Over the years, few games have offered us the chance to take the side of evil or, at the very least, to see events from the perspective of a more or less evil character. Barring the moral issues, such an approach, if only for the fact that it’s rarely used, is a very interesting one, at least in theory. True, you can perform evil deeds in other games too, but overall, the fact that these actions are in the service or good or the consequence of choosing a lesser evil is quite evident.
Ceville’s approach is also interesting, an approach which formed the basis for the game’s marketing as well. The action takes place in Faeryanis, a magical realm under the control of a tyrant who bears the same name as the game (as a side note, the name of the character has “evil” in it), and the story proper starts when those living in the kingdom decide they’ve had enough of this tyranny nonsense and rebel. Ceville is forced to flee and to find a way to regain the throne, a goal of course accompanied by plans of revenge, hatched with a desire that rivals his malevolence.
As such, Ceville has an, if not original, at least an interesting and fresh premise. However, once the game nears its end, you realize that all the evil you’ve done was focused on vanquishing an even bigger evil, with morals and certain social values making an appearance as well. This is the element that could have made Ceville a reference title for the adventure genre.
On the other hand, even if the protagonist’s actions eventually serve the good of others, not only his own (getting back the throne by any means necessary), it’s worthy to note that his personality doesn’t change one bit. From start to finish, Ceville is the same grumpy, sarcastic and assertive character which doesn’t hesitate one bit to use reprehensible methods to lead Faeryanis once again.
Besides the fresh perspective over the good-evil conflict, Ceville also boasts a feature rarely used in adventure games: the simultaneous or alternate control of two or even three characters. Another remarkable thing is that, when it happens, the motives behind the each characters aren’t diluted and don’t raise any logical question marks. Each character has its own goals to accomplish and manages to retain its uniqueness. And I’m not talking just about Ceville here; this is valid for Ambrosius and Lilly as well.
While Ambrosius is a paladin whose narcissism often puts him in ridiculous situations, Lilly is a little girl who, unlike Ambrosius, is capable of understanding the fact that the line between good and evil can be very thin. For instance, she can cope with the notion of “lesser evil” and some of her lines are even sourer than Ceville’s. As a matter of fact, the only 100% good character in the game, the Good Fairy, manages to be even more pathetic that Ambrosius, thanks to her naiveté.
Regarding the characters, both their simple presences as well as their actions are sources for some very funny moments which will tear from you at least a smile. The dwarves are the corporative “suits” always hungry for gold, the druid likes to play football, while the elves are hippies with high environmental-friendly ideals. Moreover, there are numerous cultural references, such as Portal (“the cake is a lie”), Gordon Freeman (the crowbar scene), Indiana Jones (the tune played when Ceville jumps out the window), Bruce Willis and Die Hard (“Yippee-ki-yay”) or Jennifer Lopez (the actress, singer and dancer H. Lo).
Another decent aspect of Ceville are the puzzles. Not only do they perfectly fit the story and theme of the game, but most are also quite logical and, as a bonus, are often a source of humor. Not all puzzles are linear, and you’ll often deduce the solution long before you’ll actually be able to actually solve the puzzle. Moreover, you can use the Space key to highlight objects in the background with which you can interact, a very useful option for those that don’t want to go on a “pixel hunt”. In the game’s options you can also set the possible object combinations to be shown with an orange hue.
Despite this, those unfamiliar with the adventure genre will sometimes need to use a walkthrough. And they will also accuse the lack of a clue system for the puzzles, like the one featured in Simon the Sorcerer 4: Chaos Happens. On the other hand, those with some experience will probably finish the story in about 6-7 hours time. Speaking of which, the ending is a bit abrupt and clearly leaves the door wide open for a sequel.
That Ceville was designed as a respectable game is clearly evident from the quality of the voice-acting. The dialogs have intonations and perfectly fit the character’s personality, their gestures and face language. And some of the verbal exchanges happen in the background, giving the illusion that the world you’re in doesn’t depend on your character alone. The downside is that these background dialogs can dampen those in the main scene, and the narrative portions can’t be repeated. Also, there are moments when voice work doesn’t fit the text on-screen, probably a side-effect of the German to English transition. Moreover, two or three dialogs were not spoken, but did feature subtitles.
Another shortcoming is that the game tends to crash if you use Alt-Tab, but thankfully is does have the option to automatically save your progress every 5 minutes. Also, you can exit a scene with a single mouse click, without having to walk to its edge, and a double click will make the characters run, considerably shortening idle time.
Ceville is an adventure which had high goals and for the most part, it achieved them. My only disappointment is that at the beginning you’re lead to believe that you’ll play as an evil character with only immoral actions to perform and sheer malevolence to guide you. Even so, Ceville remains a remarkable character, at least regarding behavior, something which makes the game stand out among the genre.
For a truly memorable experience, I feel that Realmsforge studios should have been bolder. I hope they’ll go even further with Ceville 2.