Spanning three continents, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis finds our intrepid hero embroiled in a deadly race against the Third Reich to discover the secrets of Atlantis. With the help of archaeologist-come-psychic and ex-flame Sophia Hapgood, Jones attempts to foil the Nazi’s diabolical plans, save the world, and get the girl…again.
From the outset, Fate of Atlantis is exceptional, with an interactive introductory sequence that sees Jones repeatedly battered whilst exploring a collection of artifacts at Barnett College, looking for an unusual statue for the antiquities collector “Mr. Smith.” With the statue located and unlocked, a bead of the mythical Atlantean metal orichalcum is discovered. Smith threatens Jones and escapes with the artifact, though not before Indy recovers his jacket in a struggle, finding a passport exposing “Smith” as Nazi spy Klaus Kerner, and a magazine article featuring Jones and Sophia Hapgood. Fearing she is in danger, he goes to New York to track her down. We soon find out that ten years prior to the events of Fate, the two worked together on an expedition in Iceland, from which the latter stole artifacts. Through one such artifact, a necklace, Sophia "channels" the spirit of Atlantean King Nur-Ab-Sal, and has become an expert authority on Atlantis. She reveals the Nazis are hunting for orichalcum, an awesome source of energy that can power trucks, airplanes and bombs, ultimately assuring Nazi world domination.
Fate of Atlantis is fortunate in that, unlike its predecessor Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the story is not confined to the limits of the movie franchise. Instead, Fate of Atlantis enters uncharted territory with a highly original plot based upon the legend of Atlantis, the fantastically advanced city, which legendarily sank beneath the waves. Although the plot here is fictional, it is strongly based upon popular Atlantean lore, with the game manual listing a bibliography. Such research is impressive, and gives Jones' somewhat unbelievable discoveries an air of authenticity. Despite this originality, Fate never forgets its source, with abundant references to the movie franchise. On one path, Jones is confronted by a boulder, precariously balanced on a ledge. "You know, I can't put my finger on it, but this boulder looks vaguely familiar," he quips delightfully. Gamers will rejoice in this combination of original plot and movie references to create a thoughtful title, instead of a shoddy, overpriced cash-in.
The characters populating Fate of Atlantis are colourful and lively, from sharp trader Omar Al-Jabbar, to an egomaniacal German scientist. The chemistry between the two lead characters, particularly in the team path provides an interesting dynamic due to the combination of two abrasive personalities; that of psychic and believer Sophia, and the other the pragmatic, cynical Jones. This is a source of much humour as the two characters make continual snipes at one another. Although characters are arguably less developed than in games such as Microïds’ Syberia, this is true to the spirit of the original films, in which clichés and stereotypes were also utilised to allow focus on the action-packed plot.
Fate of Atlantis utilises the classic SCUMM interface seen in other LucasArts games such as Monkey Island 2, with verbs such as "use,” "pick up" and "talk to," yet it is unique in the incorporation of different sequences throughout the game. In the course of the adventure, Jones is called upon to pilot a hot air balloon, commandeer a German U-Boat and race through the streets of Monte Carlo. The only weakness is the arcade-style fight sequences, with their rudimentary punch and block functions. These sequences are, however, still a vast improvement from those in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade; in Fate Indy recovers more of his health between fights, and purists will be pleased with the addition of a "sucker punch" key that will automatically KO opponents at the expense of a few Indy Quotient points.
The VGA graphics used in Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis are similar in style to those in Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, which (though perhaps now looking dated in light of modern developments) were breathtaking at the time of original release. The colourful streets of Algiers and imaginative scapes of subterranean Atlantis are rendered in beautiful detail, complimented by smooth animations and fantastic cut-scenes.
The musical score is superb, which along with the exhilarating main Indiana Jones theme embraces a range of styles to suit the location Indy is exploring. In Tikal soft strains of pan-pipes can be heard, whilst the music during confrontational scenes heightens the impression of danger. Unlike many other LucasArts adventure games, it is possible to die in Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. Dangerous situations are, however, clearly signposted, and, after all, one can hardly expect to confront the Nazi hordes and escape completely unscathed. Playing the CD-ROM version of Fate, I benefited from an enhanced audio score, though due to unfortunate compatibility issues was unable to receive spoken dialogue. The only problem with the game are some technical issues associated with newer systems, though it will run comfortably in Windows ’95 and ’98.
The challenges in Fate range in difficulty, depending largely upon the "path" chosen by the gamer. Puzzles are generally logical or require a degree of lateral thinking, though not the zany sense of humour demanded by games such as Day of the Tentacle. Challenges include traditional dialogue puzzles, object hunts and inventory based challenges. The first segment of the game, where Jones must search for the Lost Dialogue of Plato presents a gentle learning curve, though the difficulty soon increases. Perhaps the most striking feature of game play is the ability to choose a "path" according to your own tastes. You can continue your quest alone and unaided on the "wits" path, or be accompanied by Sophia, who provides hints on how to proceed in the "team" path. Those preferring a brawn over brain approach can select the "action" path, involving fewer or simplified puzzles, but more fighting. Each of these paths interweaves, so gamers experience the same locations but in different scenarios, before the paths converge for the denouement in Atlantis.
The originality and innate re-playability of Fate stems from the different ways in which gamers can approach puzzles. For example, one of the first challenges is to gain entry to a theatre in which Hapgood is lecturing. A doorman bars your way, but can be overcome in a number of ways; by reasoning with him, starting a fight, or by finding an alternative entrance. The more inventive your approach, the more IQ (Indy Quotient) points are earned. Ingeniously, based upon your approach to these early puzzles, in a short sequence where Sophia "reads your mind" the computer suggests the path to which you are best suited. You are free, however, to select any path of your choice, and a saved game slot for the decision is highly recommended.
Fate of Atlantis is a true classic, worthy of every adventure gamer’s collection. The epic plot is involving and suspenseful, putting you in the shoes of the world's most famous archaeologist as he single-handedly wards off the forces of evil. Effectively three games in one, due to the multiple paths, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis offers excellent value for money, with re-playability, a fantastic musical score and lively characters combined to create an exceptional gaming experience. I thoroughly recommend buying a game that forever raised the bar in the adventure gaming genre.
Editor's note: (Those attempting to run Fate of Atlantis on a newer machine are strongly advised to use ScummVM.)