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Gameplay and features
The game is based on Unreal Engine technology, and combines elements of first-person-shooter games such as Unreal with strategy/role-playing game elements. The game can be played either in single player or multiplayer modes, which determine the course of the game. In the single-player game, the story centers on a character made for the game: Elayna Sedai, the Keeper of the Chronicles of the White Tower. The storyline in the singleplayer game is linear, whereas in the multiplayer game the player may act as either Elayna Sedai, the Leader of the Children of the Light, one of the Forsaken, and the Hound, an entirely new character type. The game's multiplayer contains two modes: Arena and Citadel. Arena is a basic deathmatch, in which the player or team with the most kills wins. Citadel is similar to capture the flag, in which each team must capture the "seal" of the other teams. Seals can be protected in the base through a variety of traps and computer-controlled guards. Though the game never saw as high play volume as many other first-person shooters, it was played by a loyal group of fans for a long time after its release.
Wheel of Time's gameplay is very similar to a first-person-shooter, but instead of normal weapons the player is given a wide assortment of over 40 ter'angreal - magical artifacts which can cast specific weaves (spells). These artifacts range from offensive weapons, to shield and healing spells, to various more complex spells, such as one which swaps the player's location with the target. The number and variety of spells available allows for combinations of weaves to be used, as well as effective counters to the attacks of other players or AIs.
The game's setting in respect to the novels is ambiguous. Elayna Sedai, the protagonist and the player's alter ego, is reading a report from an expedition she sent out, when she is attacked by an unknown assassin in her office in the White Tower. She is knocked out, and he makes off with an odd, horn-shaped ter’angreal but not the cuendillar seals he was looking for. The Amyrlin subsequently sends Elayna to recover the ter’angreal.
Elayna follows the assassin and his army of Trollocs to the crumbling city of Shadar Logoth, which is inhabited by unknown creatures of evil. She tracks the assassin through the city, battling Trollocs and dark creatures along the way and finally corners the assassin, who admits that he was hired by the Forsaken Ishamael. Ishamael is seeking the seals held by the Amyrlin. The assassin agrees to return the ter’angreal in return for his life. Just as Elayna retrieves the ter’angreal, the assassin is assailed by Mashadar, the evil that consumed Shadar Logoth made manifest as a mist-like creature.
Upon returning to Tar Valon, Elayna finds the White Tower besieged by Trollocs. After helping to secure the tower, Elayna is told that the Amyrlin wants to see her in the basement with the ter’angreal. On her way to the basement, Elayna overhears a group of Black Ajah Aes Sedai with the assassin from Shadar Logoth and another Aes Sedai named Sephraem, all of whom are working for Ishamael.
When Elayna finds the Amyrlin, she tells her of the Black Ajah. The Amyrlin then tells Elayna of the importance of the odd ter’angreal: Elayna, a weak channeller, has the potential to be the most powerful being on earth. Since her childhood, the Amyrlin has Shielded Elayna from the One Power for her own protection, and the odd ter’angreal is able to unlock that power. Just as the Amyrlin is about to use the ter’angreal on Elayna, the assassin and Sephraem break in, kill the Amyrlin, and take the ter’angreal as well as Amyrlin’s seal.
Elayna takes a few moments to mourn the Amyrlin’s passing, then pursues the assassin and his minions as the new acting Amyrlin. They lead her to an empty Aes Sedai expedition site outside a Whitecloak fortress. She is captured by the Whitecloaks and thrown in the dungeon, where a few of the Aes Sedai are located. Elayna learns that some Aes Sedai were able to escape through a portal stone outside the fortress. She manages to escape from her cell and makes her way to the portal stone.
The portal takes her into the Mountains of Mist, near the fortress of Ishamael. She finds the escaped Aes Sedai in the dungeon of the fortress, rescues them from the dungeon and defends them while they make their way back to the portal stone. Once they are all away, she begins to search the fortress for the Amyrlin’s seal, which the assassin, now referred to as the Hound, brought to the fortress.
While searching the fortress, she finds some notes on a long lost ritual to remove from the seals the power to release the Dark Lord from his prison. She eventually finds the seal, guarded by Sephraem. After defeating her and claiming the seal, Elayna is captured by Ishamael, who prepares to torture her. The Hound comes in and uses the odd ter’angreal to trap Ishmael in a Shield. He then explains that he has succumbed to the chaotic evil of Shadar Logoth, and how he purposefully pitted Ishamael, the Aes Sedai and the Whitecloaks against each other to sow chaos. Elayna and Ishmael are able to escape the Hound’s grasp, and Elayna begins gathering seals to complete the aforementioned ritual.
Once they are gathered, Elayna travels to Shayol Ghul, where the ritual must be performed. The Hound arrives, offering to trade the odd ter’angreal, which could bestow untold powers on Elayna, for the seals. To his surprise, Elayna refuses the offer, noting how she had spent her life without those powers. She sends the Hound falling to his death with the artifact and completes the ritual, ensuring that the Dark Lord cannot escape his prison until the Last Battle.
Although Robert Jordan was consulted during the creation of the Wheel of Time game, there are some discrepancies between the Wheel of Time universe as established in the books, and the storyline (mostly due to gameplay enhancements):
- Aes Sedai do not appear to wear their serpent rings in the game. This is not a very large mistake, however, since Aes Sedai in the books do not have to wear them (even though most of them typically do).
- Aes Sedai wear clothes indicating their Ajah within the game, such as Black Ajah sisters wearing dark grey/blackish dresses, while in the books, although Aes Sedai's Ajahs have certain secret dress codes (such as Blue Sisters are not supposed to wear red because the Blue and Red disagree on certain issues) but may ultimately wear whatever they want. This is probably due to the game engine using the same mesh model for Aes Sedai. Only two prominent characters, Elayna (who is wearing clothes and a cloak of white, not brown) and Sephraem (in a red outfit revealing her bosom), are depicted to wear significantly different clothes.
- Channelling is usually done via the Ter'angreal, rather than accessing the One Power directly. Within the game this is explained by Elayna (the player's alter ego) being a very weak channeller, but an expert on using Ter'angreal; this allows for Ter'Angreal to be used much like weapons in other ego-shooter games. Other Aes Sedai characters do not need Ter'Angreal to Channel.
- The game features portal stones and waygates in locations that are extremely unlikely, although not expressly ruled out by the books. Moreover, using a portal stone requires immense strength in One Power, so Elayna, being shielded, shouldn't be able to use it.
- Mashadar, the mist of Shadar Logoth, does not kill or drive mad at the slightest touch in the game, although its touch does cause damage (which can be avoided by Weaving a spirit shield).
- The game's handbook describes the Legion (a quadrupedal monstrosity that is repeatedly encountered in Shadar Logoth) as engineered by the madness of Shadar Logoth; it was invented for the game. However, neither the monster itself nor the ghosts it spits forth fit the overall description of Shadar Logoth in the books. The madness coalesced in the Mashadar Mist, and some unlucky beings were transformed into lurking horrors. The Legion monster therefore does not appear to fit the Wheel of Time universe.
- Balefire is just a very powerful beam weapon in the game, but has nowhere near the effect described in the books, namely unraveling the weave of time and creation by burning away the strings it touches. This (side-)effect would be very hard to show in the scope of a game anyway. It could therefore be argued that the Balefire ter'angreal in the game does not actually produce real Balefire, but is an "ordinary" attack spell outwardly resembling Balefire rays.
- Ishamael must be overcome to take a seal from him in the last mission, and the player may even use the Balefire ter'angreal against him. Ishamael, however, is a prominent character in the books (which are set much later), and should not suffer death, or even removal from existence through Balefire. It could be argued that if Ishamael was killed then there is a chance that the Dark Lord may have revived/reincarnated him, however Robert Jordan repeatedly stressed that no one(including the Forsaken) can be reborn if Balefire is used on them.
- The Forsaken should still at this point be trapped with the Dark One, as the first began to escape in the books. (It was later revealed that Ishamael, whose was imprisoned "just beyond the surface" of the magical prison, repeatedly managed to break free for some time and roam the world even before the events depicted in the books.)
- Elayna Sedai is not mentioned among the Amyrlins of the White Tower in any official material. It could be argued though that she only briefly held the office after the murder of the previous Amyrlin, until a new Amyrlin could be properly elected, and was therefore not herself considered a proper Amyrlin. This assumes that she indeed lost the position in favour of another sister as soon as "politics got their way", as both Poleine Sedai and the Hound indicated would happen if Elayna failed to restore her true powers.
The game was critically acclaimed receiving strong reviews on release. Most notably the architecture in the levels was by far the best of its time. However the game suffered poor sales likely due to being released in the same time period as releases in the Unreal and Quake series. These factors turned a promising game into a relatively unheard of one. Wheel of Time was also rated #10 on gamespy's most underrated games of all time.
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