adventure games. Some of the various quests you must complete to finish the game can be done in any order but most are in the familiar linear order, with one quest leading onto another. The average time required to finish the game might be around a week or two although the game can be finished in 3-4 days if you play it a lot.
There are a number of minor and major cutscenes throughout the game which add a great deal of playing enjoyment. There are two types of cut-scenes: the minor ones use the games own engine to create a short movie for you to watch. The major cutscenes look similar to the game engine but are much better rendered with reflections, shadows, and moving lips when someone speaks. All the various scenes describe and get you into the plot very nicely. Again, I can safely say that these are some of the best ones I've seen.
 3D and Sound Problems
The two main complaints about the game so far have been the lack of a Direct3D version to support more than just 3DFX hardware and problems with most PCI sound cards. There is a software version of the game but of course with slower gameplay and nowhere near as quality graphics. Unfortunately Bethesda has no plans to update the game to support Direct3D or more types 3D cards. Given that a 3DFX card can be bought for less than 100$ (or less), I almost might recommend buying a cheap one just so you can play the 3DFX version. Another major problem with the game is related to almost all PCI sound cards such as SB Live where the sound constantly stutters. There are a few possible fixes (such as reducing the texture detail, using the fast sound option, or installing Cacheman), but none are absolute. Bethesda is looking into the problem but has not stated if or when a patch will be released.
 Other Bugs
There are a variety of minor but annoying bugs throughout the game that makes it less enjoyable. Some of these include the recurring void and times where the game will freeze. Fortunately most of the bugs are not repeatable and either don't occur often or can be avoided. Still, I would like to see a patch released to address these.
If you are an avid adventure or Elder Scrolls fan you will most likely want to get this game, especially if you have a 3DFX card. It provides an excellent immersive environment to adventure and explore in and exposes the user to the Tamriellian environment and history. On the other hand, a pure RPG player may not want to invest in the game since it is not a role-playing game although it may provide a good introduction before playing Morrowind when it is released. The 3D and sound problems are major issues which I'd like to see Bethesda fix and most likely will discourage a significant portion of the market to avoid the game. I would recommend that at least a P233 be used to run the game with a 3D card for the best game playing experience.