Death Gate


Review by · September 17, 2000

One of my friends once read a book series called “The Death Gate Cycle”, and in these books, a character named Haplo has the power to alter reality by drawing magical runes in the air. He then decided to try this himself, but sadly, it didn’t work (He’s not too bright). However, he did ask me to read the books, and after I did, I thought that it was a worthwhile experience, even if it did take too long. This has very little to do with anything, but my review needed an opening. Now, let’s go on to Death Gate.

The second millennium is drawing to a close. Mankind has grown to be a technological powerhouse, but in the process, it has insulted the nature loving elves, scared off the machine loving dwarves by trying to enslave them, and has lost all connection to the Wave. Magic has gone, and the Wave is upset. Mankind nearly destroys itself and the Earth as well in a nuclear war, and the survivors struggle to live. Elves and dwarves emerge from hiding, but they also suffer in the aftermath of the apocalypse. All seems lost as man lives without power to support himself. But the Wave is now settled.

Mutants arise from the gene pool of mankind, and they have the gift of being able to link into the Wave, alter the Wave, and thus alter existence by dancing and singing their runes into structure with outward gestures. They call themselves Sartan, and they seek order for all peoples. By making themselves appear as gods before the other races, the Sartan began to rule over them. Society returned, and peace settled across the earth. The Wave was forced to one side by this action, and an unbalanced Wave will fix itself in any way possible.

The Patryns are mysterious, and not even the Sartan know how they came into existence. Although they can link into the Wave, they have different methods than the Sartan. The Patryns tattoo runes onto their bodies and form them in the air with their hands, while the Sartan use only spiritual methods. The Patryns wish for destruction of all opposition to them and a just enslavement of all the inferior races, while the Sartan act as strict parents to their inferiors, guiding them instead of forcing them. Even the hair color of the Sartan is opposite to that of the Patryns. War breaks out between the two groups. The Wave is balanced.

The war ends surprisingly. The vicious Patryns had nearly wiped out the kindly Sartan, but then the Sartan used the mysterious ultimate weapon and shattered the world into five realms. The Patryns were cast into a prison called the Labyrinth. The Wave is losing balance.

It is the end of the third millennium. You, Haplo, have just exited the Labyrinth with your life, but you still owe much to your Lord Xar, who bravely enters the Labyrinth again and again in order to save other Patryns trapped within. You have been chosen to lead the Patryns to victory over their hated foes. You must now begin your quest to return the earth to one piece. Do not reveal your true nature. Do not attract attention. Do not disappoint your race.

Death Gate is mainly an item gathering, strategy puzzle game. As Haplo, you must explore the worlds of air, fire, earth, and water in order to gather information on your enemies and gain access to other worlds. You collect various items, use them in certain ways in certain situations, and then explore the new area you’ve opened. There are many people to talk to, and by saying the right things, you can get them to assist you in various ways (Or blow your head off. Just don’t insult them too much).

Also, as a Patryn, you get the added advantage of rune magic. By going to your magic screen and putting the right collection of runes together, you can perform various mystical feats. Try casting the heat and cold spells on everything you see for that childish humor we all love.

The occasional puzzle mini game will pop up, but these are all rather easy and short, giving very little to the fun of the game, but the game itself is very enjoyable. There is more than one way to finish the game, giving it some replay value as well. I liked the simple little game myself, so I give Gameplay an 86%.

The graphics in Death Gate were surprisingly good. My usual complaint about puzzle games is that the backgrounds don’t do anything, and no matter how good they are in themselves, that’s just not enough to make a game. Death Gate solves this problem. First of all, the backgrounds are all very high quality, but that depends on if you pick high or low resolution. Secondly, animation is added to the background occasionally, allowing spiders to snap their teeth at you, snakes to hiss, and dead people to wobble around on their feet. Although every game has that now, it’s still nice to see, and besides, this game’s a little old.

When talking to people, you get a nice little portrait of their face on the screen, showing their mouths move, foreheads crease, and other emotional movements as well. Finally, short, fuzzy cut scenes were added (Not exactly FMVs, but they still were nice), and the ending movie is a reminder of what we had before FF7. Although it wasn’t revolutionary, it was still done very well, and Graphics get a 92%.

The music in Death Gate was beautiful. Each area in the game had its own little song, and each one fit beautifully. I don’t know what else I can say about the music, but I do have to mention that a few songs did get monotonous after a while, but not very. Every spoken piece of dialogue was voice acted, and each character was portrayed almost perfectly in this way (Zifnas the man). There were a few places where what they said seemed a little corny, but it was all done very well.

The sounds were scarce, but nice. Fires crackled, bees buzzed, tiger men roared, and everything that made noise did it well. Sound/Music gets a 90%.

The storyline turned me off. First of all, the game was only “based” on the novels by Weis and Hickman, and that means that the story can be changed as much as it needs to be changed. However, I have never seen anything get shrunk as much as this fine reading experience was. Main characters were shot down left and right, and the survivors were given merely a few seconds to play out their parts. A few quests were added, but these don’t come close to making up for what was left out. The dialogue was mauled as well, and all that’s left is a shell of its former self (Those mean, old programmers). One CD is definitely not enough to show the story, and I give Storyline a 65% for ruining a good book.

Each of the Death Gate novels is approximately 450 pages long. There were seven of these. If you multiply 450 by seven, you get (hmm…) 3150 pages. No company, no matter how skilled, can cram that much of a story into one old CD. Although they did make something that was pretty and sounded nice, they failed when it came to a plot. Overall, the Death Gate books get a 94%, while the Death Gate game gets an 82%.

Gameplay – It’s humorously easy to get killed. Make sure you try the Self Immolation spell at least once. 86%
Graphics – It’s prettier than a little red wagon going over a hill. 92%
Sound/Music – Wherever you go, the band will follow. 90%
Overall – Back in my day, we had really big plans. You know, huge plans. These were really, really big plans. I mean, these plans made other really big plans look pretty small… 82%

Overall Score 82
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Andrew DeMario

Andrew DeMario

Andrew went by several names here, starting as a reader reviewer under the name Dancin' Homer. Later known as Slime until we switched to real names, Andrew officially joined RPGFan as a staff reviewer in 2001 and wrote reviews until 2009. Andrew's focus on retro RPGs and games most others were unwilling to subject themselves to were his specialty.