Game and Book Retrospectives

Indiana Jones and the Fate and Atlantis

PC - Lucasarts, 1996

The Fate of Atlantis is the perfectly realised Indiana Jones formula on PC. Action, mystery and travelling to exotic locations to find ancient artifacts. The story in particular is a perfect fit for Indy, with just the right balance of grounded fact and mythical tales, especially compared to some of the 90s cash-in novels, and indeed the subsequent 4th film.

As usual for old releases, the GOG version is the best place to experience this Lucasarts classic, which is often hailed as one of the best in the genre. Released in 1992, the superior 'talkie' version was released a year later on amazing CD-ROM technology, containing full voice acting.

Indy is voiced by Doug Lee, who puts in a great performance. Combined with the more whimsical Lucasarts characterisation, he makes it enough his own that by the end you won’t miss Harrison Ford. Jane Jacobs is equally great as Sophia, and the voice acting really sells the chemistry between them, which makes the ‘Team’ path a must.

They don't make them like they used to.

Aside from the voice acting, there are other huge improvements over its predecessor, The Last Crusade. A much improved version of the SCUMM engine and much better art, especially over the original EGA version. As always, the character Lucasarts can inject into so few pixels still impresses today. Fantastic music and sound effects add to the atmosphere. Fate of Atlantis was around twice as long as Crusade, but I would happily have played another 5 hours.

As with any Indy adventure, we meet our hero in the middle of an adventure. He crashes into a mysterious dark tomb filled with artifacts, searching for a statue. It’s quickly revealed that you are in the museum archives and there’s no danger at all. A classic bait and switch that sets the humourous tone and Lucasarts style that adventure game fans in the 90s already know and love. None of the earnest seriousness of The Dig.

You are tasked with recovering the statue for a visiting Mr Smith, a man with a suspicious German accent (perhaps the same Mr. Smith with a suspicious German accent in Blackadder Goes Forth). Mr. Smith’s request leads Indy to Sophia Hapgood, PhD archeologist turned psychic, Atlantis expert and an old friend with whom, it’s implied, there was some romantic tension.

Sophia Hapgood, a female woman. - MobyGames

Growing up in the 90s you had a good chance of encountering progressive female characters, at least better than those that went before. In fact in the Fate of Atlantis comic book released in the lead up to the game’s release, Sophia mentions that the male domination of the industry is why she left archaeology, and this becomes part of the storyline later on. While Indy is in many ways pure stereotypical masculinity, in his professor guise he is a more modern man, intelligent, even bashful. Professor Henry Jones Jr. is the Clark Kent to Indy’s Superman. The movies do poke fun at his bravado and he often gets his comeuppance because of it, but overall we’re meant to admire his Indy as he picks up a new woman every movie.

The movies’ female characters are a mixed bag, from Raiders of the Lost Ark’s capable, intelligent Marion Ravenwood to damsel in distress Willie Scott in Temple of Doom. Elsa Schneider in The Last Crusade is slightly evil and animalistic yet intellectual. Sophia Hapgood is in the Marion Ravenwood camp, not just a love interest, smart, strong and competent, and while she did have a previous relationship with Indy, she isn’t defined by it as Marion was when we first met her. She is also the first female character in the franchise that is not a disposable love interest, as she later returned in Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine(1999), 9 years before Marion returned to the screen in the Crystal Skull.

You will travel by map, just like the Muppets.

With Sophia on board, off we go to uncover the mystery, with a surprising amount of freedom on how puzzles are attempted, with many having multiple solutions or the ability to skip them entirely. The Indy Quotient score is back from last crusade, and this time around it will take a lot of work to achieve a high score (indeed there is a bug preventing a full IQ score of 1000). At least 3 playthroughs would be needed to max out your IQ, one in each of the 3 paths you will need to choose from early in the game. The ‘Fists’ path means you will do a lot of fistfighting minigames and fewer or easier puzzles to solve, and with the terrible fighting system you’re better off avoiding this. ‘Wits’ is the opposite, with more devious puzzles throughout. Generally considered the best experience is the ‘Team’ option, in which Sophia will join you throughout your adventure. You will get our money’s worth from the recorded dialogue on that shiny CD-ROM disc with the constant back and forth between the pair with Lucasarts usual flair and humour.

You won’t find Fate of Atlantis popping up on the worst adventure game puzzle lists, of which there are many. There is a slightly annoying maze section with some backtracking, but not as bad as The Last Crusade's much more infuriating catacombs. Certainly none as bad as the impenetrable broken lens puzzle from The Dig.

There are some sprawling areas which makes for good variety, but some of the game's best bits are when it limits itself to a small area with ingenious use of the environment. In general the game keeps pushing you forward through the story and as always, as an old boring person, I highly recommend the judicious use of walkthroughs to get the best out of your evenings and weekends and remove any frustration.

Use your words, either in the Wits or Team path. The fighting system is not fun. - MobyGames

Why is this puzzle adventure game such a shining example of Indy gaming when the films are all action? There are punch-ups down the Fists track, but would you rather be stuck on ancient puzzles and conundrums or stuck on difficult platforming and video game boss fights? Are you a Prof. Henry Jones Jr. or an Indiana Jones? If the latter feels more your style then the later 3D Indy games Infernal Machine and Emperor's Tomb may be more up your alley. While they have some good puzzling as well, they focus more on the physical side of Indy (as well as more fantastical storylines) and lack the charm and the great story of Fate of Atlantis.If you had somehow stumbled upon The Last Crusade: The Action Game or Fate of Atlantis: The Action Game then congratulations, you reached page 12 of the search results. But do yourself a favour and give them a miss; whichever type of Indy you are, they aren’t worth your time.

It’s just as well that the rejected potential story for the third Indiana Jones movie was passed over in favour of this original Atlantis storyline from Lucasarts. It was a great choice of myth for Indy to investigate, and there is a surprising amount of real-life material on Atlantis going back centuries that most of us would not know about until we played this game. It’s well researched and plugged in exactly where it should be to raise the stakes above the ordinary as the story progresses.

There’s a reason Fate of Atlantis is still regarded as one of the best point and click games ever made. It’s yet another high point in the golden age of Lucasarts, and it still holds up perfectly today.

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