The Watchmaker: Keyboard Controls

It looks like a lot of my problems with this game have been a result of not reading the manual. There are ways of interacting with it that I didn’t know about, because I was thinking of it as a point-and-click adventure, and generally trying to do stuff with the mouse. I did figure out on my own that you needed to use the tab key to bring up the interface containing the in-game PDA and the save/load menu, and I managed to hit on the idea of pressing shift when clicking to run instead of walking (a virtual necessity, given the size of some of the rooms). But I apparently never tried pressing the space bar, which shifts the camera into first-person mode. You can’t move in first-person mode — it’s more meant for getting a close-up view of small areas with multiple small clickable objects, and in some cases there are objects you can’t even see without zooming in like this. (The chessboard, which I still haven’t solved, puts you into first-person mode automatically when you select it, but it’s the only thing I’ve found that does that.)

Also, in addition to clicking the ground to move, you can navigate with the arrow keys, which act as tank controls, like Grim Fandango or Alone in the Dark. This isn’t necessarily an improvement over click-to-move in games, of course, but the environments in this game really aren’t designed for click-to-move, and the fact that I was trying to use click-to-move anyway detracted from the experience in little ways that made me less patient with it than I could have been. See, this is one of those third-person games where the camera shifts between fixed (but rotatable) positions based on where the player character is. Using click-to-move, there are hallways where you have to pan the camera down until it’s nearly vertical just to walk to the point where the camera points the other way, and there are places where it’s hard to move at all because the use box for a hedge or something extends over the ground you’d need to click on. I had been thinking that these scenes were simply badly built, but it turns out I was using them wrong.

I can’t even really say that these features lack discoverability. They’re on the space bar and the arrow keys, for goodness sakes. How it is that I tried tab before trying these, I don’t know.

So, playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played, I’m finding it’s a significantly better game than I thought. But I still don’t think it’s a good game. If anything, discovering first-person mode makes the lack-of-guidance problems worse, because of the possibility that there could be a useful object hiding where I have to zoom in to see it. I’m not yet at the point of just playing entirely from a walkthrough, but I’m definitely playing with a walkthrough open.

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