Belief & Betrayal (PC) review
"Belief & Betrayal is the latest adventure title from Italian developer Artematica Interactive, the company behind such horrors as the horrible Druuna game from 2001. Seven years later, and things haven't moved on all that much. The back-story and introduction are essentially made up of badly paced, unconvincing and uninteresting drivel. The blokes at Artematica seem to have tried reeling in the 'Da Vinci Code' crowd with an entirely unimaginative narrative centred around conspiracies within the Catholic Church, but the plot lacks so much conviction that it was always going to be impossible to pull off."
I had to restart Belief & Betrayal twice within the first hour. To begin with, I did some things in the wrong order and it broke the opening puzzle, then shortly afterwards one of the menus froze on the left of the screen and wouldn't budge even after reloading the game.
Good start, then.
Belief & Betrayal is the latest adventure title from Italian developer Artematica Interactive, the company behind such horrors as the horrible Druuna game from 2001. Seven years later, and things haven't moved on all that much. The back-story and introduction are essentially made up of badly paced, unconvincing and uninteresting drivel. The blokes at Artematica seem to have tried reeling in the 'Da Vinci Code' crowd with an entirely unimaginative narrative centred around conspiracies within the Catholic Church, but the plot lacks so much conviction that it was always going to be impossible to pull off. Jonathan Danter is a terrible protagonist, seemingly incapable of displaying a single convincing emotion, even despite his uncle's recent murder and an attempt on his own life. Leading lady and second playable character Kat McKendal is somewhat more plausibly scripted and acted, but unfortunately she is a rarity in the game. Frustratingly, none of the fairly limited cast of characters displays any real depth, instead relying on cultural and social stereotypes to build their nondescript personalities.
The player controls three different characters in total, though for the most part it's just Jonathan (interestingly shortened to a somewhat feminine 'Jo') and Kat who need to be guided around a game world spanning a number of famous cities around the globe. It's all a simple point-and-click affair, with disappointingly little interaction with the environment, but it works well enough, and the control system is smooth and consistent. Artematica have opted to allow the player to switch freely between the active characters, who more often than not decide not to stick together for some inexplicable reason. The problem is that there really aren't many opportunities to utilise this system. Aside from a handful of puzzles, it's usually perfectly adequate to play through each person's section in turn, allowing the game to switch to the next chacacter automatically when the time is right.
The thing that really lets the gameplay down is the lack of any real guidance for the player. While the controls may be straightforward and the puzzles fairly standard, it still took me about half an hour to find the inventory. If you're going to have the player access menus by hovering the mouse over a certain area of the screen, it's usually a good idea to say so early on.
The 3D character models employed here are passable at best: lifeless drones skimming unconvincingly over the pretty but pre-rendered surface. Visually, the whole effect isn't bad – in fact, some of the environments verge on eye-candy status – but it's nothing groundbreaking, and we could be forgiven for expecting better from a 2008 release. Sound is inconsistent, with a few irritating volume changes and stutters, and that god awful, incessant music is so offputting that players will struggle to leave it on without screaming. A lazy, looped score is the order of the day in each of the locales, and although its quality thankfully increases during cut-scenes, it's hardly going to win any awards.
Perhaps I'm taking it all too seriously. There are shades of humour throughout, and I admit to cracking a smile early on when Danter assumes the alias of 'Daniel Brown'. At least it acknowledges the author it’s plagiarised. The plot does pick up pace around half way through as well, with an admittedly unexpected twist and a much-needed change of scenery. The thing is, it's a narrative that takes itself far too seriously for any of the mediocre jokes to fit, yet it's far too overblown and clichéd not to be a comedy. The result is an awkward, cumbersome story, one that never really finds its own feet. It’s over rather abruptly too: determined players will easily be able to bash their way through the uninventive puzzles and tasks in a day or so, probably just a few hours with a walkthrough open. By the final chapter, you’re likely to be at least vaguely interested in what's going to happen – but when the opening is as drab and buggy as that of Belief & Betrayal, it's questionable whether anyone will persevere for long enough to find out.
Freelance review by Lewis Denby (June 11, 2008)
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