Review by GreenShyguy04

"Be an Aes Sedai and and fry the forces of darkness"

The game is based off of Jordan's series of novels of the same name. However, this game seems to be a prequel, of sorts.

Essentially, you take the role of Elayna, an Aes Sedai, who are essentially the novel's equivalent of magic users. Instead of using magic, Aes Sedai "channel", meaning they draw power from what the novel calls the "True Source." Think the force from Star Wars, but instead of giving the wielder the power to block lazer fire, it now allows the user to cast what appear to be spells.

Of course, Elayna must save the world from evil. Unfortunately, she can barely channel. Fortunately, she is an expert in the use of Ter'Angreal, artifacts that allow the wielder to cast "spells" without having to channel. That means as she explores the levels, she must collect Ter'Angreal scattered about. These artifacts allow her to perform feats ranging from shooting fireballs, to healing, to protecting herself with a shield, and even disguising herself as a bad guy to avoid enemy detection. There are almost 40 total Ter'Angreal, no two alike.

This is where the game really shines. Unlike most first person shooters, quick reflexes will not be enough. If you barge into a room and try to use sheer brute force, more often than not, you'll be a meal for the Trollocs. However, if you use your Ter'Angreal intelligently, every battle is fairly simple and easy. For instance, on tougher opponents such as sisters of the Black Ajah and Trolloc Clan Leaders, the best strategy is to freeze the target, then follow up with balefire.

On the same note, the game does a good job of providing a variety of missions. As a matter of fact, one mission has very little combat at all. It requires you to navigate your way past booby traps, which again, encourages paying attention to your surroundings and critical thinking. Another mission has you protecting injured Aes Sedai from invading shadowspawn. If you are crafty enough, there is actually a way to finish this mission virtually effortlessly without incurring any casualties. So as you can see, strategy and management of Ter'Angreal is more important than brute force. If you die, chances are you need to approach the situation differently.

While strategy is all good and well, I'm sure most of you fans of the novel are chomping at the bit for a chance to mow down some Trollocs and Myrdrall. Don't worry; the game provides plenty of opportunity to kick some serious shadowspawn butt. Once you master using Ter'Angreal effectively, even the Myrdrall will start dropping like flies.

Graphically, the game takes on a dark and spooky tone, which is the same mood seen throughout several scenes in the novels. Shadar Logoth is nearly perfect, and just as I had imagined it in the book. The game even has you travel The Ways at one point, and yes, you do acutally flee from Machin Shin. At one point, one mission even dumps you in The Blight itself. Of course, a couple of missions include the famous White Tower in Tar Valon. All of these locations are replicated nicely and from what I can tell, accurately.

Most of the music sounds like a mix between celtic/alternative, which works well for the game. The tunes do a great job of adding energy to the game.

On the downside, the main quest is a bit short. By the time you are getting really proficient with managing and using Ter'Angreal, the quest is over. However, the last mission seems to be a segue to the multi-player aspect of the game, and I must admit it's pulled off rather nicely. As a matter of fact, it's technically possible to beat the game without beating any of the last bosses (Yes, that is supposed to be plural). Again, this is another instance in which the game shines as a strategy laden first person shooter. Player must decide if it's more effective to fight the bosses, or simply flee.

Also, the difficulty can border on frustrating at times for a few reasons. First of all, Elayna is fragile in comparison to most main characters in first person shooters. While this makes since, as she is essentially a spell caster, and not a beefy marine, the game doesn't help by giving a couple of common offensive Ter'Angreal an area of splash damage, which in some cases, is nearly impossible to avoid. Second, the game fails to provide the maximum capacity for any Ter'Angreal. This means that until you have those figures memorized, you'll pick up extra Ter'Angreal, thinking you can hold more, and realize you only gained a couple of extra rounds. Since some areas require you to be frugal, you can quickly put yourself in a hole. Third, if you need to use several Ter'Angreal in quick succession, you'll end up fumbling through them, never able to use them as effectively as you need. Since there are so many, multiple artifacts are mapped to the same number. If you don't have freeze and balefire when you run into a sister of the Black Ajah, you're screwed, since she will be casting spells several times faster than you, raising her shields, casting fireballs, etc., and you'll always be several steps behind what she's doing, never able to catch up. Finally, the Children of the Light are way too hard. In the novels, you get the impression that the Aes Sedai could easily toast them if they wanted, but in this game, they are by far the most dangerous group of regular enemies. Expect to die repeatedly once you encounter these fanatics.

The Wheel of Time for the PC is a must have for fans of the novel, and even if you have never heard of the novels, it's still a good first person shooter, particularly if you are sick of the ones that require you to have Jedi-like reflexes. Oh, and as an easter egg, there is a secret scene in the ending after the credits rolls. It's worth a chuckle.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 05/07/06

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