Advent Rising – Stuck on the surface of the universe

 

The first time I heard about Advent Rising was during the inaugural tour of Video Games Live. Tommy Tallarico stood on stage and shared a beautifully compelling story of composing the score. Through his passion, I immediately fell in love with the game – knowing absolutely nothing about it. Sadly, like so many others, it plummeted into the ocean of backloggery, only resurfacing this year to finally give me a chance to enjoy.

 

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Right from the first cutscene, I was impressed. The Xbox has never absorbed much of my game time, and I had pretty low expectations of the hardware – but the cinematic flair of the opening sucked me right in. It was easy to imagine the game as an early seventh-gen title. This excitement wore off slightly when I experienced the games infamous framerate flaws, though my foray through early game reviews had me believe the game was unplayable….far from the case. It stumbles, sure, but it never trips. And that water…. you gotta see the water!

 

“The world that developer GlyphX Games created was an ambitious one.”

 

The world that developer GlyphX Games created was an ambitious one. With the help of sci-fi legend, Orson Scott Card, and a cast of some of the most prominent composers of the time, they went to work on the universe. Crafting a space opera that set out to rival some of the best. And I think, because of their reach-for-they-sky endeavors, they failed.

 

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The game attempts to tell a thrilling tale about a centuries-long war between the sentient races of the galaxy. A Human space-pilot who, throughout the course of the game, acquires mystical powers and becomes a deity. An all-overseeing Galactic Council with laws and history that reach far beyond the offered dialogue. It was wildly up my alley. And I loved it! Unfortunately, there’s just so much here to unwrap, and the desperate effort to cram it all into such a small package leaves more unexplained than answered.

 

“The desperate effort to cram it all into such a small package leaves more unexplained than answered.”

 

The characters follow suit. Gideon Wyeth, the hot-shot protagonist, is left feeling a little bland. His fiancée, Olivia, give you a reason to care; that is until Marin (more beautiful and carbon-copy of Gideon) joins the fray and washes out the love story. Even Ethan, the beloved big brother and decorated war hero, gets….well, you know the trope. And while all the characters are likable, every time a moment begins to blossom, a choppy action scene gets in the way, and it’s back to the races.

 

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Advent Rising’s gameplay does help pick up some of the pieces. Imagine a third-person Halo, and couple this with some kinesis abilities a la The Force Awakens or Half-Life 2’s Gravity Gun, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what they set out to do. And while the mechanics and assets look to be straight rips from other popular titles of the era (*cough..*cough…Warthog…*cough), it helps add a great element of fun. Always a great time tossing those Seekers out into space with a wave of your hand.

 

“By the end of the game, nothing stood a chance!”

 

I was glad to see a level-up system for the god-powers as well. It was simple – “experience through usage” – but it felt like a great accomplishment each time the reward popped up in my hud. The abilities would change dynamically, not simply getting more powerful, but adding entirely new mechanics to unleash onto the scourge. By the end of the game, nothing stood a chance!

 

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“Now Advent Rising’s music, I will happily praise!”

 

Now Advent Rising’s music, I will happily praise. Just like all those years ago while listening to the medley live, I fell in love with it all over again while playing through the game. Sadly, the bizarre cinematic edits have the most grating cuts and jumps; and any emotional investment that was fed from the orchestra was rudely silenced over and over again. It’s as though their sound design team had never heard of the Fade feature. Just truly strange. That said, I wanted to share with you my very first exposure to the game’s operatic composition – brought directly to my ears from Tommy Tallarico himself.

 

 

Perhaps unfairly, I couldn’t help but compare this game to my experience with Mass Effect. An equally robust universe, but appropriately coupled with an incredibly strong narrative and much more time to unravel across a trilogy of masterpieces. This is what Advent Rising should have been. It’s what I felt the developers aspired to do, but somewhere along the way they missed some opportunities, bit off more than they could chew, and the whole thing fell apart in the final result.

 

If you haven’t tried this one out yet, I hear the PC version is a much better experience. Give it a shot. And if you’re unfamiliar with the sci-fi heavy hitters like Halo or Mass Effect; then I’d be super interested to hear what you think over in the Cartridge Club forums. This game begs a remake on modern hardware, and I, for one, would be first in line to try it out.