The Dink Network

Cycles of Evil

September 30th, 2002
Score : 9.3 exceptional
An alternative hero DMOD that does two things really well, and introduces some new techniques that could be better.

What Dan has done, and it perhaps wasn't his first priority, is tell a great story. We, in essence, learn the secrets of what seem to be a perfectly normal, peaceful, little town. The story is told through cut-scenes of present day, as well as cut-scenes of the towns past. Whereas most DMOD's are interactive RPG's with the occasional cut-scene to help further the story, COE is essentially a series of cut-scenes with some interaction thrown in to further the story. COE reverses the way we play.

So telling a story is one thing Dan did well, the other is obviously using alternative heros (or anti-heros). Through-out the interactive part of COE you control a number of different characters, not all of them, in my opinion, are heros so much as characters to bring us to the next cut-scene. And that, is where I find fault with COE. The character was used as a vehicle to transport us to another scene. In a perfect world, the player would have more to do with the eventual outcome. You cannot fail in this game, and you cannot win. What you get, however, is one hell of a story, and that makes up for it.

My guess is that Dan intended to make COE much more interactive, but with the restrictions of the Alternative Hero Contest, simply ran out of space and time to do so.

The palette technique used in COE to change the different seasons was done well. I particulary liked the bright green grass used for spring (or was it summer), and the snow fall during the winter portions is the best I've seen in a DMOD. The issue I had with the technique, is it wasn't as seamless as it might be, but I certainly couldn't have done it any better.

One last aspect to point out is the use of AutoSave. There are no save-bots, and the game can only be saved after certain portions were completed. In COE, the lack of saves is not an issue. I would like to see this in other, harder games, it would add a level of difficulty for sure.

In summery: COE told perhaps the best story of any mod to date, but lacked the interaction we have come to expect. At some points in COE, the combination of the unfolding story, and the well placed midis really got your adenaline flowing, and, like a good book, pulled you into the story and didn't just keep your interest, it demanded it.

Taking a look at the romps you can download at TDN, you will see many efforts that failed to deliver a even a small percentage of COE, yet the scores given to them by reviewers are unusually high. For that fact, you really have to weigh the offerings. I'm not sure COE delivered everything the author wanted it to, but it entertained me, it taught me, and it inspired me. I can think of maybe one other romp (The Creeping Sands) that had was able to do that.