Sci-Fi Storm

Scourge of Worlds Special Collector’s Edition review

by on Feb.13, 2005, under General News

Scourge of Worlds Special Collector’s Edition is a re-release of a 2003 “Choose Your Own Adventure” interactive DVD with new scenes and endings added, along with the second disc with special features, set in th Greyhawk world of the venerable Dungeons and Dragons gaming universe. How does it fare? Read More to find out. It hits the streets this Tuesday (2/15).

Scourge of Worlds

Special Collector’s Edition is an interactive movie in the style of the old “pick

your path” books, where you reach decision points, and based on your decisions the

consequences will be different, and thus in this case the movie. It takes advantage of the

ability of DVD players to skip around chapters.

Originally released in 2003, this new Collector’s Edition includes two new possible endings

(for a total of six), 1100 possible paths, and a second disc which includes a traditional

“linear” movie (one of the possible paths), behind the scenes info, character, monster, and

scene galleries, a trivia game, and the trailer.

Set in the Dungeons and Dragons world of Greyhawk, Scourge Of Worlds is a fully

CGI-rendered adventure that deals with three characters that fans may recognize as the

“iconic” Greyhawk characters – Regdar the human fighter, Mialee the elf Wizard, and Lidda

the halfling rogue. They seek Barathion, the human cleric who stole a map to find the Aryx

Orthian, the “Scourge of Worlds”, an ancient weapon of incredible power. Along the way they

might encounter familiar monsters such as dragons, orcs, wolves, etc. depending on your choices.

As an old D&D player, I was quite interested in this title. D&D has not translated will into

mediums other than its pen-and-paper origin (the movie never happened, I tell you), with a few exceptions (the Neverwinter Nights PC game series was pretty good). It would be interesting to see how they could take such a difficult concept and make it interesting enough to keep the “player” involved, while still limited to DVD capacities.

The graphics were pretty well done (remember, the title itself is almost two years old now), mostly in the environments – surrounding scenes were done very well. Characters a little less so, even though they are really the focal point. The animation of the characters to me may have been the biggest problem. First, the mouth movements didn’t seem very natural. At some points, when the characters talk fast (most notably with Lidda), the mouth just seems to flutter. Also, some character movements, especially with the head, seem overemphasized. Lidda frequently seems to have her head cocked to one side while still looking forward and swaying. Fight scenes were OK, but seemed more akin to earlier motion-capture technologies than more modern ones. There was one fight scene where Barathion is fighting multiple wolves with his big mace, which to me seems very fluid and realistic – when you have a massive weapon, you keep it moving – you can’t just stop it mid-swing. I haven’t found the dragon yet, but I’d like to see how it is rendered. The Beholder seemed a bit comical, reminiscent of the Angler fish in Finding Nemo.

Story-wise it is difficult to judge since it is a multiple-path system, but it certainly seemed reasonable in its limited medium. The characters don’t really develop since there isn’t time, and it took a bit to figure out who they were (there may have been a slight assumption that people were familiar with the characters). There is some humor injected into the conversations, but sometimes it seems forced, and conversational delivery seemed a bit off – but from a comment in the behind the scenes featurette, it appears the dialog was not recorded together but edited later.

The multi-path aspect was interesting. I was expecting something pretty limited – a simple decision tree, with some cases where your choices will show different scenes but in the end merge back in to the same resulting spot, but that at least does not appear to be the case. I don’t know what the decision tree actually looks like, but it does appear that earlier decisions affect future results, even though some interim points may be common.

I played through it twice so far, and came across two VERY different endings, along with a third shown in the linear movie. I can tell you at least one ending does not end well for our adventurers, so there are definitely consequences to your decisions.

In terms of D&D, it does seem to adhere close to the rules of the game, whereas other attempts to bring it to the media used the D&D more as a selling point instead of a framework.

For the special features disc, you can watch the linear movie for the “lazy” way to see one possible story line. There is a small trivia game where you answer questions about the story, and get to see some of the scenes, perhaps some you didn’t see before – but some of the questions seem to assume you’ve seen several of the paths.

There are a couple of short “behind the scenes” featurettes as well. However, two of the menu selections, “Pre-Production” and “Concepts”, seem to point to the same featurette. I don’t know if this is an error in design or not – perhaps there is a feature on the disc you can’t get to. Also, my primary DVD player (a second-gen Playstation 2 – the one with the built-in IR receiver) was unable to select “Trailer” from the menu – I just couldn’t find any direction from any other selection that would wind up there. I was able however to put the disc in my computer and select it by clicking on it.

The galleries were pretty well done. The Environment gallery lets you choose from several locations where you get to see a “fly-through” animated view of the location. Characters and Monsters give some of the sketchwork and then a rotating rendered view of the selection, with some data – the characters give their types, level and abilities, but not their stats for the D&D junkies…

In short, we are not talking about award-winning entertainment or ground-breaking technology, but what I think is a very good early attempt and exploring the interactive capabilities of DVD players with the genre. I’d like to see a more extensive story but that’s not really possible with current capacity limits. Perhaps Blu-Ray and HD-DVD will allow for more. The animation could be improved with more current MC and voice sync technologies, so future titles should be able to improve on this one. Personally it has captured my interest enough that I’ll be trying to find the other three endings and the dragon I saw in the featurette…

Addendum: You CAN get to the trailer from the menu on a standard DVD player. When on one of the other items, push the appropriate arrow key to select Trailer. The highlight doesn’t move, but if you hit Enter anyways, you should get the trailer.

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