The Mystery of the Druids (PC)
CDV builds a mystery that includes Scotland Yard, Stonehenge, and the taste of human flesh in this puzzlingly bland old-school
By - Eric Bratcher
It has finally become an established, accepted fact, that despite a tiny market share and near-constant signs that the end could be near, the adventure game genre is not dead. That said, if games like The Mystery of the Druids keep showing up, customers may take matters into their own hands and put the genre out of its misery themselves.
The Mystery of the Druids opens with a cutscene depicting a large throng of strange robed figures gathered around an altar. They are configured in a torch-lit stone circle that looks very like a less decrepit Stonehenge. One of the robed figures holds what looks like a glowing pencil, and on the altar sit a number of babes in swaddling clothes. As the dark ceremony builds to a close, all but a few of the mysterious figures are consumed by what appears to be spontaneous combustion, and the pencil-wielder begins to laugh maniacally.
The player is then whisked to present day London, where you, a bumbling Scotland Yard detective named Halligan, are receiving an insult-laced drubbing (evidently a briefing) from your boss. You're assigned to track down a gruesome killer who leaves only the skeletons of his victims. Creepy. Your search will eventually lead you to Melanie Turner, an anthropologist (whom you actually control for some 10% of the game), and to the druids, a supposedly-extinct religious order of powerful wizard-priests.
Could the druids still be active? Could they be the cause of the murders? Could they be attempting to complete the ritual we saw begun in the opening cinema, in which the world would be given over to the rule of some ambiguous "evil" force? To find out, you must travel through time itself to unravel (cue music)� the mystery of the druids.
As compelling as that story synopsis may sound, the actual telling of the thing is quite mundane. The pace is slow, and nearly every character in The Mystery of the Druids is rude, surly, and uncooperative. Perhaps that's meant to be humorous, but it gets old fast. Also, the exposition-laden dialogue is both badly written and inconsistently delivered by the voice talent.
A more irritating shortcoming roosts in the conversation trees, which constantly discard lines you didn't yet speak, forcing you to end and restart nearly every conversation several times, unable to retrace your steps, just to hear all a character has to say. This redundant inconvenience becomes especially annoying during those times when an important clue is hidden somewhere in a character's dialogue tree.
The Mystery of the Druids' storyline occasionally flows in nonsensical directions, usually because Halligan does something idiotic. For example, at one point Halligan discovers a precious artifact the evil druids are also desperately seeking. But rather than carry said item on his person for safekeeping, Halligan instead hides it and wanders off to another room.
Naturally, it is immediately stolen, and you have to search it down all over again.
This haphazard storytelling runs through the entire game, right down to the ending confrontation, which feels cheesy, hollow, and unsatisfying because its resolution arrives out of nowhere. Does anything you did in the first 98% of the game matter at all? No, but a conversation you had with a bad guy five minutes ago holds the key to saving the entire world.