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Advent Rising
game: Advent Rising
posted by: Aaron Stanton
date posted: 12:00 AM Wed Jun 16th, 2004
last revision: 12:00 AM Wed Jun 16th, 2004

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One of my great disappointments of last year's E3 was that I didn't get a chance to have Orson Scott Card sign the copy of Ender's Game that I'd packed with me all the way from Idaho.  Not only was Orson Scott Card the very first science fiction writer I ever remember reading, but the copy of Ender's Game I'd brought was the very one I'd originally checked-out from the school library when I was thirteen and never got around to returning (return your books, kids.  The Library Police will get you).  Aside for costing me a lifetime's income in fines (for a thirteen-year-old), the book was, and remains to this day, one of the most engaging and well-told science fiction tales I've ever come across.  The prospect of its author, my first science fiction writer, signing my first science fiction book? well, it made me happy. 

You can imagine my disappointment when I showed up a day late, my book carefully separated from the rest of my daypack to keep it from being mutilated by the weight of my press packets, to find that Orson Scott Card had come and gone.  I was crushed.  After a bit of thought, I suggested a plan to one of my fellow GF writers.  No,? she said after hearing me out.  No.  I think tracking Mr. Card to his hotel would be a bad idea.  Stalking him might give a bad first impression.?  She was right, of course.  First impressions are always hard to overcome, especially when that first impression is made by some guy who's just climbed through your window and seems to be simultaneously trying to challenge you to a dual with a pen in one hand, and trying with the other to cast some sort of voodoo curse with a book branded property of Cascade Jr. High? across the cover. 

With my dreams crushed, I did the only thing I could think of: I decided to take a look at the game he was there to promote.  Since then, Advent Rising has been on my list of games to look forward to.  When this year's E3 rolled around, the play testers at the Advent Rising booth seemed altogether unprepared for a writer of my obvious fame and fortune. 

Are you lost?? one of them asked after I'd hung around booth for a while. 

Lost??  I asked.  The poor fellow was obviously impressed by my brilliance as a writer (I find my reputation sometimes proceeds me) and was just searching for a way to start a conversation. 

You know, from your booth,? he said.  I figured with your costume??   He gestured to my clothes, and made a pointing motion at my hat.  He looked expectant, so I stared at him blankly until his smile started to fade.  I thought? maybe?because of the way you were dressed??  He frowned and stopped talking all together.  You're not from a booth, are you?? he asked finally. 

I shook my head.  By this time, a small group of other play testers had gathered on the far side of the booth, and it was evident by the way he was throwing them glances that my friendly guide wanted to go brag to them how cool I was, now that he had met me in person.  I let him go as he, flatteringly, inched his way in their direction, obviously unwilling to risk insult by turning his back on me.  What followed appeared to be a heated discussion in which they competed for the honor of giving me a tour of Advent Rising, finally drawing straws to decide the lucky winner. The winning fellow looked nervous as he came over, so I smiled my biggest smile and slapped him encouragingly on the back.  Don't worry,? I said.  This will be fun.?  He sort of whimpered, I think.  He must have been shy.  Poor fellow.

I didn't mind, though.  My main hope was to play Advent Rising, and maybe find a knowledgeable player to show me a few of the really cool tricks in the gameplay.  In no time at all, my guide had warmed up and was walking me through what is shaping up to be one of the most interesting and exciting games of 2004. 

What makes it so has less to do with the way the game is played, from an over-the-shoulder perspective, or the cool in-game fatalities your character can perform on his enemies as you make your way across a deep and interesting universe.  Instead, what you'll find at the heart of my interest in Advent Rising is a good story that branches into numerous endings, a science fiction tale with all the elements that kept us Orson Scott Card fans glued to his books into the late hours of the night.  Yet Advent Rising doesn't just hope to offer a single game with depth and multiple endings, it hopes to offer up an entire series of them.  Probably one of the coolest things about Advent Rising,? says my guide, using a moist sterilizing toilette to wipe down the points I had touched on the controller (I have to give it to them, they were thorough), is that it's the first in a trilogy, and your actions carry over between the games.?  

At the end of the first game, for example, your character is saved.  The choices that you made, choices that lead to one of a couple different endings in that game alone, are recorded, saved, and used by the next game to determine its starting point.  If you saved your girlfriend in the first game, expect to find her waiting for you at the start of the next.  If you let your brother die, you can expect to be mourning him throughout the entire trilogy, as each different beginning point branches into yet more independent endings.  By the time this happens twice - the ending of the first transferred to the start of the second, the ending of the second to the start of the third - you'll find the trilogy itself has upward of five to ten unique endings.  This complex branching system, spaced over several games, strikes me as the ultimate in game re-playability, and a truly unique approach to interactive storytelling. 

Story aside, Advent Rising looks to be filled with addictive gameplay as well.  Your character, a member of a mysterious race of beings called humans? that may be key to the fate of the universe, gets to launch into combat with all sorts of tricks up his sleeve.  Aside from being able to carry dual handed weapons, which allows you to double target, you'll find yourself using up to 8 different powers, including mind control, time control, and super speed.  More interesting, though, is that you can eliminate your enemies with a number of fatalities, special moves that add that extra bit of graphical umph to the show.  After watching several of these on the E3 floor, I have no doubt that we're in for an entertaining and addictive game, if not an entertaining and addictive trilogy.  Since each game is set to release in roughly two-year intervals, we can hope that Advent Rising marks the beginning of a long-term relationship between gamers, games, and Orson Scott Card.  At the same time, one can't help but wonder how the series will evolve as newer platforms appear.  With the first installment set to release in September of 2004 on the PC and the Xbox, the second in the trilogy will be making an appearance right around the time the next generation of consoles comes into power.  It will be interesting to see how developer GlyphX, Inc. decides how to handle the console transition, assuming that there will be a console transition for the series at all. 

Regardless, there is no doubt that Advent Rising is a game to keep on the radar.  With its development steadily on track, there's nothing left for me to do but sit around and contemplate what I'll do in the mean time.  Maybe I'll curl up with a good book, or fire up my computer and dig out some of those really old classic story driven game gems like Betrayal at Krondor, based on the Riftwar Saga by Raymond E. Feist, or maybe wander the land as an avatar in an older addition of the Ultima series.  There's nothing like a trip down memory lane to help you get excited about what might be coming in the future.