Deep Shadows are a Russian
developer with creative aspirations for their
games. They released White Gold in 2008 and
The Precursors a year later; both massive action
RPG's. I gave Precursors a shot, but gave up
five minutes in because the control were completely
wonky and the very first human enemies were
far too hard. After about 4-5 attempts I still
couldn't kill them, so if I can't even get past
the very first enemies, what can I expect when
I get further into the game? I didn't care to
find out, although evidentally the rest of the
game isn't quite so bad. Besides, the visuals
were a bit garish and strange and White Gold
got better reviews. (Note: I did eventually
play The Precursors, review
White Gold also had a bit of
a fight to start off the game, but easily survivable.
And in fact most of the game has quite fair
combat, although I did play on easy. The same
strange movement returned in White Gold but
perhaps it wasn't quite as bad. I can't put
my thumb on what it is, but my aim in this game
is terrible. Something to do with the mouse-look
movement makes it hard to be precise, unlike
most games where you could point your cursor
on an enemies head from a block away, all while
jumping around. In White Gold I usually had
to come to a complete stop quite close to the
enemy to aim properly with the shotgun at least,
not helped by it being hopeless at range. But
still, since I was playing in easy difficulty,
it wasn't too much of a problem. And the combat
is only a small part of White Gold, perhaps
First I'll explain the gameplay.
You play in a free-roaming world with vast open
areas and a multitude of land, air and water
vehicles to get you around. The game's events
take place in water-separated islands in the
Caribbean basin - at a guess I'd say around
15km's across. There are several different factions
including Civilians, Government, Mafia, Guerrillas,
Bandits, Natives and CIA operatives. So you
spend much of the time doing missions for these
factions - or at least four of them.
There's a clear main mission,
and then sub-missions for the factions. The
problem is the main mission gets to a point
where you need a lot of money to proceed, and
you can only get money by doing the sub-missions.
The sub-missions can be time-consuming and often
don't pay that much, so you can spend a great
deal of time doing them. And usually it's at
the expense of another faction, so while some
factions you may work with, others will be out
to kill you.
One problem I struck halfway
through the game was that I had managed to stay
in favours with the Government, Mafia and Guerrillas
(while Bandits hated me), but they'd all run
out of missions for me. I had to find other
leaders of their factions for further missions
and I had absolutely no idea where the were.
I could literally spend a day exploring the
islands trying to find the correct person to
give me further missions. There's no guidance
on the main map where factions reside or any
indication what island the leaders are on. Eventually
by chance I did find the leader I needed to
and could continue on my merry way, but I was
very close to giving up on the game because
at this time I had tonnes of money I still had
to earn. With hours of gameplay like to occur
just to get to that point unless I could find
the faction leader? No thanks Deep Shadows.
And I guess that's part of the problem - some
of the sub-missions are a little boring. Especially
when you're required to travel large distances
at times. You can easily spend several minutes
in a boat trying to get to another island. In
the end I had to bind the arrow keys to movement
and just hold 'forwards' while I watched TV.
It's a shame because White
Gold has so much promise. The huge island-ridden
area looks really good. The textures, detail,
lighting - it's not what you'd expect from a
budget Russian developer. Sure, it doesn't look
as good as S.T.A.L.K.E.R. or the dozens of Unreal
Engine 3.0 games lately, but it's good enough
for 2008. Clearly comparisons would go straight
to Far Cry, as they are similar looking games.
Far Cry had a bit more variety in it's design,
but it wasn't a true open world either. White
Gold has almost zero loading! I counted three
loading screens after 15 hours of gameplay.
And that's more time than I
spend on most standard shooters, so while I
couldn't finish White Gold, I think that's plenty
of time to form a decent opinion about it.
The other thing I have to mention
is the amount of mucking around to get this
game working. If you get the English version,
you're not done yet. You need to get the official
Russian patch, then the unnofficial Wesp patch
(from a gamer that fixes additional bugs) -
both available from here.
Followed by the 1.5gb download of the Russian
sound files which are missing from the English
version. Without them, the game has almost zero
audio. How it could have been released in this
state is beyond me, but I believe the English
version wasn't an official publisher release.
Overall, White Gold shows much
promise, even with it's high aims. The island
settings all look good and if you were impressed
by Far Cry then you'll feel right at home here.
The combat is decent, despite it's wobbly aim.
The enemies actually aren't too bad in the A.I.
department - they'll retreat and flank! Most
of the missions are enjoyable and there's tonnes
to do for the different factions, even the civilians.
Where it falls flat is the requirement to do
so many of the sub-missions to get enough money
to proceed in the game, and eventually it gets
too time-consuming to get that money. It shouldn't
be almost a requisite to complete sub-missions.
There isn't that much more
wrong with White Gold, apart from it's ridiculously
sensitive vehicle control. Unlike the similarly
ambitious S.T.A.L.K.E.R., also mixing action/RPG
which even with huge player mods still has way
too many things that need fixing. Which game
is better? S.T.A.L.K.E.R. quite easily. But
White Gold was far less frustrating and a bit
easier with less combat. It's much more of an
RPG than S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is, and does the RPG
elements better. I'm just not quite patient
enough and need a bit more action in my gaming.