View Full Version : Via Domus Reviews

01-26-2008, 07:17 PM

If you've never seen an episode of ABC's hit TV show Lost, here are the essentials: Oceanic Flight 815 crashed on a mysterious island leaving its passengers in a struggle for survival. In theory, you can know just this little nugget of info and be able to play Ubisoft's videogame version of Lost. But let's face it; Lost: Via Domus is first and foremost for the fans. And as a Lost devotee, I wouldn't have it any other way.

You play as Elliott, a photojournalist who is one of the survivor's of Oceanic 815. While many of the castaways gained something from crashing on the Island (Locke can walk, Jin has manly sperm, Sawyer doesn't have to wear shirts), Elliott suffered amnesia. As with the other survivors, Elliott has a dark past, one that has followed him to the island. The only trouble is that he can't remember why one of the other survivor's is hunting him. Along with discovering some of the secrets of the Island, gamers will also solve the mystery of Elliott's past.

Lost: Via Domus is separated into seven episodes that play out exactly as if you were watching the TV show. Each episode begins with a "previously on Lost" segment, followed by a hook to kick off the episode, with things ending in a cliffhanger. These elements are executed perfectly and give a sense that you are indeed experiencing an episode of Lost. Ubisoft Montreal even managed to catch some of the imagery from the show. The first thing you see following the crash is a close-up of Elliott's eye.

In the 10-12 hour adventure, you'll get a unique perspective on the events from the first two seasons of Lost. While the third season's events are not included, you will visit places not shown in season two. In fact, in Episode 2 of Via Domus, Elliott runs into Ben, Juliet and Mr. Friendly. If those names mean nothing to you, just smile and nod and pretend you are cool enough to know what us Losties are talking about. For those in the know, the fact that Ben and Juliet are "in play" as early as events of the first season is pretty exciting. How this will work into the overall story remains to be seen. Suffice to say, Lost: Via Domus isn't going to hold back.

In fact, the creators of Lost -- who helped shape the game's story -- allowed Ubisoft to explore areas and reveal things that are not going to be covered in the TV show. Remember the magnetic wall in the Swan station? Apparently there's a room inside. And if you play Via Domus, you'll venture in to discover this new room and interface with its computer. Ubisoft is promising there will be a few fun moments such as this to give fans a bonus for playing the game.

Elliott's story, however, does take precedence. As with any character on Lost, Elliott has a destiny on the Island that seems somehow entwined with his life before the crash. Part of this involves a woman Elliott sees in the Island's jungle. Though he can't remember who she is, this woman is clearly someone from his past, an apparition on the Island continually haunting him.

You discover the identity of this woman and the other elements of Elliott's past through flashbacks. While it would have been easy to make the flashbacks into cut-scenes, Ubisoft chose to make them interactive. Each flashback begins with Elliott trying to recapture his memory. This is done by using his camera to focus on a key element of a repeating scene until a picture is taken that unlock his memory of the events. Once the memory is unlocked and the grey areas fill in with color, Elliott can interact with key items and experience the flashback in its entirety.

The first flashback takes place onboard Oceanic 815. Elliott spies Kate boarding the plane in handcuffs. Once Elliott's snapped a pic clearly showing Kate in cuffs, the memory opens up and we spot the nemesis of Via Domus leaving his seat and heading towards Elliott with a malicious glare. Cue the crash of flight 815.

About half the flashbacks in the Lost game feature characters seen in the show. It's likely many of these are just cameos, as the past lives of the Oceanic 815 passengers often intersect. Many of the major players, including Jack, Locke and Charlie show up in Elliott's flashbacks.

Of course, memories are only one small part of the story. Most of the action in Lost: Via Domus takes place on the island, as Elliott flees from his relentless pursuer and attempts to discover the significance of a compass found in a cave. (Here's a hint: "Via Domus" is Latin for "The way home.") Lost is best described as a survival adventure game, meaning that it's heavy on exploration and puzzles with some intermittent action to jazz things up. Along the way, you'll have the opportunity to interact with many of characters from the show -- both Oceanic passengers and members of the nefarious Others.

Lost offers what appears to be a fairly robust dialogue tree. When you speak with another character, you have access to four different tabs (Quest, General, Inventory, Trade), each with the potential for multiple questions. Quest is for queries specific to your mission; General tends to cover personal questions about the character; Inventory lets you ask about items in your possession; and Trade lets you exchange items for Apollo candy bars.

The heavy amount of dialogue is an unexpected addition. If only Ubisoft had secured more of the show's actors to provide voice work. Only six characters (Desmond, Ben, Mikhail, Mr. Friendly, Claire and Sun) are authentic. The rest are voice-a-likes. I won't lie; none of the ones I heard are going to fool even a casual fan. It's a shame, because Lost's strongpoint is clearly its high level of authenticity. Heck, every location on the Island has been designed to scale so it looks identical to what's seen on TV. And Michael Giacchino, composer for the TV, provides 60 minutes of music for the game.

If you've gotten your weeping under control, here's something you can smile about. The infamous numbers seem fairly prominent in the game. In fact, in Episode 4, you'll get to enter the numbers into the computer to save the world. That's right; halfway through Via Domus, you save the world. Not bad for a guy who's basically the virtual version of Nikki & Paulo.

In Episode 4, the Swan's blast doors come down, trapping Elliott inside. Raising the door requires you to fix three fuse boxes, using Lost's brainy puzzle system. The fuse box puzzle is reminiscent of BioShock's hacking game -- with math added for some extra head-scratching. Your goal in the puzzle is to manipulate the flow of electricity so that the numerous meters on the circuit board rest in the green. Figuring out the proper amount of current for each section (and how to direct its flow) isn't easy to pick up at first, but it fits the mold of an adventure puzzle.

If talking to Sawyer and futzing with circuit boards aren't up your alley, there is action to be had in Lost: Via Domus. There is a monster in the jungle, one that seems to be picky over which people it hunts. This monster, seen as a plume of black smoke, takes an interest in Elliott. It shows up several times in the game. And in Episode 6, it comes to kill Elliott.

Running through the jungle, the smoke is nipping at Elliott's heels. You're on a track, so your only concern is timing your jumps over rocks and sliding under pesky tree branches. You'll need to be more or less perfect, because the black smoke is an unforgiving creature. One slip-up often means the end of you. The chase is a simple gameplay mechanic, the kind of thing we've seen plenty of times before., but Lost doesn't appear to be the type of game trying to break new ground. Instead, it takes several of these familiar gaming moments, mixes them around, and uses them to break up the story. Ubisoft could easily have turned Lost into a shooter or similar action game, but it wouldn't have suited the material. If you're visiting the Island on your 360, PC or PS3, you're doing so for the story and not to experience the next Far Cry.

After seeing and playing several scenes from Lost, it's clear that great care has been taken to fit the game within the context of the television show. Though it would be foolish to expect any major revelations about the show to be revealed in the videogame, it's still pretty cool for fans to experience Lost in a different way. How the game and show truly tie together won't be known until Lost: Via Domus hits store shelves at the end of February.

01-26-2008, 07:18 PM

Before I get into the meat of this preview, I should note that there will be some spoilers for anyone who is just getting into the television show "Lost". I'll do my best not to ruin anything for those fans that have just grabbed the first or second seasons on DVD, although I'm not going to promise anything. When the Lost game was announced last year, everyone wondered how it would fit into the deep mythology crafted by the show's writers. Would we be playing as one of the main characters, or would the game's hero be one of the random survivors seen in the background of every episode? While our recent trip to Ubisoft didn't provide all of the answers we were looking for, we do feel a bit better about the game itself.

Lost: Via Domus tells the tale of Elliott, a photojournalist that was on the ill-fated Oceanic Flight 815. The game kicks off with the crash, although it appears that it may have actually saved our hero from an assassin that was onboard. You see, Elliott has some powerful enemies, thanks largely to his work uncovering the truth behind some notable atrocities. He may or may not have been the cause of his former girlfriend's death at the hands of those enemies, although he's got a little problem with his memory. Namely, he can't remember anything before the crash. It's up to you to piece together Elliot's shattered memory, learn the truth, and find a way to deal with the assassin that also survived the crash.

The first thing longtime fans of the show will notice is that Via Domus' presentation is ripped straight from the actual program. For instance, the first thing we saw when starting the game was Elliott's eye opening, which was the same way we were introduced to many of the characters. The game itself is about 10-12 hours long, and it's broken up into seven different "episodes" of varying length. As is the case with the TV show, the beginning of each episode will feature brief "Previously on Lost..." synopsis, and the action will abruptly end with that familiar black screen and "closing" sound.

From what we saw, it looks like Via Domus will be closer to a traditional adventure game than the action/adventure title that many of us expected, although that may not really be a bad thing. After all, the show itself is more of a mystery with intermittent snippets of action, and the game captures this perfectly. For instance, during the moments we saw, Elliott had to talk the Losties we all know and love into helping him in some way. In order to gain the upper hand on them (and, by extension, get what he wanted), he attempted to access some lost memories via flashback.

As we all know, flashbacks play a huge part in "Lost," serving as a way to give the viewers an idea of who the survivors really are. However, rather than just presenting Elliot's flashbacks as cutscenes, the developers decided to incorporate them into Via Domus as gameplay mechanics. Basically, you'll be presented with a scene that plays over and over again, and you'll need to use Elliott's camera to glean the relevant info. For example, when he wanted to get help from Kate, he looked back in his memory and used his camera to snap a photo of her shackles. Once he knew she was a prisoner (remember, this was right after the plane crash, before anyone knew the truth about her), he was able to blackmail her to get what he wanted.

Once we were done with Kate and had found our way to the beach, Jack asked us to help out at the crash site. We had to figure out how to best re-route an electrical current in order to, um, do something. All of the game's puzzles revolve around this mechanic, although we found that they definitely got tougher as the game progressed. Essentially, you've not only got to figure out the best path for the current, but also be able to use some rudimentary math skills to make sure the voltmeters are in the green. While the puzzles are reminiscent of those seen in BioShock at first, it quickly becomes clear that these ones are a good deal tougher.

While it appears that the majority of the gameplay revolves around standard adventure elements like collecting items and solving puzzles, we did get a chance to check out one of the action sequences. At one point, Elliott had to run away from the Black Smoke on a path through the jungle. Unfortunately, this segment was a bit simplistic, as all we had to do was jump over the occasional branch or duck under a tree trunk. We're hopeful that there are some more exciting sequences in store for players, though we realize this isn't the main focus of the game.

Although there's no denying that Lost: Via Domus looks better than we expected (it is a licensed game, after all), there's one glaring issue with the game. Unfortunately, only six actors signed on to voice the virtual versions of their characters. This means that Locke sounds like a grizzled old prospector and Kate sounds like some random girl from the Midwest. It's a shame that not everyone signed on for the project, as this would have helped make it feel much more like the show.

Thankfully, this editor's favorite character will be in the game and will be voiced by his real-life counterpart. As Desmond would say, here's hoping Lost: Via Domus turns out well, brutha!

01-26-2008, 07:19 PM
UK Retail Video Games Store

Iain finds a reason to get back into Lost.
I must admit, I gave up watching Lost towards the beginning of the third season. I was of the opinion that it just wasn't fun any more, and despite being unarguably gripping television, the feeling of needing to watch the next episode but not actually looking forward to it finally wore me down and I got out of the cycle.

Throughout my time keeping up with the survivors of Oceanic 815 I was always aware of the potential the story had in videogame format. It's the perfect set up for a tense, intriguing adventure game, capitalising on the superbly well-developed characters and story-arc of the show. Ubisoft evidently felt the same, and thus we are presented with Lost: Via Domus, a new story set amongst the aftermath of the crash.

It's centred around a new passenger of that fateful flight, one Mr. Elliot Maslow, an American photojournalist in Sydney to get particularly big scoop. In true Lost style however, you don't know the exact reason for your being in Sydney, being on the plane, or indeed, anything as due to a bout of trauma-induced amnesia, you wake up on the island with no idea who, what or where you are.

In a nod to the original TV format, the game is split into episodes, each starting with a "Previously on Lost..." recap and ending with those cliff-hangers that the writers are so fond of. Each episode also has several playable flashbacks, unveiling more of your character's backstory each time. Once a flashback is triggered, you're shown a brief glimpse of a torn up photograph, which you have to recreate by taking photos using your camera within the flashback. Once you've got a photo of all the right elements of the scene to trigger a memory, you're rewarded with a brief cutscene, the grey blur effect (representative of your recollection being foggy) is lifted, and a new facet of the story is revealed.

Back on the island, the gameplay is split into several distinct sections. The first you'll encounter is the basic exploration/talky bit, with you waking up in the jungle and having to find your way to the beach, meeting and talking to Kate on the way. Dialogue is handled in a fairly typical adventure game style, with several subject trees available to you. It's also split out into more general topics; Quest, General, Inventory and Trade. Quest topics will either give you something to do, or give you more information on what you're supposed to be doing while General options will tell you more about the island, and background of the characters that you're talking to. Inventory allows you to talk about the gear you're carrying around with you, while Trade, only available for certain people at certain times, is where you trade all that superfluous fruit and such for more useful stuff.

The trade system, while being quite simple, is a bit different to what you may be used to. As there's no economy on the island, you trade things you find, worth a set amount of dollars, for items that the other person is carrying of an equal value. For example, Michael has several torches that you need to proceed, and they're worth $10 each. You can trade him 5 coconuts (worth $2 each) or 2 bottles of water (worth $5 each), or indeed any combination of items to make up the cost of the torch.

Other gameplay elements include picking your way through pitch-black caves with the aid of the aforementioned torches and legging it from the mysterious black smoke (along a set route, using one button to jump low obstacles and another to duck high obstructions.)

While these may initially look and feel a bit like a series of mini-games, the nature of the story and the tone keep them feeling cohesive and a useful part of a much larger experience. And it helps that you're always basked in glorious visuals.

Welcome to the Jungle
It uses a modified version of the Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter engine, which was built specifically to deal with built up urban areas. Don't let that worry you however, because it does an admirable job of built up jungle as well. The environments, ranging from dense jungle, claustrophobic caves or the open expanses of the beach all look lush (or bleak, depending on the area but it's all appropriate and all looks great). Characters as well are superbly modelled and instantly recognisable.

So it's a franchise with some genuine potential that could, for once, be realised. From what we've seen so far Ubisoft have pitched it perfectly, with the emphasis firmly on the adventuring rather than the bombastic action. We'll find out if the final product capitalises on the potential and turns it into a great game, soon.

Preview by: Iain Thomas
Version Tested: Xbox 360
Preview Published: 25.01.08

04-04-2008, 03:34 PM
Love the show but this game blows. By far Ubisofts worst output ever. They should be ashamed.

04-04-2008, 03:44 PM
Love the show but this game blows. By far Ubisofts worst output ever. They should be ashamed.

Agreed, the game is crap it only scored 4 out of 10 in the magazine that I read and I would of given 2 out of ten but this just my opinion. Plus after the first two seasons of lost it became a bit up its own ass. Ive seen every episode so far but now Im giving up on it because it pisses me off.

04-04-2008, 10:35 PM
I can't blame you for giving up. Just pick up the DVD's when it's done and that should be cool. I wish I had the willpower to just stop watching it every week and wait till the end but I know I will see spoilers. Oh well.
Very generous of you with the 2 out of 10. I would give it maybe a 1.5. Only that high because the game works, i.e. no glitched achievs, no freezing etc.

04-17-2008, 05:44 PM
Have been a fan since I watched the Pilot, Own all the DVD's, talk Lost therioes constantly with my friends, but sorry, THIS GAME SUCKS!
Not because there really is no new info for us LOST freaks, but the game play is stupid, the graphics so,so, (See Call of Duty 4, or even Halo 3 for crying out load) and I've spent the 1st part of the game messing with fusses???????

04-17-2008, 05:53 PM
i actually enjoyed this game alot..

04-17-2008, 05:57 PM
i actually enjoyed this game alot..

Same here, I thought it was good. Short but good. Didn't expect a lot and was happy with what I got.

04-27-2008, 03:31 AM
i liked the game also.... and the graphics are definitely not so so