I want to preface this review by saying I truly like The Adventure Company. They generally put out solid games, many of which are very good. They are also one of the few companies consistently bringing us adventure titles, a genre that is lacking on the PC these days. Despite the track record, Traitors Gate 2 is just not a good game from any viewpoint. It’s frustratingly bad, in fact, like watching a favorite sports team have a completely off day, unable to do anything right.
I have not had the opportunity to play the first Traitors Gate, but it seems that previous knowledge of the series is not needed in any way for this second outing. There’s a weak plot kicking everything off—seems a terrorist group has developed a crippling computer virus, and is poised to unleash this upon the world soon. These terrorists have holed themselves up in a secret-underground-lab-that-isn’t-quite-secret-enough, and so special agent Raven is sent in to deal with the issue. In an extreme oversight, the lab has a back door that is somehow located in the heart of an ancient temple/tomb thing, and all Our Hero needs to do is navigate the obligatory traps and puzzles riddled throughout the ancient structure, infiltrate the lab, and save the day.
Traitors Gate 2 is first and foremost a puzzle-solving game with some action-y elements, so don’t expect a lot of Tomb Raider-esque sequences. In fact, the puzzles themselves are mostly the over-done “find the proper button or lever” style. Most of the puzzles are either ridiculously easy or hair-pullingly frustrating, with very few falling in between. Raven is given some notes from the archeologist that explored this temple before, but these notes are obscure and somewhat difficult to comprehend. Although they’re supposed to offer hints for certain puzzles, many times they’re just too subtle to understand, and a few times they’re just downright misleading. Further adding to the puzzle problem, many of the more complicated puzzles offer absolutely no indication of whether or not one is getting close to the correct solution. Most adventure games offer an occasional hint as a reward for moving in the correct direction when solving a puzzle, but not Traitors Gate 2. For instance, there’s a musical puzzle that requires a combination of a large number of button pushings and lever pullings (I’m leaving out the exact number to avoid spoilers), with no indication of whether or not anything is working until the correct combination was found. And, unless I missed a hint somewhere, one of those steps involved has to simply be guessed. With another puzzle, I figured out the solution in about 30 seconds, but it took almost 20 minutes of pressing a single key at the correct time to carry that solution out (I timed this one). This sort of puzzle is just not welcome in my adventure games.
In addition to mostly poor puzzles, Traitors Gate 2 is graphically rather bland. Most of the game is spent in a third-person, 3D view looking at the back of Raven’s stiffly animated body. The tunnels and corridors tend to look quite a bit alike, making things a bit repetitious. Everything just looks and feels a bit dated. Sound is likewise uninteresting, with a few clicks and whirs as the various temple mechanisms activate. There’s very little dialogue, which is probably a good thing, as Raven’s remarks are unhelpful at best, laughably poor at worst. Because of this, there’s very little emotional attachment to the main character, and consequently not a lot of attachment to the game itself.
The game’s controls are weak, as well. There are only a few directional keys, an inventory key, and an action key, none of which can be remapped. Raven at times gets himself hung up on the tiniest bit of corner or obstacle, while at other times he finds himself clipping through walls and falling into some nether world. Some of this clipping is actually helpful, however. At one point, I found the solution to a puzzle by swinging the camera around so that it was looking at a correct dial configuration from the inside of a stone pillar. I’m not sure if that was by design, or if I accidentally skipped an important step in the puzzle. Clipping can also be used to walk through walls and avoid some of the more annoying puzzles, but I don’t think that’s how the game was supposed to work.
And if poor puzzles, clunky control, and uninspiring graphics weren’t enough, Traitors Gate 2 is rife with bugs, some of them game-stopping. There are game-crashing bugs, the aforementioned clipping problems, and even one bug that halts all forward progress. I thought I had missed something somewhere, spent about an hour wandering around, until I finally got frustrated and visited the company’s forums. Sure enough, I had encountered the Big One, and fallen prey. A note to The Adventure Company’s tech support got a quick response (and a save-game file just beyond the puzzle), so I was able to continue on.
Overall, I just cannot recommend this game to anyone. Poor puzzles, dated graphics and controls, and a hefty amount of bugs make Traitors Gate 2 a game to avoid. Perhaps if there was a hint of promise under it all, or if the game had a spark of fun-factor, things would be different, but it’s just not so. My hope is that The Adventure Company will release a patch to fix the glaring bugs, then just put this one behind them and move forward to continue to bring us the quality of game that I know they’re capable of delivering.
This is just not a good game. Frustrating puzzles, clunky controls, and a mess of very big bugs make for a very disappointing adventure title.