Based on the film adaption of the book, Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman.
So, admittedly, my expectations were ROCK BOTTOM beginning this game and because of this, The Golden Compass was a pleasant surprise.
But that was also hours ago. The game exposes itself pretty quickly.
For those of you not familiar with the plot of, The Golden Compass, let me try to sum up the story for you.
It begins with you as a little girl riding a talking polar bear who is weating armor, traversing what looks like the North Pole. As you go along, wolves attack you, as wolves do, and the bear fucks them up. In fact, the bear fucks up just about everything that it comes across because it’s a war bear. One of the first pieces of information the game developers just assume you already know.
“Oh, a war bear. Of course.”– Me
The little girl, Lyra, is hell bent on rescuing kidnapped kids from some tribal camp. No one knows why. But you do it anyways. The talking, armored war bear named, lorek follows her orders and destroys everybody and everything.
Oh yeah and everyone has an animal assigned to them that can talk too. They’re called Daemons. Lyra’s animal is a ferret, I think? I’m not really sure as the writers never really felt it necessary to explain. Maybe a mongoose? Some sort of long rat. Anyways, her Ferret Daemon can shape-shift into other animals like a Sloth, Hawk or Bobcat, as well. They also never explain this in the game. You just kind of have to figure it out on your own.
The story then goes back a couple months and you play as, Lyra at some stupid school for kids in Oxford and you’re basically a little shit that doesn’t follow any of the rules and all of the teachers hate you. Your uncle is Daniel Craig but he’s never around because he’s some famous explorer.
After that you’re at Nicole Kidman’s place. she seems cool at first but then starts to weird you out after a while, as Nicole Kidman does, so you break into her office and realize she likes kidnapping kids. Then you leave there and get abducted by Gypsy pirates aptly named, Gypsians. They take care of you for a few days and eventually you meet your bear buddy and the two of you wage war on the confusing and poorly explained universe around you.
As I’ve mentioned covering other licensed games – way too often to the developers assume that you have any fucking clue what the movie they are adapting is about. It always feels like a rushed and incomplete job and chances are it was. Like, The Da Vinci Code this game came out BEFORE the theatrical release. Why was this a common occurrence in the early 2000’s? To be honest – I have no idea. But it almost always destroys any chance the game has at being fun.
The good parts about this game are found early on. The combat (while you play as lorek) is simple and straightforward. A sort of high paced hack and slash. What’s more interesting is when you take over as Lyra and get to engage in conversation. The game places a heavy emphasis on being deceptive with others and there is a dozen or so mini games you must complete in a given time period to pass each speech challenge. This is a novel concept and a relatively fun at first.
The part of gameplay that had the highest ceiling of fun potential was the “golden compass” itself. As you progress, you learn what different meanings symbols have throughout the game. As the story moves on you’re presented more and more questions that you can ask this compass of truth. Sometimes there is guess work on symbolism. But rather reward you with a new meaning if you do guess the symbol right, the game just moves on. The only way you can actually keep track of each symbols meaning without finding every single hidden emblem throughout the game is by writing them down on a piece of paper. Which I considered at first until I realized I really don’t want to spend more time than I have to with this title.
And why is that, you ask?
For starters, plot holes and insane story aside – dialogue and its mini games become so tedious you just begin avoiding NPCs all together. The universe the game is set in is not interesting enough to even discuss it with the video game characters.
Secondly, the combat system while easy to learn is incredibly inconsistent. It’s janky and buggy. Camera angles are horrendous. There are literally only two buttons you can mash and even while you do that there is no guarantee that you will even hit any of the enemies directly in front of you.
Ultimately, The Golden Compass is too long for its own good. The luster wears off quickly and the only challenge found all game is due to poor level design and awful camera angles. Even if you find this title cheap it’s not really worth the purchase unless you’re some kind of sick sadist that loves punishing himself playing shit games based on stupid movies.