Rhiannon: Curse Of the Four Branches
December 13, 2008
Legends, myths, and magic spill into reality as an ancient battle for revenge envelopes a remote Welsh farmstead, threatening the very sanity of a lonely teenage girl.
Are reports of unexplained noises and strange visions by fifteen year old Rhiannon Sullivan merely the figments of an overactive imagination? Or does the history of her family's new home, Ty Pryderi, hold a terrible connection to a timeless struggle between man and magic?
Her parents take Rhiannon away, leaving Ty Pryderi to your watch and exploration, but their absence can only postpone an ancient inevitability of revenge and death.
The story is based on an ancient Welsh legend known as "The Mabinogion" and historical facts. These tales are about men, magic, and adventure. The legends were first written down around 900 years ago, but the Mabinogion collection only first appeared in 1795. It was later translated into English by Lady Charlotte Guest from 1838 to 1849. Mostly the story is about four of these legends known as the "Four Branches of the Mabinogi." Among other topics, these legends recount key events in the life of the nobleman, Pryderi. That name - and that of his nemesis, Llwyd - will crop up a number of times during the game. The game takes place in the Wales countryside of the United Kingdom. Beautiful houses and outbuildings in gorgeous outdoor settings are typical features of the area. There are also several mentions of the Greek classical elements - fire, earth, air and water. They represent the beginning of life or the end of it. They are also part of many magical stories.
You play the role of Chris (I assumed he was a friend of the family since nothing much was said about him during the game), and you have agreed to look after this part farmstead, part construction site while the owners, Malcolm and Jennifer ‘Jen' Sullivan take a break and remove their daughter Rhiannon to somewhere where she can convalesce for a while.
So have fun and do as Jen suggested and light a fire - the evenings can be chilly in this part of Wales. Don't forget to feed the cat and explore the home thoroughly. You may think you are alone at first, but the sounds and voices you hear as you make your way through the house tell you you are not.
Graphics and Gameplay
Rhainnon: Curse of the Four Branches is a first person point and click game. After installation, you no longer need the CD to play the game. In the main menu panel you can start a new game, load a game, save a game, see the credits, and quit. There is no option menu, so if you need to adjust the sound, you will need to do it from your computer setup. When you save, you can enter a description for your saved game. There are several different cursors including a spyglass for looking at objects, a large arrow to move forward, and a much smaller one to turn. Gears tell you an action is needed. You can access the main menu and the inventory by scrolling the cursor at the top of the screen. Unfortunately, there aren't any other characters to interact with, and you may feel lonely most of the time. Once in a while, you will have the impression that someone is very near. When you hear a chainsaw in the background, you will think someone is not far away. But when you go near where the sound came from, there is no one there. There are about 100 save slots, and they can be overwritten. I do recommend you save often as there are puzzles and things you need to do that take a lot of time. If you don't want to do them over and over again because you missed something, save often.
During the gameplay, you will collect several objects and will use most of them. The objects disappear from your inventory when you are done with them. Left click to pick up and right click to examine an item. Sometimes you won't be able to pick up an item until another event is triggered or until you find where to use it. Almost every object you pick up has a logical use - you won't have to rack your brain to figure out an item's purpose. Items can be seen in close-up mode by right clicking on them in the inventory. They can also be combined by first right clicking one and then left clicking the second item on the first.
You will pick up several documents, books, and letters. Some will be added to your inventory, and some will not. A hand will show you that pages can be turned, and you can turn the pages by moving your cursor to the far left or right of the document. When you left click, the cursor will change to the page turning hand cursor. You will need to read most of the documents you find, so don't skip any or you will miss something important. Even if navigation is a bit difficult sometimes, you will get used to it and develop a few tricks that will make your journey more enjoyable. There is also a bit of pixel hunting.
Light, dark, and all the shades between are used to great effect to make the atmosphere truly creepy. In other parts, bright colors are used to make the scenes in the game more lively. There isn't a lot of animation, and this is unfortunate as everything is almost stationary. There are a lot of details in each scene and lots of objects to interact with. Radio, TV, and computers are only a few of things you will have to use during the game. There are lots of places to visit, some of which will only be available when other events are triggered.
If you like inventory based puzzles, this is the game for you as they make up most of the puzzles. Most of them are very easy and logical. Several object combinations will need to be made. Your biggest task will be to figure out which objects go where and which ones need to be combined. You will have to solve a puzzle for each of the Greek classical elements. In these puzzles you will need to pair some items to get an action be able to move forward. You will also need to do that several times to finish each element puzzle. I thought these puzzles were fun and very interesting. You will get some clues about what to do next or about how to solve a puzzle, but sometimes the clues aren't very obvious. However, it will all make sense later in the game when the clue is needed.
Interesting facts about the game
- Easy to use inventory system
- A lot of objects to take or play with
- Alt-Tab friendly
- Reasonable length of gameplay (around 15 hours for me)
Dialogue and Sound
You are alone with no one to talk to. The only voices you hear from time to time are ghostly ones trying to scare you or to give you hints about your next step.
Even though there aren't a lot of them, the sound effects are good. Maybe because you are completely alone, the sounds in the house are creepy and make you feel like there is someone else there with you.
Don't expect a relaxing soundtrack as it wouldn't fit with the creepy atmosphere that the developer wants to establish. A few pieces of music are heard, but sometimes the silence is even scarier than the sound effects
Bugs and/or patches
I didn't encounter any bugs.
OS: Windows Me/2000/XP/Vista
Processor Speed: 1.0 GHz
RAM: 512 MB
Video card RAM: 32 MB installation
My computer specifications:
OS: Windows Vista SP1
RAM: 2 X 288Go
Processor: Intel (R) Core (TM) 2 Duo 3.00 Go
Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce 8500 GT
Sound: Onboard Sound Controller
Disk space: 1st 220 Go and 2nd 259 Go
Even though navigation was difficult sometimes and there wasn't a lot of animation or people to see or talk to, it wouldn't be the same spooky game if these elements were present. We hear a lot about the United Kingdom, but most of it is things you've never heard of before.
I loved the creepiness factor in the game, the beautiful graphics, and scenery. There are very interesting things to read, and they are all an integral part of the story. Sound effects are very good even though there aren't many of them. I would have to say they will make you want to play this game with all the lights on.
So step into Chris' shoes and solve the mystery surrounding you. If you are afraid, don't try to leave. It will be impossible until you are done investigating the events that took place here many, many years ago.
Rhiannon: Curse of the Four Branches
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