Lost: Via Domus Review
By Michael Richter |
If these numbers mean nothing to you, then little if anything in Ubisoft's Lost: Via Domus will make a damned bit of sense. Based on ABC's popular drama, the videogame version of Lost does nothing to embrace people who've never seen the show. Via Domus gives fans a view of first two seasons of the show through the eyes of a brand new character, Elliott. A previously unseen survivor of crashed Oceanic flight 815, Elliott finds himself suffering from amnesia -- and suffering through a weak adventure game to boot.
Lost: Via Domus is broken into seven chapters that play out like missing episodes of the TV series. Each chapter begins with "previously on Lost" clips, a hook followed by the classic Lost floating logo intro, and ends with a cliffhanger. It's a smart set-up and does indeed give the feeling of a Lost episode. The authenticity ends the first time you run into a character from the show. Ubisoft only managed to secure a few Lost actors to do VO -- and most have small roles in the game. The lead characters from Lost -- Sawyer, Locke, Kate and Jack -- are all voiced by sound-a-likes. The Locke "sound-a-like" plays him as an old timey prospector and Sawyer may actually have been voiced by Huckleberry Hound. For a licensed game, the lack of star power is a major drawback.
But you're a Lost fan, right? So of course you will soldier on. You can perhaps convince yourself that one of the Island's mysterious powers is making people sound like they came out of a cartoon.
Via Domus is wisely set up as an adventure game. This makes perfect sense for a property like Lost, where exploration is more common than action. In each episode you'll talk to characters from the show, trudge through the jungle and live through one of Elliott's flashbacks.
The conversation system is smart with different categories to sort your options. You can ask quest-related questions, general questions, get information on items in your inventory or trade items with another character. The general questions are the kinds of things we often see in licensed games that give background information to people unfamiliar with the property. The funny thing about Via Domus is that the characters' dialogue matches that of the show. So when you ask Sawyer why he was on Flight 815, he tells you to mind your own beeswax. And if you try and get any background on Kate, she remains cryptic. It's a good laugh for fans of the show, but will be frustrating to the uninitiated.
The trading system works well, even though there's little need to trade for anything outside of torches or a lantern. You will find coconuts, bottles of water and even a few books on the beach and in the jungle which act as currency on the island. Each item has a unique value that can be used to "buy" items from certain castaways. The trick is that there's no such thing as change, so you will need to be smart about which items you trade so as to equal the exact value of the items you're receiving.
You will need to trade for torches or a lantern, because a few of the earliest quests have you exploring some dark caves. This is the survival horror portion of the game, apparently. When in a cave, you will need to use some light or else your heart begins to race and then the darkness somehow kills you. There are random spills of water and swarms of bats that knock out your light, but it's otherwise fairly easy to keep from being killed in the dark. Navigating the caves can be a little tricky as there are some dead ends and looping paths meant to disorient you. Some will hate this element, but it felt like classic adventuring to me, so I didn't mind it.
The more annoying exploration element is traversing through the jungle. Here it is easy to get disoriented, so you will need to use a series of flag markers to negotiate your way through the jungle. When you reach a marker, press the appropriate key and you will be pointed towards the next marker. Trouble is the black smoke is patrolling the jungle looking to kill trespassers. If you don't know what I mean by "black smoke," again, this is not the game for you. When you hear the smoke nearing, you need to run into a thicket of trees and hide. But this changes your orientation, making it difficult to figure out which way you were originally heading.