I thought I would put together a review with my thoughts from the demo of yesterday. I think I might try and do this for each new area that 59 Volts displays pictures of. Make it into a bit of a series. Hopefully everyone finds my critique valid! I was going to put in some comparison pictures, but it ultimately ended up being too much bother for this time.
The Andross Report
I was eagerly awaiting this demo from the Starry Expanse team, 59 Volts. And let’s start off by saying I certainly wasn’t disappointed. The team have outdone themselves each year at Mysterium, and this trend continued with their best demo to date, and the closest view of a production age yet. While not as grandiose in scale as the village basin demo, it made up for it in polish and beauty. While there were a few models and textures which looked like place holders, most noticeably on Gehn’s desk, the overall quality was astonishing — the team has now had more than a year to familiarise themselves with the Unreal Engine and it shows in almost every aspect.
The demo started out in a dark space with a single fire marble book pedestal, clearly meant to invoke the feeling of the domes from the game. Opening the book upon the pedestal revealed a blank book, and upon touching the linking panel we were whisked off to Gehn’s 233rd age. The modelling in this age is spectacular, with none of the models having an obvious polygonal feel to them, even in close ups, the lighting was dynamic and beautiful and the textures were of very high quality. Despite all of this, the game ran silky smooth — certainly more smoothly than my stream which rebuffered itself four times during the 15 minute presentation despite being on the lowest quality settings.
The first thing that I noticed after reconstituting my brain into working order and playing back through the video was that the area seems much darker than the original, especially outside. Whereas the original had the brilliant yellow, oranges and reds of sunset, the demo felt as if it was 10-15 minutes later, and sunset was beginning to give way to twilight (This is despite the fact that the sun is still visible in the sky, indicating that it is in fact, earlier…). Having said that, the exterior clearly wasn’t completely finished, with just a standard rock texture on the eroded rock mountains, and many of the more distant rocks missing, so this may change. The outside also looked much smaller than the scale implied from the original, although this is an obvious reality of real time 3D and will no doubt be corrected substantially if not completely with the aforementioned completion of texturing and lighting. As for inside, the darkness gave it a more edgy atmospheric feel, though perhaps at the cost of some of the splendour of the original. Certainly it wasn’t dark enough to be a problem; the true colour palate giving a clear advantage of contrast from the still pictures of the original.
The Cannen was a beautiful work of art, with the top being redone in a gorgeous inlaid wood, and every vane carefully reproduced. One of the stand out items for me were the book pedestals which are immaculately modelled and textured. The books looked like exact replicas of the one from the original, if not better. Even the little stencil of Gehn’s crest on the inside pages were exquisite and almost impossibly detailed.
Nearly all of the mechanical aspects of the age worked, the leavers and switches. There was no Keta in the imager in Gehn’s Bedroom and Gehn himself was conspicuous in his absence, but that is hardly surprising as the 3D character models will almost certainly be among the last things to be completed when the team can throw their combined skills at what will certainly be the most difficult part of the project: creating 3D avatars to live up to the originals. But Gehn’s mechanical timepiece, the water tap, the Cannen, the cage control, the summoning switch for Gehn and the firemarble generator all were operational. The generator seemed to have actual fire in it rather than the firemarble mounted on the front, so whether that was artistic licence or whether they have some other knowledge of it, that was one point of difference.
The only major piece which was obviously incomplete was Gehn’s desk which still had its grey grid texture, and lacked some surface details like the lettering and filigree on the columns. The items on the desk too had a look of placeholder textures, but I’m sure this will be corrected in the coming weeks.
The only thing that let this down was Gehn’s desk and the islands outside, But I’m sure this will be corrected by release, by which time this could easily push up to a 10. Every detail had been copied from the original, and while to an extent 233 helps out by being probably the most photographed age, that only increased the pressure to get everything right. And they did that just fine!
These were a wonder to behold. Even in the less obvious areas like the tunnel down to Gehn’s Bedroom, utmost care had been put into the brick to make sure they lined up without distortion. They all matched very closely the originals, with the tapestry and Gehn’s pre-Ki timepiece looking like they were ripped straight out of the game… only better! The bricks in the main area didn’t have the same dusty look to them as the originals, but honestly, that’s one of the less important aspects. I was very impressed to note that the grime around the edges of the windows had been recreated! While there were the aforementioned incomplete areas, and a few downstairs textures looked like place holders, overall it was sublime.
Although beautiful in its own right, this I felt was probably the furthest from the original game. It was as I mentioned a little darker, and the lights consequently were more obtuse than Riven. One particular example is the light on Gehn’s desk which looks like a powerful UV lamp rather than the softer reading light that the original would have cast. Still, this is only a demo, and certainly the lights showed off the models, bump mapping and textures off very well.
The sounds had all been faithfully either ripped or recreated from the original, right down to the books opening and the same wind/music of the original. There was however a lack of new sounds like foley and so on.
Overall impression 10.0
Overall this was a fabulous demo, with everything being there in some level or another, and most closer to finished than to half way. The nitpicks which I have I am sure are just factors which were due to the rushed nature of getting the demo ready for Mysterium, and will be completed over the coming weeks and months. If every area of the game came out looking like this at the end, the fans will have everything they have dreamed of, and realRiven will be as close to visiting another world as all save the NASA astronauts are likely to get.
THOSE TIN CANS ARE NO MATCH FOR ME!!