Dark Side Gaming Rant: Alundra 2

Sometimes it’s hard to remember why you bought a game in the first place. Alundra 2 is one such game, and whilst I don’t even own it anymore, it felt as if the time had come to explain to everyone just how bad this game was.

Despite nominally being a sequel to the original Adventures of Alundra, Alundra 2 has basically nothing to do with the first game other than being an action RPG with some shared healing items. You take on the role of pirate hunter Flint, a silent young man who finds himself battling sorcerer Mephisto and his army of clockwork monsters. Aside from the quite sinister practice of inserting wind-up keys into people and thus turning them to clockwork, the tone of the game is generally light and comedic, a far cry from the depressing “one character dies every arc” style of the original.

Anyway, suffice to say that the story is generally superficial and not at all worth mentioning- what we are here to rant about today is the awful, awful game play. In the true fashion of the action RPG pseudo genre, game play consists of two halves- battle and puzzles- both of which are excruciatingly painful in a way that few games can ever hope to match.

When it comes to combat, Flint takes the standard hero’s route of equipping a sword and shield, with no inclination to ever try out any other sort of weapon. His initial attack is a single oversized slash which not only leaves him open for a counterattack as soon as he has performed it, but causes the enemy to flash and turn temporarily invincible, preventing you from delivering a swift follow-up. You can eventually earn a combo attack (up to five slashes), but in order to do so, you must collect hidden puzzle pieces that are scattered about the world. Yes, that’s right, you must complete a tedious and lengthy side quest just to gain the basic combo attack functionality that most games see fit to give you at the beginning.

In order to add some kind of variety to this tedium, you can also equip four different elemental rings to give yourself elemental shots and eventually summoning powers that are so weak for their cost that it is hardly worth touching them. The water ring at least offers something in the way of healing- essential since your inventory is so limited that you never have enough barely useful healing herbs and tonics to get by.

As bad as the battle system may sound, it is nothing compared to the ‘delights’ the puzzle aspect of the game has to offer. Having got it into their heads that harder means better, the developers sacrifice originality for the sake of providing increasingly difficult combinations of switches, blocks, spikes and fireballs- usually to be solved within a time limit that forces you to start over if you make even the slightest mistake. This all culminates late in the game, when after battling through a dungeon for about half an hour, you are presented with a puzzle so difficult and tedious that it remains seared in my memory even now, many years after the fact.

The puzzle in question involves taking a moving platform across a sea of lava- not too difficult, one might think, until the finer details are revealed. Since the opposite side of the sea contains a jump that you cannot make on your own, whilst the moving platform is proceeding forwards, you must first jump to another platform on the right, pick up a box, get both box and yourself onto the moving platform, then onto a platform on the left hand side, where you must use the box to jump up to a barrel, then throw both box and barrel back onto the moving platform before it gets to the other side. Since throwing is not terribly accurate, and the middle platform is moving all the time, mistakes are easy to make, and the slightest error forces you to start again. Even knowing there was a save point in the next room could not stop me from giving up after 45 minutes of attempting this one puzzle (and swearing quite vehemently at the screen by the end). This marked the end of my relationship with the game, one that had somehow endured over twenty hours of substandard play.

Mini-games have ever been the bane of my life, and Alundra 2 goes out of its way to make them particularly poor. From driving a small remote-controlled car around an arena to outrunning a rolling minotaur-ball, each mini-game is as dire as it is lacking in originality- when throwing darts at a rotating board is the most fun the game has to offer, something is seriously wrong.

Older 3D games are always subject to criticism as their low polygon counts and simplistic designs get shown up by the latest visual masterpieces, but whilst Alundra is certainly worse looking than most, the biggest issue with the 3D setting is the awful, awful camera. Unresponsive and uncooperative, the camera has to be adjusted practically every five seconds as the player desperately tries to find an angle at which you can actually have some vague idea of where you are going. Meanwhile, the background music and sound effects are both forgettable, but the English voice acting is cringe-worthy enough to make anyone want to turn off the sound completely.

Final Thoughts
Fortunately, Alundra 2 is a rare enough game that most people have escaped ever playing it, but those who have must surely have only negative memories of it. In the unlikely event that anyone was at all thinking of playing it, take my advice and leave well alone.

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