The Wheel of Time

The Wheel of Time
The Wheel of Time Cover
Platforms Windows
Genre Bloody ashes FPS
MtAMinutes to Action 4
Keep Playing? Yes
Buy from Amazon

The Wheel of Time is a lucrative license: there are now thirteen total books featuring hundreds of characters, a deep and engrossing magic system, and dozens of locales to visit and explore. The possibilities for video games are endless: a Western-style role playing game, third person adventure, real-time strategy... or even first person shooter. Yes, a shooter, and out of all the options, only that has been developed and released. The Wheel of Time was released in 1999 on Windows.

Much has been made about the game in recent years about how underrated and under appreciated it was. That's a debate for another day, but it did have some serious holiday competition with Unreal Tournament and Quake 3. The game just didn't sell well, and unfortunately, that may well have scared off publishers or right holders from working on any more games. But one needs to consider the genre of the game and the target audience, it just doesn't seem to work. This is a book series that plods along at sometimes an excruciating pace transformed into a game that moves as fast as any other shooter I've played.

The Wheel of Time is definitely one of the more unique licensed attempts in video game history, and here's its first hour. I'll be playing the game through Wine in Ubuntu, let me know if you have any questions about getting it to run.

Minute by Minute

(minutes are in bold)
00 - The game opens up with a cutscene explaining the Wheel of Time story and the important events and characters in the series. Pretty much the stuff you'd learn by reading the main Wikipedia page, but with some late '90s animated cutscenes.

02 - It's not so bad though, I haven't read the new book in the series yet and the last one before that came out... like four years ago, so it's a nice refresher. Lews Therin Telamon, the Dragon, that guy has an amazing opening in the prologue of the first novel.

03 - Anyways, the intro is finally over, with a final warning about the looming Shadow led by the Dark One. I have the option of jumping right into the single player game or trying out the tutorial, I think I'll start with the tutorial. I'm in a round room with a large artifact in the middle. A woman wearing green is standing on the upper level talking to me. I must walk through the arch and face my greatest fears, starting with "what was."

Wheel Of Time Aes Sedai Arch

04 - I'm in a cave now, large spider webs haunt the area. The woman's voice tells me to explore the cave I was too scared of as a child.

05 - A cave-in opens my way, I can see my exit... but it's out of reach. I will have to explore a green area further to advance. I take a big fall and get hurt though.

06 - I eat some roots to heal my broken legs... haha. I must swim through the water to advance.

07 - "The way back will come but once, walk through the arch." I reach the exit and walk through it. The way that was is complete.

08 - I'm in the present now, the speaker reveals I have limited channeling powers, I'm in a locked room with some magical objects hidden by a darkfriend.

09 - I pick up a ter'angreal that allows me to use Air Pulse, I can push object with it or strike someone with a powerful blast of air. Cool, wooden crates crumble under its pressure.

Wheel Of Time Terangreal Air Pulse

11 - Another ter'angreal, this one gives light I think, called Light Sphere. Picking up the hidden key traps me though, but I bust through it using air pulse... after about 10 shots.

13 - And another ter'angreal! This one is called Shift, and has limited uses, but it can open the lever that's holding me in the corridor I just entered. Wow, actually it transports me to where I'm pointing, even better!

14 - And another... conveniently it's a Fire Shield, to protect me from the balls of fire getting shot down the hallway I need to walk down. Wow, even though I had the shield my screen was still getting rocked by the impact, that was really neat.

15 - Next up is the Shield ter'angreal, I believe it will reflect the fire right back at the device shooting it. Ouch, still get hurt though!

16 - I pick up Fireball, it is similar to Air Pulse but weaves Fire instead of Air. Haha! I just shot the wall right next to me and injured myself!

17 - I bust through the wall using my fireball but then fall down a pit right in front of the exit! I need to climb up the wall to exit... that was kind of pointless.

Wheel Of Time Terangreal Fireball

18 - Time for "what will be," the final challenge. I'm an emissary for the White Tower now in Fal Dara. There's some Trollocs (bad guys) around and I need to set traps to stop the invaders!

20 - Wow, this is pretty awesome, I can set up walls and spear traps. And a pit!

23 - Okay, I've got three spear traps, a pit, a Warder, and another Aes Sedai, time to start the sequence!

24 - Oh man... what a rip! I was told to go through the arch before I could see the violence unfold. Well, I'm back in the round room now, ready to move on.

25 - I'm out of the tutorial now, outside in a broken down castle or tower of some sort. Rain water is pouring in. Oh, a cutscene!

26 - The narrator is talking about Aes Sedai and Elayna, that's me. She barely has any power to channel the One Power... so what is she doing here?

Wheel Of Time Warder Aes Sedai

27 - He also tells us about the different factions within the White Tower. Elayna and another Accepted or Novice are talking about the White Cloaks, those troublemakers.

28 - Oh man, someone was knocking at the door, my friend went to open it and it blew up! A man walks in asking for the seals, he starts tearing apart the room looking for them. He gives up looking after a minute and takes my ter'angreal.

29 - Fourteen Aes Sedai were murdered that night, Elayna is talking with another woman (the Amyrlin?), they think the man had an inside man... ahem, woman. The Black Ajah as they're known in the books.

30 - Wow, the cutscene just keeps going on and on, do I get to play again soon? Turns out the assassin did manage to steal an important artifact, guess I'll be going after him.

32 - Elayna is not confident in her powers, though the Amyrlin is not worried, turns out Elayna is very strong in ter'angreal use.

33 - All right, I can finally start a New Game! I select Medium difficulty and we begin at the Bank of Manetherenedrelle, bank as in the riverside, where I just got dumped at by a boat. The game suddenly does not look as good when we're out in the wide open outdoors now though.

Wheel Of Time Dead Trolloc

34 - I find a Heal ter'angreal by a dead body... guess it didn't help her. I enter a nearby cave and a Trolloc is inside, time to Air Pulse him back to the Dark One!

35 - Four pulses and he's dead, but not before I take some damage, the root I picked up before heals me, that's very nice.

36 - The assassin?! He just yelled "blood and ashes!" That's so awesome. Another trolloc down. I find a Dart ter'angreal in a broken cart.

38 - Some trollocs are throwing projectiles at me now, the air pulse doesn't have a very long range so I have to use the dart, it's effective, but I only have about 10 left after my skirmish with three trollocs.

39 - A shield ter'angreal, it's permanent so I might as well use it now, though it will be worn down by hits.

40 - After a bit of hopping around and exploring, I pick up another shield, some more darts, and a fireball with only three shots.

Wheel Of Time Shadar Logoth

41 - This is quite the graphic game, there's bodies strewn all about, one is being cooked over a fire by some (now dead) trollocs! Holy crap! I overlook a large building and some lightning strikes right then with a huge clap of thunder. Scared the crap out of me.

44 - Ouch, just got mauled by a trolloc and had to use all my heals to recover to near full health.

45 - You have to be quite accurate when weaving the darts as the trollocs are rather adept at dodging.

46 - Heading into the building now... the Streets of Shadar Logoth.

48 - This is almost like a maze, trolloc screams are at a near constant, and some small minion just killed one! Luckily it ran in the other direction though, I don't think it saw me.

Wheel Of Time Minion Seeker

49 - Ah! The assassin was waiting for me and snuck in a nasty fireball. Oh man, my own fireball just caused me a ton of splash damage, I really need to back up a bit.

51 - I'm killed as a minion sneaks up on me, don't think I could have killed it anyway in this close range.

52 - I take a different path through Shadar Logoth and find a Seeker ter'angreal, this one is basically a heat seeking missile. Definitely interesting.

53 - The assassin tries the fireball again, I'm ready this time. Wow, I think I just took out the minion that killed me before from above him. Let's hope so at least.

54 - Am I at a dead end? There's a gate in my way and I can see some fireballs on the other side to collect, but shooting it doesn't seem to do anything. Guess I should go back up.

55 - Yep, had to make some fancy jumps but I'm continuing on my way again.

Wheel Of Time Smoke Monster

56 - Some kind of smoke monster is chasing me! I seem to remember something like this from the books. Oh man, it's got me on the run! I finally get away from it and pick up some more Seeker ammo, and then run into a minion.

57 - I'm looking over a ledge now... and have to make a bit of a leap of faith. Wow, just made it, and I'm back into the weaving hallways. More minions jump out at me, if you look closely though, you can see their red eyes glowing in the shadows.

58 - I stumble upon a large courtyard with a statue in the middle, and of course, it's got a smoke monster coming out of it chasing me everywhere! This is a bit crazy. I pick up some more ammo, and then jump around on the surrounding roofs picking up health ter'angreal and getting my HP back up.

59 - The assassin appears again, this time blowing out some much needed stairs. He must be channeling saidin, that's quite dangerous for a male. After a bit more roof hopping, I get around the broken stairs and continue on up the tower. I've decided to use Seekers now against the minions, seem to be less splash damage.

60 - Phew! We made it through the Streets of Shadar Logoth! That was actually quite intense.

Wheel Of Time Way Back Comes But Once

First Hour Summary

Minutes to Action: 4

What was awesome: The Wheel of Time has some really great atmosphere, the tutorial was really well done and while Shadar Logoth wasn't quite like I imagined, it couldn't had been any other location. I honestly never imagined that a Wheel of Time first person shooter could work.

What I liked: This was a surprisingly difficult shooter with an interesting array of weapons and abilities. The One Power was so well defined by Robert Jordan that the developers could really go all out with ideas on ter'angreal. The game also moves very quickly, this is more like Unreal or Quake than I could have imagined.

What I didn't like: It's a bit odd how the game was designed around ter'angreal instead of the straight weaving of the One Power. Obviously they wanted to have ammo limits, I wonder though what the game would have been like to play as Moraine or even Rand.

Gameplay: Fast and a bit frantic, The Wheel of Time is everything I didn't expect it to be. The variety of ter'angreals is pretty incredible, and the level design is vast while keeping you on the right path at all times.

Fun Factor: Trollocs and minions take a bit longer to take down than expected for the first few levels of a new game, but it's great to see an artificial intelligence from a 10 year old game that is actually enjoyable to tackle. The tutorial was also a blast.

Graphics and Sound: The indoor levels looked excellent but the outdoor areas reminded me of how drab the late '90s looked on the PC. I did enjoy the voice acting though, especially the "blood and ashes!" shout from the assassin.

Story: It seems a bit odd that a woman who can barely channel ends up as a novice as the White Tower, but this is the story they're trying to tell. I can't say I totally buy into it, but I'm interested to see how it progresses.

Would I keep playing? Yeah, I'm actually enjoying The Wheel of Time so far. It's tough, entertaining, and has a ton of variety in weapons. Not to mention how the tutorial teased being able to set up traps for the enemy. That sounds awesome.

Wheel Of Time Serpent