Ring: The Legend of the Nibelungen
Windows - 1998
Also available on: Mac
Description of Ring: The Legend of the Nibelungen
Mother, what is the ring?
"That is what you must discover ISH."
In the German language, lied means song. In medieval times, however, a lied was more than a mere song but rather a long saga sung in verse telling of brave deeds. The equivalent in English may be a bard's tale or ballad. One such example of a sung verse, in Old English, is Beowulf. Another, in German, is the Nibelungenlied , a mystical tale of Germanic folklore and Teutonic mythology dealing with the gods of creation, their failings, loves, distresses, crimes and their inescapable fates. The Nibelungelied, or lied about the Nibelungen, is believed to have been written sometime around 1200 A:D. by an unknown Austrian poet. It's language is Middle High German, and the lied itself has been compared to Homer's Iliad in the way it links "half-forgotten myths and historical personages into a poem. (Shumway, 1909)."
The legends upon which the lied is based are much older. According to scholars, they were known to peoples along the Rhine and Danube rivers, on the upland plains of Southern Germany and even along the fjords of Norway. The Saxons took the legends to the Shetland Islands, Iceland and it is believed that they spread throughout Scandinavia during the 6th century becoming a permanent part of the Scandinavian folklore. Various versions and forms have come down intact throughout history to modern times, and children today from the various countries learn the myths which reflect their culture in school.
Der Ring des Nibelungen
Over the centuries, the Nibelungenlied has become the subject matter for varying artists and in some cases offered an obsession. The stories are basal in nature, much like those of Greek or Roman gods. Zeus' faithfulness lasted all of 5 minutes, or at least until the next distraction wandered by on the earth. Promises were broken, betrayal and love were all part of the scenery. And so it is in the Nibelungenlied, with a more earthy or salty flavor. One artist, the famous composer Richard Wagner was so engrossed with the legends that he not only wrote a magnificent opera based on the tales, but spent a great deal of his efforts to design the opera house, costumes and production so that the presentation would be exactly as he imagined. Such dedication to Der Ring des Nibelungen, or The Ring of the Nibelungen, brought something special to the music, and his alterations make a fascinating opera which in turn became in part the inspiration for Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.
The Ring is a new title by Arxel Tribe which is closely based on the opera by Wagner. Using excerpts from superb 1959 and 1965 recordings of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Georg Solti, the game brings to life a futuristic interpretation of Wagner's work. I must admit to you that I have a strong interest in folklore, faerie tales and legends and have collected works translated from Finnish, English, and German. I also like opera, although I have never seen a performance of the Nibelungen. When I saw this title on the shelves I could hardly believe that someone had taken the time to make a game based on Wagner's Nibelungen! I looked at it very suspiciously, and wondered if someone could really pull it off. I mean, an adventure game? What I discovered was 6 CDs of the most interesting, atmospheric adventure I have had the pleasure to play. And, if anyone thinks the classic adventure game is dead, I think you haven't played The Ring.
Wagner's opera is arranged as a Tetralogie, four parts taking place in four days. The opera begins with Das Rheingold, in which on the first day the dwarf Alberich, angry at the gods and bent on revenge, works to win the gold hidden in the eternal mists of the river Rhine. It is protected by the Rhinemaidens, the daughters of Wotan, who use sensuality and feminine charms to dissuade would-be seekers of the gold. The second day is devoted to Die Walkuere, or the Valkyries who struggle with the dilemma between love and loyalty. The third day revolves around Siegfried (or Siegmund) and his clash with a dragon. And in the final day, goes back in time to the origins of the cycle, to the first mistake of Wotan and reveals the source of his downfall and the destruction of the Valhalla which returns to the waters of the Rhine. (Don't worry I am not spoiling the story :).
Arxel Tribe has modified this underlying story, placing it in a futuristic-fantasy setting. The opening is well into the future, 2000 years from now, long after the earth has passed into the annals of history and the universe subject to extraterrestrial slavery. It begins with the arrival of a ship on an asteroid which becomes the base of the adventure. Here, the tale of ISH unfolds.
"ISH, the Metascient, the human survivor, who has been entrusted by a Goddess to search in the threshold of his memory for the threads of the legendary opera."
As ISH, you become the chosen one and must explore the legend through four other characters and learn the lessons of the Nibelungen. Thus, The Ring is made up of four parts (not including the prelude and conclusion) in which you explore the opera through the characters Alberich the dwarf, Loge the servant of Wotan, Siegmund the half wolf/half man son of Wotan, and Bruennhilde the Valkyrie. Through these characters you must solve the mystery of the Nibelungen ring. Interestingly, you do not have to play the characters in any specific order, although a linear approach does make the story less confusing.
The Ring 's gameplay is classic adventure, but advanced to take advantage of 3D technologies through DirectX. Each location can be viewed by scrolling around very fast in 360 degrees, plus looking up and down. This adds to the immersion and is done by moving the mouse off center toward the direction you would like to view. This viewing perspective when stationary is 1st-person, maintaining your relationship "as" the character currently played. Manipulations of puzzles or objects is generally 1st-person unless something specific occurs. Alternatively, moving through the game, by clicking at locations where the cursor changes to a motion symbol, is handled by a switch to 3rd-person animations, allowing you to see what you look like, how you move and behave. In addition, conversations take place in 3rd-person, so an animation showing your character speaking is played which cuts back and forth between the characters involved in the scene.
Motion is one of the impressive aspects of The Ring. The characters' movements flow in a very realistic way. Alberich is a fat, ugly dwarf. As he walks, his horrible appendage...yes, that belly, moves back and forth causing the skin above it to stretch and twist. Amazingly, he surfs brilliantly, as do all the god-like characters. Surfing upon futuristic boards, they move elegantly, balancing their weight when it is necessary to travel longer distances or through the air. Each character has their own body type and body language. Loge is thin, arrogant, stiff and self-assured. Siegmund, the warrior, moves as though tortured by his history, proud and with strength. While, Bruennhilde bursts with muscles and maintains the walk of Steffi Graf while the Rhinemaidens are sensuous and true to the legend. Obviously someone did a nice job with the motion capture.
Arxel Tribe it appears lovingly crafted this game. Coupling the detailed character models with beautiful scenery, which in turn interprets the music in a new and elegant way, produces some mind-blowing "levels." The story moves from the space ship to the mines of the Nibelungen, to forests, deserts, ice and the Rhine. The areas are not all that large, so that one does not explore forever searching for that one puzzle piece, and yet there are moments where they feel incredibly expansive. As if you really are standing on top of a temple, the sound of thunder in your ears as far off in the distance strikes of lightning blink and crackle in the sky. Wait...count the seconds before the sounds of thunder reach you after the strike. Now, that's immersive. This brings me to sounds which are wonderfully clear, and immensly detailed. Upon a lake you hear the ducks quacking away, or hear the creak of wood on a bridge, the leaves rustling in the wind, or the licking flames of fire. Not one sound, but many combined together.
The use of language in The Ring has to be the richest and most extended I have seen in a game. Words I had long forgotten after being away from literature studies (even through I read regularly) rolled off the tongues of characters like a symphony itself. The voice acting was truly delicious and throughout there was a thread of humor which was both dark and silly. I delight in beautiful language, and thoroughly enjoyed the scripting. The game comes in three languages which you can select upon installation, English, French and German.
Some of the editing however leaves some mysteries, intentionally, which I found at times difficult with respect to the story line. In the end, when I played out the game, all lines were tied together, if not as an answer then as an intentional mystery that we should not have the answer for. Language is used as a primary source for puzzle information. The text often times contains the clues you need, but not always. For instance, Siegmund does not speak to anyone for most of his part. Thus visual imagery plays a key role here.
This brings me to the editing. The majority of the game is extremely polished, there are some quirks in editing which feel a tad rough. These usually occur when there is a scene change combined with a change in the musical score. Each scene has a theme from Wagner's opera, for instance, Bruennhilde has initially the theme from "Flight of the Valkyries" (if you are unfamiliar with the opera, you may remember this score from the movie Apocalypse Now, to which Robert Duvall flew a group of helicopters over the water to land on a beach and force his soldiers to surf). There are some doors which she must enter, and upon entering the music changes to match the mood of the new area, these can feel a little abrupt, especially if you love your classical music intact. Also, in one section of Siegmund's story, instead of animated sequences, overlaid sketches of Wotan and Bruennhilde are used to enact a conversation. I was not sure if this was intentional or if they just finally had to meet a deadline and could not afford the time to animate the sequence. It was the only time this occurred.
In short, the game plays like an adventure movie. Mixing views, conversations and animations. Thus it is hard to not compare it in quality to a movie, even though logically, a game is not normally expected to be of that level.
The Ring has a combination of puzzles to offer the adventure gamer. The puzzles are overall well integrated into the game. They generally make sense with respect to the story and do not jolt you out of context. The difficulty level for me varied. It was sort of easy in the beginning and then got more difficult later in the game. At times, things would fall into place rapidly and then I would come to a puzzle which would stump me for a long time, then once solved the game would progress quickly again. Most of the puzzles have to do with object placement. You have an inventory which can be accessed by right clicking on the mouse. You can place objects into slots or containers by clicking on the object in inventory and then on the spot where you would like it to go. If it fits it will go in, if it doesn't nothing happens. Sometimes objects must be obtained in the right order before they will work. In one case, if you did not do things in the right order the puzzle was not solvable. Also, you can die and get to an end game screen, but that is rare.
In addition to object puzzles, there are sequence oriented puzzles...you must press or place buttons or objects in a certain way or rotate them in a particular fashion. There was one especially silly puzzle which had to do with numbers, and although I could finally see why the number was relevant, it was still ridiculous to think I might be able to guess it. There is also quite a nasty little music puzzle with an organ. It's all the more difficult because the music of Wagner is playing in the background disturbing your concentration on the notes of the organ. In the end it was not as hard as I made it out to be. An experienced puzzler should have no troubles with this game, and there are plenty of puzzles. It is not crammed with them, rather in between the long dialogues, some lasting up to 15 minutes, there are loads of puzzles to solve.
Technically, I did have one problem with The Ring. During two different episodes, Alberich and Siegmund, the game quit to windows. I wrote to Cryo Interactive for advice, and they offered to replace the CDs. However, before sending them off I did check the web-site and low and behold there was a 500KB patch to download that fixed the problem. I had no other problems after that. One thing that might get people bugged is the 250MB hard disk space requirement. I suggest more since I racked up 22MB of save games alone. So, for some people I imagine this will be a bit stiff.
The legend of the Nibelungen is adult in nature and extremely complex, and The Ring attempts to reflect the complexity of Der Ring des Nibelungen by Wager. Although I do remember studying Greek and Roman mythology in high school, so I guess I was adult to handle mythology then. It deals with adult themes, and uses imagery from the Celtic to the modern. Robotic like characters mix with those of ancient Egypt (Loge). Women are depicted in the tradition of the legend, the Rhinemaidens as seductive somewhat flighty creatures who are dressed, or colored to enhance their success at stopping an intruder. While Bruennhilde ripples with muscles, she still wears armor which shows off her muscular backside, but is deep-voiced and powerful yet loyal (to some extent). At the same time, Siegmund's sister is dressed in similar fashion to Siegmund symbolizing their common lineage. To comment on the recent issue of women in games, I had no problem with these representations as the Nibelungen is a legend from the middle ages, and although set in a modern context, the stories, and the characters developed over at least 1000 years are fairly and beautifully depicted and still true to the original nature of the legend. If there is one thing I dislike, due to my interest in original tales, it is a "Disneyfied" version of legends, and this is not the case with The Ring.
In essence, although at times there were minor editing glitches (abruptness) with some scene shifts, I found The Ring a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The game was quite long with an extensive, sumptuous script of character dialogue, four different episodes, and a cast of characters and personalities that have stood the test of time. The music was superb and the sound and visual effects ear and eye opening. Additionally, the interface is the traditional inventory based point-and-click adventure type and therefore the game retains an adventure feel. At no time is this an action game, you never have an action sequence that you must control, rather your puzzle solving brings rewards in the forms of dialogue and animated scenes. I was sad when the end came, however the ending was well scripted and you felt the slow drop of anticipation give way to explanation. Although not all was explained, leaving some mystery as to the complete legend. It may be, and I think I may have seen reference to it, that a second installment of The Ring (Ring II ) might come from Arxel Tribe. At least the ending left room to explore further the myths of the Nibelungen and the story of ISH. The Ring is a tasteful, artistically developed game right down to the credits. It exemplifies what can be done with 3D technology within the adventure format. I have no idea what Wagner would think of a game being made out of his opera, but he just might have found it a pleasant and visually shocking experience.
Review By GamesDomain
Comments and reviews
Rob Fried 2021-10-13 0 point
I've downloaded this. The first iso seems to work. Until I start a new game. Basically, I need to access the second ISO, for it to work. How do I do this? Answers on a postcard please.
gg 2021-10-01 0 point
what a weird yet entertaining adventure. Wish more devs now pushed weird plots, characters, and atmosphere like games used to do.
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