2009 Reviews

The Precursors

  • Review Date: 2011-12
  • Release Date: 2009-12
  • Developer: Deep Shadows
  • Rating: 5.0

The Precusors is Deep Shadow's third game, released just a year after White Gold. White Gold I played first and enjoyed it, though it had some small things that spoiled it. The mouse movement was off, the requirement to get so much money through side missions, the vehicle handling. But the open world looked fantastic and it's a very under-rated game.

The Precursors is an even bigger cult hit. Definitely not mainstream because most of the bigger critics missed both these games, but the sci-fi universe of The Precursors is what won a lot of players over. Unfortunately, while very similar to White Gold (in gameplay not location), it's an unfinished game.

White Gold clearly had a feeling of progression through the story, culminating in a massive battle (or sprint in my case) on a surreal island past dozens of violent Indians. The Precursors, on the other hand, just suddenly ends. For me I was expecting to be only halfway through the game.

Deep Shadows actually set up an interesting story. It is set in a futuristic sci-fi environment where many political factions are engaged in an intergalactic war. The Precursors themselves were an ancient and mythical race that disappeared a long time ago leaving strange high-tech pyramid artifacts behind on many astral bodies. One of these artifacts was turned on, blowing up an entire world. So you get to a point where you've found the scientist that turned the artifact on and... the end. I guess this is a game that was supposed to have sequel, though it probably never will.

While it's shorter than White Gold, it's still well over 10 hours long with many many more hours on top of that if you want to do all the side missions. So in terms of play time, it's three times longer than a lot of shooters these days. But RPG's are expected to be a bit longer, and not just end unexpectedly. I really didn't do many side missions, simply because, unlike White Gold, they weren't necessary. I had plenty of items in my inventory and stored on my ship, I had way more money than I could ever have used up, so I just didn't feel the need to dick around with side missions.

There's probably, at a guess, 20 planets in the Precursors universe, half of which are uninhabitable, while I visited probably 5 planets. Which means by not doing side missions I missed at least 2-3 planets, perhaps more that I didn't spot. If you're going to go to the effort of creating these fantastic looking lands, put them into the main plot so I can see them! Having an entire universe was impressive, much more so than White Gold which was just a cluster of islands in the Carribbean. This game felt BIG.

But with the areas White Gold stumbled on, Precursors wasn't so noticeable. Instead it just has it's own set of problems.

Let's go through them:

• The mouse movement is even worse than White Gold. It's constantly making me miss enemies in precise movements.

• The vehicle stearing is wobbly, but I didn't notice is so much. Perhaps I'm just getting used to it? Landing a helicopter was still frustrating. But actual vehicles did feel better than White Gold.

• Combat is a big issue, or lackthereof. I probably only killed a few dozen enemies in the entire game. Where's the action and combat? The main action missions all involved you being massively outnumbered and always in a helicopter or vehicle, so you spent all your time sneaking/sprinting around enemies. Perhaps I was just supposed to kill them, but I didn't feel the need. I'd only be using up my resources and decreasing my faction points. And I want to get on with my mission, not spend an hour slaughtering an army camp one soldier at a time.

• Human enemies are much tougher as they have shields and require a lot of ammunition to kill, which was annoying compared to White Gold's enemies that drop fairly quickly.

• Some things aren't too intuitive. I'm still clueless as to how i'm supposed to upgrade my ship. Where's a proper tutorial or help section?

• The space sim sections I didn't enjoy. Enemy ships were hard to hit and find. Perhaps others won't mind this part of the game, which does keep you busy for at least an hour, but I did not and was glad when it was over.

• There was one situation where I had no fuel left in my ship for hyperdrive and I was stuck on a planet. I couldn't refuel anywhere on the planet, and I need fuel to reach the space station just in orbit. I ended up having to slowly fly around the planet for ages, without hyperdrive, until I found the space station.

Where The Precusors excels is in it's design. The different worlds, the size and scope and open world navigation are all fantastic. The planets all look quite different and can be impressive. Especially considering there's no load times. White Gold is pretty, but we've seen tropical islands before in Far Cry. The Precursors looks very unique and has a very solid engine supporting it's graphics. It's little wonder it's a cult hit when we have such a fantastically developed universe of races and cities.

I just wish there was a bit more combat and the game was actually finished. Another few hours to wrap up the main story would have done it, and it's not like they didn't have other planets that could have been used. As such, White Gold is the superior game.

Final note: there's an English version available, but make sure you apply the patches and sound fixes here.