Computer Graphics Memory Disk Space Minimum 386/33 VGA 2 Megs 16 Megs Max/Rec. Control: Mouse Sound: SoundBlaster 8/16/32, PAS-16 FM/OPL, Gravis UltraSound, Aria, Audio Source, Roland SCC/MT-32, AWE-32 Notes: Works great under OS/2 Reviewed floppy version on: 486/66, Mouse, Gravis UltraSound, Roland SCC Reviewer recommends: 486. The game is actually pretty system friendly.
* My dog thinks he's human, my cat thinks she's God
So what do you get when you cross Mad Max with Bambi? Well, not exactly INHERIT THE EARTH. This is postapocalyptic for humans, but not for Morphs. Think of an interactive version of Walt Disney's "Robin Hood" without the cheesy music and you have the flavor.
The Humans are all dead, or at least gone from the Earth. Before they left, they raised several species of animal to sentience, bipedal locomotion, and gave them the power of speech. These animals refer to themselves as Morphs, we might call them furries. The known world is organized in a mostly peaceful feudalism, organized by animal type.
The Orb of Storms has been stolen - it's a mysterious globe used by the animals to predict the weather and seasons. Rif the Fox is suspect, because... well, he's a fox. Forget racism - it just can't compare with speciesism. The Boars are holding his main squeeze hostage, and the Elk King of the Forest has an arrest warrant out for him, both pending his recovery of the Orb. This is where you come in. You control Rif and his two companion guards, Eeah the Elk and Okk the Boar. They're there to help you find the Orb, or kill you. This is known as an incentive plan.
* Kitten: Small homicidal muffin on legs
Inherit the Earth is extremely system friendly. It installed without a hitch, runs great under OS/2, needs only two megabytes of memory, and works with all popular sound cards. At 16 megabytes, it's about average for today's games (anyone else remember TIME ZONE, when twelve uncompressed 140K disk side was considered astronomical? Oh well). I had no problems at all with the game, and encountered only one bug - it didn't affect game play, just made a rope on screen disappear.
The only thing I'd have to complain about is that the game doesn't appear to save your reading speed and sound/music preferences with saved games. When I quit and came back, my those would be reset.
* "For animals, the entire universe has been neatly divided into things * to (a) mate with, (b) eat, (c) run away from, and (d) rocks." * -- Terry Pratchett#
The other production values in Inherit the Earth are also absolutely top notch. The graphics are great and the voices are absolutely superb.
Let me harp on that last for a minute... digitized speech in games is usually so bad that I turn it off. The producers get some of their staff or their families to do voices, and it shows. ULTIMA VIII had some pretty atmospheric voices if you had the voice pack, but sometimes the voices were so mutated that you couldn't understand them.
For Inherit the Earth, it sounds like they actually hired some voice actors, or people with theater or radio experience. The voices are clear, the personalities come through, and most of all the actors are getting into the spirit of things. Usually the actors sound like they're vaguely embarrassed, but here they're really into the cartoon spirit of this game.
Unfortunately, I only got to hear the voices in the first part of the game - only the CD version, which wasn't out yet when I bought the game, has full speech.
* We got rid of the kids - the cats are allergic
There are at least four different types of display in this game. The bottom always has a portrait of Rif and the person he's interacting with, along with your choices and inventory. The top of the screen has your environment.
The first type of display is your standard KING'S QUEST type display - one screen that you can move around in. Pick things up, go behind things, try to find the exits. All three members of the party move around.
The second type is a scrolling orthogonal display used for villages, mazes and the like. Like Ultima VIII, but closer to the action and without as much to interact with. Again, all three members of your party are visible. In this mode, when you enter a building, a window pops up with the first type of display that you can move around in.
The third type of display is the map. On this, your party appears as just a glowing dot which you move around the scrolling landscape. When you get close enough to something interesting, you zoom in to one of the closeup displays.
The final mode is the occasional interactive scene, where you'll see hand- drawn pictures appropriate for the occasion.
In each of the above modes, the graphics are very well done. The portraits at the bottom change based on character mood. The characters walk and animate well. The Boar lift his shirt and scratches himself if he's not doing anything else. All the characters look like they're walking realistically, given their physical differences from humans.
* If you eliminate smoking and gambling, you will be amazed to find that almost all an Englishman's pleasures can be, and mostly are, shared by his dog. -- G. B. Shaw#
Movement and conversation are very easy. You just move the mouse to where you want to go and click. In scrolling displays, you can hold down the mouse button for continuous movement.
This game has something I would have killed for in Ultima VIII: an intelligent movement algorithm. Click across the river, and the game is smart enough to figure out that you need to go downstream to that bridge, cross, and then go back to the destination. Usually you can just click anywhere and the game will take you there. Your companions are usually pretty smart as well, and will catch up if they make a mistake. No hassle movement - what a concept!
Conversation is easy, the standard "click on a subject to talk about" type interface we've come to expect. The options are fairly intelligent, you won't just parrot everything another character tells you.
The game is also fairly smart about what can be done with an object. When your cursor moves over something it'll figure out what you might want to do with it and give you that choice. This is nice at times, but irritating at others, where what it thinks I want to do isn't what I want to do. A little too clever for its own good at times.
* Better not take a dog on the space shuttle, because if he sticks his * head out when you're coming home his face might burn up. -- Handey
Yes, believe it or not, an adventure game is supposed to have a story. This one has the past filled in more than most bother to, and it certainly makes the game more interesting. The basic concept - humans raise animals to intelligence, then disappear - isn't new, but it's a perfect concept for an adventure game. As you progress in the game, pieces of the past will fill themselves in.
You actually have an advantage over your characters - you know what a battery is, or an access card, so it's not nearly as large a challenge for you to figure out where it's supposed to go as it would be for Rif the Morph. The game actually uses this to its advantage when dealing with the Orbs, but sometimes it seems the background is underutilized.
The game itself is divided into three parts - the beginning, middle, and end. Har har. Cheap humor, aside, however, that's what happens. The first part of the game takes place in the "known lands" to the south. After you do the appropriate adventure things, then you'll move on to new lands. Twice.
The dialogue is very good - there's lots of low-key humor scattered throughout the game, as well as overt humor, such as the "Who's on First" takeoff. Each character has their own "voice" (digitized voices aside) and personality. No complaints there.
I do have three reservations about the game.
First, it's very easy. I finished it in three days. This is not an adventure for die-hard Infocom fans. You can give it to your kids. What to do next is usually quite obvious, and the game gives you plenty of hints for the only somewhat tough puzzle. On the positive side of this, all your necessary actions are logical. There's none of this Sierra or LEGEND OF KYRANDIA crud, where you have to resort to trying every item with every other item to find the totally meaningless association the plotter made between two items. Now if only they kept this sanity and made it a bit tougher.
Second, it seemed as if there was a bit too much running around for running around's sake in the first part of the game. It takes a certain minimum amount of time to get from one place to another, and I thought that this was abused in the early part of the game as a method to extend game play. I was _sick_ of the Rat's Cave after the fifth time I had to navigate it.
Finally, it seemed like there was something missing... You have this rich background and beautiful created world, but it's mostly empty. There are only about twenty characters that you really interact with. In the Sanctuary, for instance, there are plenty of characters running around, and lots of houses, but the houses are all locked, and nobody will talk to you. There's only a single character in that whole complex who you can interact with. I would have liked to see more development in this regard, which would have also helped fill out the game.
* Cats don't hunt seals. They would if they knew what they were and where to find them. But they don't, so that's all right. * -- Terry Pratchett, _The Unadulterated Cat_
So what's the verdict? Well, die-hard adventurers are going to be disappointed - it's just too easy. On the other hand, it's a great game for people who aren't normally adventure players or the kids. The sound is great and the graphics are beautiful.
I love Infocom type games, but I still had a good time exploring the world and playing the game. I was disappointed that it was done with so soon, which wouldn't have happened if I wasn't enjoying myself. The ending leaves the possibility for a sequel wide open, even hinting quite strongly at the plot. I hope we get the sequel and that it gets a little more in the plot department.* This review was cruelly tested on small, furry animals. It is also Copyright (C) 1994 by Ron Dippold for Game Bytes Magazine. All rights reserved.