Lately, game studios focused on adventure games haven’t really been soothing our senses, releasing titles that are at least doubtful from a quality point of view. There were exceptions, but the few adventure fans left still hope that one day they’re favorite games will again rule the world. Or at least not fear of being extinct.
Unfortunately, that day has not come yet and it seems that it is taking its time till the last drop of hope will be gone. For the time being however, we can enjoy some good hours in the company of the monk Leonardo de Toledo, sent by the Vatican to the monastery of Natividad to solve the mystery surrounding the suspicious death of a brother. The Abbey will most likely make you remember the renowned book written by Umberto Eco, “ The Name of the Rose” (and, why not, the movie with the same name), as there are similarities, but there are also differences, since the story is more than a simple remake.
The mysteries involving suspicious murders have always been an appealing subject, and if we add monasteries, monks and occult deeds, the result will be a cocktail that’s extremely interesting for those who want to play Sherlock Holmes. The idea sounds good, but the implementation has to help as well.
As far as gameplay is concerned, we have the classic model of a decent point and click adventure, with everything we would expect to see from it: endless dialogues (along with the some downsides because of it), decent puzzles, not too hard, but nor too easy either, and a concise inventory, where we can combine objects needed somewhere. The puzzles are nice are most of them quite logical; some do raise some laughter, the most eloquent example being the one where we need to wring out the water from a cape, to use it to cook a soup. On the whole, the puzzles you’ll come across will be limited to combining various objects, some will require assembly skills, but nothing special here overall.
Because the game areas resume only to the abbey, the existing map is not really needed, as simply roaming and looking after the next objective is enough. The Abbey is divided in both interior and exterior areas, and the transition between them is fast and smooth. Within these areas, what we are looking for is pretty easy to find, since the various objects needed for something have names and can be taken and placed in the inventory with a simple mouse right-click. Every now and then a problem may arise, because some objects are more difficult to spot than others, but, with a bit of conviction, we can find whatever is needed. Fortunately, this will never turn into the “pixel hunt” all adventure fans know and “love”.
In order to progress through the story you have to talk to the NPCs, which although limited number, have a strong personality, specific to the cultural and dogmatic area you are in. The only character that simply doesn’t belong is Bruno, our “hero’s” apprentice, who has some pitiful situations and a voice that is simply uninspired. As for the other monks, they really have a lot of charm, especially the elder senile one who is obsessed with growing plants (with which he has conversations). The thing that I admired most about them is the fact that there’s no obvious perpetrator, as every single one of them has pro and cons towards the other brethren, leaving you to wonder whom to believe. For this reason, the majority of the dialogues are interesting, but due to the exaggerated length for some of them, you can occasionally get bored, mainly because of some unnecessary details.
With the subject being a serious and mature one, we would expect the atmosphere to be appropriately heavy. But because they probably wanted to break the mold, the producers served us just the opposite, in the form of a cartoonish graphic that seems to be inspired from the Walt Disney animated motion pictures, combining 2D backgrounds with 3D elements. The buildings forming the abbey are just as we would imagine: beautifully drawn, specific to those times, even impressive here and there.
The characters have exaggerated traits, such as an extremely big nose, a jaw to the ground, googled eyes etc. Unfortunately, the animations lack in the realism department, some being very poor, for example the moods – doubt, wonder, sadness – picked God knows how, since Leonardo looks as if he was smiling when he should have been angry. On the whole, there are things to look at, but the graphic doesn’t really suit the subject. It does what it’s supposed to do and nothing more and the atmosphere suffers because of it.
The sound is great in terms of music, well chosen and atmospheric , since it’s played by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. The same goes for the majority of the voices, but the disappointment comes in the form of some sound effects which are pretty unrealistic, such as footsteps, various objects falling and, the most disturbing of all, the sound of the senile elder’s watering-can. However, none of them is as striking as Bruno’s voice. I recommend you to stay away from his lines because they create an acute state of discomfort.
Considering the current drought of the genre, The Abbey is a title which can satisfy adventure lovers, but also those that have had enough of frantic shooting and want a calmer game. If you don’t have exaggerated expectations and can enjoy a decent adventure, then you’ll feel just fine in its company.