Nostradamus: The Last Prophecy
Nostradamus is the story of a cross dressing daughter out to disprove her father’s last prophecy. People are dying all around Madeleine and it’s her job to run some errands, mix numerous concoctions and catch a murderer. While you’re making the streets of mid 1500s Provence a little safer, you’ll also be taking a crash course in astrology. If you like reading your horoscope and have a passion for mundane puzzles then this may be the right prophecy for you.
Your adventure begins with an impromptu visit from the Queen Mother, Catherine de Medicis. She believes she has been cursed as various people close to her have been dying suddenly and she thinks that Nostradamus, the great astrologer will be able to get to the bottom of the occurrences. Unable to take matters into his own hands do to his health, Nostradamus recruits his daughter’s service to look into the deaths. However, this is the Renaissance and the investigation of a series of unexplained deaths is certainly no job for a young lady, which leads to Madeleine donning the disguise of her brother, Cesar.
Playing dress up in Nostradamus lets the player lead dual lives and approach NPCs from a different perspective. Characters will react to Madeleine and Cesar uniquely, sometimes having completely different demeanors and yielding different bits of information. Playing as two separate characters is certainly an intriguing mechanic for an adventure game but the idea doesn’t feel fleshed out terribly well. The different dialogue trees are rarely necessary or crucial to furthering the plot.
Nostradamus’ plot ends up being one of the most successful aspects of the game. You’ll most likely figure out who the culprit is before all is said and done but there are times when you’ll wonder how exactly the game will get you there. Although a lot of the game is derived from Nostradamus’ actual astrological work the developers do a good job by not letting the story get too far over the head of the untrained astrologist.
Since most of the story is delivered through dialogue and the internal monologue of Madeleine its disappointing more care wasn’t given to the animation and delivery of the characters. The voice acting isn’t especially bad, but the story is the main focus of the game and when characters impart no emotion in their voice it really keeps the player at a distance. Unfortunately the lack of spoken emotion is further confounded by the characters total lack of animation other then lips moving or the occasional hand gesture, people are dying and their former friends really don’t seem to care.
When people aren’t dying you’ll be stuck navigating a mixed bag of puzzles. When Nostradamus keeps the challenges relevant to the astrology or your immediate surroundings the puzzles can be difficult but still quite intuitive, highlighted by the great series of puzzles the game wraps on. However a decent sized chunk of the game will involve Madeleine mixing various potions, creams and baking. If you’re lucky when coming into one of these you’ll have already picked up any extraneous ingredients needed, rather than having to run around Provence and find this or that plant. Even when you have everything you need you’ll have to individually spoon everything into the mix, sometimes having to crush certain ingredients. It isn’t that these puzzles are difficult but they really serve little to no purpose other than padding the games length.
Nostradamus isn’t a terribly long game and it’d be easy to see everything that Provence has to offer the first trip through. The game has a tally of points that you accumulate over the course of the story, theoretically you could replay the game differently to improve your score but with only one solution to pretty much every puzzle in the game you’d be limited to talking to certain characters as the opposite sex the second time through to make any difference. The score could be a nice addition for the real fan but an adventure game hinges on its story and puzzles and when Nostradamus’ mystery has been unraveled there is really no reason to solve it again.
Nostradamus certainly isn’t a bad game but it’s a title filled with a number of half victories. The story, albeit brief, is involving but also stiffly delivered. Half of the puzzles are well designed, while the other half serves little purpose other than testing your patience. You’ll also wander around Provence as both yourself and your brother, but you’ll discover there really isn’t much point to it all. If you have to solve the Last Prophecy then by all means go for it, but most players will find themselves happier leaving Nostradamus to rest in peace.