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While Ring is actually freer of major (i.e. fatal) bugs than many games I have seen in the past year, there are a number of glitches which I stumbled onto in playing through it. As already noted, trying to bypass the longer speeches eventually would cause the game to crash. In the Alberich section, it is possible to make fatal missteps; when this happens, we see Alberich make his fatal mistake (say, slamming into a wall at high speed), then abruptly cut to a mystifying "End of part one" screen. The first few times I saw it I wondered whether I had actually completed the Alberich section. (Also, the game's claim to non-linear structure contradicts the notion that any part could be part one.) From what I was able to discover, none of the other characters can in fact die at all (except Siegmund, whose death is built into the Wagnerian source material). Alberich's possible deaths feel like a vestige of an earlier design decision; but much more jarring than an inconsistency (Alberich can die, the others cannot) is the failure to correct the wording on the screen that appears when he does die. Later, at a critical point in the game, the animations are rather abruptly replaced by what seem to be a sequence of storyboard skteches that were never animated. If this device had been used consistently for expository scenes, it might have provided an interesting contrast to the polished computer animation; however, as used here it looks more like a concession to deadline and budget pressures. Finally, one annoying glitch caused "The Ride of the Walkyries" - used as background music as one traveled up and down a certain corridor--to loop endlessly, drowning out the music and dialogue of the finale of the Brünnhilde sequence. I was forced to replay the end of that section of the game to hear the dialogue and music as intended.


Ultimately Ring feels like a half-finished product - or, more, the results of a hasty salvage effort on a project gone off target, past deadline and over budget. I found myself wondering whether the developers set out to treat the whole Ring cycle, bogged down, then hastily assembled whatever sections more or less worked to get a product out for last Christmas. The game's impressive look and quite literally world-class music cannot make up for the gaps in basic elements like narrative continuity and playability. It may bring snippets of Wagner's music to an audience that had paid it little mind before, but there is little else to recommend it. Those curious about Wagner should track down the libretto on the Web, then save their money and splurge on the full Solti recordings. Those who wish to play - or develop - a good adventure game should spend their money on Lucas Arts' Grim Fandango to see this form done right.

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