2008 Reviews

White Gold: War in Paradise (Xenus II)

  • Review Date: 2011-12
  • Release Date: 2008-10
  • Developer: Deep Shadows
  • Rating: 6.5

Deep Shadows are a Russian developer with creative aspirations for their games. They released White Gold in 2008 and The Precursors a year later; both massive action RPG's. I gave Precursors a shot, but gave up five minutes in because the control were completely wonky and the very first human enemies were far too hard. After about 4-5 attempts I still couldn't kill them, so if I can't even get past the very first enemies, what can I expect when I get further into the game? I didn't care to find out, although evidentally the rest of the game isn't quite so bad. Besides, the visuals were a bit garish and strange and White Gold got better reviews. (Note: I did eventually play The Precursors, ).

White Gold also had a bit of a fight to start off the game, but easily survivable. And in fact most of the game has quite fair combat, although I did play on easy. The same strange movement returned in White Gold but perhaps it wasn't quite as bad. I can't put my thumb on what it is, but my aim in this game is terrible. Something to do with the mouse-look movement makes it hard to be precise, unlike most games where you could point your cursor on an enemies head from a block away, all while jumping around. In White Gold I usually had to come to a complete stop quite close to the enemy to aim properly with the shotgun at least, not helped by it being hopeless at range. But still, since I was playing in easy difficulty, it wasn't too much of a problem. And the combat is only a small part of White Gold, perhaps 15%.

First I'll explain the gameplay. You play in a free-roaming world with vast open areas and a multitude of land, air and water vehicles to get you around. The game's events take place in water-separated islands in the Caribbean basin - at a guess I'd say around 15km's across. There are several different factions including Civilians, Government, Mafia, Guerrillas, Bandits, Natives and CIA operatives. So you spend much of the time doing missions for these factions - or at least four of them.

There's a clear main mission, and then sub-missions for the factions. The problem is the main mission gets to a point where you need a lot of money to proceed, and you can only get money by doing the sub-missions. The sub-missions can be time-consuming and often don't pay that much, so you can spend a great deal of time doing them. And usually it's at the expense of another faction, so while some factions you may work with, others will be out to kill you.

One problem I struck halfway through the game was that I had managed to stay in favours with the Government, Mafia and Guerrillas (while Bandits hated me), but they'd all run out of missions for me. I had to find other leaders of their factions for further missions and I had absolutely no idea where the were. I could literally spend a day exploring the islands trying to find the correct person to give me further missions. There's no guidance on the main map where factions reside or any indication what island the leaders are on. Eventually by chance I did find the leader I needed to and could continue on my merry way, but I was very close to giving up on the game because at this time I had tonnes of money I still had to earn. With hours of gameplay like to occur just to get to that point unless I could find the faction leader? No thanks Deep Shadows. And I guess that's part of the problem - some of the sub-missions are a little boring. Especially when you're required to travel large distances at times. You can easily spend several minutes in a boat trying to get to another island. In the end I had to bind the arrow keys to movement and just hold 'forwards' while I watched TV.

It's a shame because White Gold has so much promise. The huge island-ridden area looks really good. The textures, detail, lighting - it's not what you'd expect from a budget Russian developer. Sure, it doesn't look as good as S.T.A.L.K.E.R. or the dozens of Unreal Engine 3.0 games lately, but it's good enough for 2008. Clearly comparisons would go straight to Far Cry, as they are similar looking games. Far Cry had a bit more variety in it's design, but it wasn't a true open world either. White Gold has almost zero loading! I counted three loading screens after 15 hours of gameplay.

And that's more time than I spend on most standard shooters, so while I couldn't finish White Gold, I think that's plenty of time to form a decent opinion about it.

The other thing I have to mention is the amount of mucking around to get this game working. If you get the English version, you're not done yet. You need to get the official Russian patch, then the unnofficial Wesp patch (from a gamer that fixes additional bugs) - both available from . Followed by the 1.5gb download of the Russian sound files which are missing from the English version. Without them, the game has almost zero audio. How it could have been released in this state is beyond me, but I believe the English version wasn't an official publisher release.

Overall, White Gold shows much promise, even with it's high aims. The island settings all look good and if you were impressed by Far Cry then you'll feel right at home here. The combat is decent, despite it's wobbly aim. The enemies actually aren't too bad in the A.I. department - they'll retreat and flank! Most of the missions are enjoyable and there's tonnes to do for the different factions, even the civilians. Where it falls flat is the requirement to do so many of the sub-missions to get enough money to proceed in the game, and eventually it gets too time-consuming to get that money. It shouldn't be almost a requisite to complete sub-missions.

There isn't that much more wrong with White Gold, apart from it's ridiculously sensitive vehicle control. Unlike the similarly ambitious S.T.A.L.K.E.R., also mixing action/RPG which even with huge player mods still has way too many things that need fixing. Which game is better? S.T.A.L.K.E.R. quite easily. But White Gold was far less frustrating and a bit easier with less combat. It's much more of an RPG than S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is, and does the RPG elements better. I'm just not quite patient enough and need a bit more action in my gaming.