Baron Wittard: Nemesis of Ragnarok

Baron Wittard: Nemesis of Ragnarok

Armed with only a camera, explore The Utopia, Baron Wittard's abandoned and silent city-within-a-building in which local townspeople say a malevolent entity now dwells

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Genre: Horror/Puzzle/Indie Developer
Release Date: February 18, 2011
Platform: PC 

Note: Originally published June 24, 2011

Welcome, Traveller. I see that you are contemplating playing, or perhaps have already played, my little adventure game. Excellent. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Baron Horatio Wittard, builder extraordinaire, fanatic of all things Norseman, and recently deceased. Alas, my latest and greatest building project, the Utopia, lies in ruins somewhere in the hinterlands of England. You see, beneath the complex lies an ancient Norse mystic portal, and trying to break through that portal to enter and destroy the world is the evil Viking deity Fenrir, the wolf. So far all Fenrir has managed to destroy is my business plans with the Utopia. The place is a deserted hulking wreck now. Which is where, Traveller, you come in. Literally. Since dying I have gained new powers, and one of these permits me to see that you will receive a photojournalist assignment to document the crumbling Utopia complex.

However, that assignment is merely a ruse to draw you, the Chosen One, to your destiny which, in brief, is to save the world from Ragnarok, more commonly referred to in your age as the Apocalypse. How, you say, are you to perform this crucial task? What special credentials do you possess? Well, Traveller, in addition to the activation code on the back of the manual you happen to have just the skills required. I can see that you love a good mystery, that you don't mind the occasional jolt to your senses that glowing noncorporeal beings provide when they show up in the same narrow hallway with you unannounced, and most important of all, Traveller, you cherish the opportunity to find and then solve a good, classic puzzle or two. Without a help system, I might add. If I provided a help system, what would, after all, be the point of choosing someone like you? I could let one of my maintenance workers save the world. Odin knows they do little enough work around the place otherwise.

You are an experienced adventurer, Traveller. I sense that. Otherwise you would be perusing reviews of FPS console extravaganzas right about now. You know how this game works. You can't save the world simply by flipping a switch in the basement. Where would the adventure, the mystery, the romance be in that? No, you must explore Utopia to find and solve a couple dozen or so puzzles. Some are easy, some will have you cursing the day the Vikings invented those confounded rune things. You see, I understand you, Traveller. I wanted you to feel at home in my world, my Utopia. I knew you would like being reminded of such earlier first-person adventures as Riven, and Traitor's Gate, and Shivers, and Rhem and even recent games like Rhiannon. You're welcome, Traveller.

Ah, I sense that something troubles you. Is it that you wonder why so many of these ancient life-and-death mystic challenges feature puzzles that can best be described as old chestnuts? Why, you wonder, does the fate of the universe so often hang on one's ability to solve a Tower of Hanoi puzzle, or, Odin help us, yet another slider puzzle? Not to mention Klotski, Lights Out, and the dreaded Chess Problem. Well, let me tell you, Traveller. Saving the universe is indeed hard, but inventing engaging, challenging original puzzles is a lot harder. Besides, if presented cleverly, there is, unlike myself, still a lot of life left in those old favorites. You didn't complain while playing The 7th Guest, did you? Not every game designer is Rand or Robin Miller, you know.

And yet, still you are troubled. Am I correct in guessing that it is the rather overall dark look of my Utopia? You feel that the production values aren't quite up to those earlier classics? I'm sorry, Traveller. We are a small essentially two-person operation here (Alan Thorn and Marlies Maalderink), an independent publisher. We do the best we can. You will have noticed that the game installer also puts something called DX Studio Player on your computational device. I know this sort of thing makes you nervous, Traveller, but it is required to play the game. It's not a perfect world, Traveller. Just ask Fenrir.

What about the in-game music and the sound effects, Traveller? Those are acceptable, don't you think? Industrially new-agey without being intrusive. Ah, I sensed that you would be sensible about that. What's that? You admired my own suave voice characterization during the game? And the other major role, what of her? Ah. I am sorry to disappoint you, Traveller, but that honey-toned woman is not, as you so quaintly put it, a "babe," but in fact a supernatural wolf entity intent on devouring the universe.

I know that you are also disappointed that the game world is not quite as large or varied as you first imagined. And why only eight save slots? Now there’s a mystery. The length of the game is good, though, is it not? I believe twenty-five hours or so is standard in this age.

And you noticed the typo in the cryptogram? You say you wanted to leave no utone unturned? Very droll, Traveller. You know, at the end of the game you receive a choice. You can choose my way or Fenrir's way. You have free will, Traveller, which extends to getting the game either as a digital download or on a DVD. You will also find that the system requirements are rather modest, and, even better, that once you've installed the game you no longer require the DVD in your disk drive. Ah, I knew that would please you, Traveller.

May I inquire what your final verdict of my little game is, oh Chosen One? You say that despite some production shortcomings no doubt unavoidable in independent productions you were grateful to be able to play once again an intelligent, challenging, atmospheric first-person adventure-puzzle game. And you award the game a final grade of A minus. Thank you, Traveller, and farewell. Perhaps, sales figures permitting, we shall meet again one day.

Grade: A-
+ Intelligent, challenging, and atmospheric. 
Immersive story and intriguing environments.
Some minor production shorcomings.
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System Requirements:

    1 GHz or equivalent CPU, Higher Recommended
    Microsoft Windows 2000/XP/Vista/Windows 7
    1024MB RAM
    Microsoft DirectX 9.0c
    128 Mb graphics card with Shader Model 2.0
    1.5GB free hard disk space
    DVD-ROM Drive
    Features Optional Subtitles
    Supports Resolution: 1024x768
    Controls Supported: Mouse, Keyboard

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