Byzantine: The Betrayal
Review by Skinny Minnie
I can remember it all like it was yesterday. The initial horror
that gradually transformed into anticipatory distaste. The procrastination
that pricked at my sense of duty and loyalty. The final acceptance
of that inevitable journey ... Well, maybe I should start
back a little further, at the very beginning. Then perhaps you
will come to understand.
It was a warm summer morning in the year 2000. The trees rustled
softly, releasing tiny dewdrops that sparkled gently in the emerging
rays of sunlight ... No, wait! Actually, it was stormy and
dark, a distant flash of lightning vividly crackling toward the
heavens ... Well, how should I know? I was busy getting a
"flourescent tan" while sitting at my computer desk!
Anyway, there I was, when the phone rang. It was Christine, a
pal for whom my husband and I had recently put together a PC.
Newly introduced to its hypnotic allure, she had just returned
from a gaming software shopping spree. (SeeI remember the
"You will never guess what game I just found," she
sang excitedly into the phone. "I was at Ames, and ..."
My head jerked upright. My eyeballs convulsively rolled up into
the back of my head of their own accord. It hurt. Ames, for the
love of Pete! One just did not shop at discount clothing department
store chains for gaming software. It was the eleventh commandment.
Christine's unsuppressed glee drowned out my anguished moans.
"It only cost me five dollars, and it's called Byzantine:
The Betrayal," she patiently explained. "It's first-person,
point-and-click, full-motion video, 'edutainment' software put
out by the Discovery Channel." Oh boy, so she'd get to watch
Turkish birds swoop down into Istanbul's bordering seas in pursuit
of those stalwart gaming protagonists, the fish.
"It has six whole CDs in it, and guess what it says right
on the front cover? 'Make one mistake ...'" she paused
for dramatic effect, "'and you're history!'"
she breathed. (Apparently it really was the fish thing!)
I clenched my eyelids shut against any further independent displays
and flipped my nervous system the bird. I was her friend and I
would support her emotionally in this, her time of impending social
"They've still got a couple of copies left, and if you get
down there right away ..." Ah! Emotional support via
a private, secure phone line was one thing, but an actual physical
appearance in unchartered (and fishy) waters was quite another!
What to do, what to do? Would she call me next week and wonder
why I hadn't gone yet? Heymaybe a Turkish fishermen's convention
tour bus would break down right in front of Ames and they'd wipe
the place out ...
Eventually, I searched for and found my dark glasses, sighing
resolutely. Wrapping a kerchief securely around my head like a
sultan's turban, I donned my leather trench coat and began my
trek to the store ...
To Boldly Go Where No Gal Has Gone Before
After a quick 55 MB install, I plunged myself into Byzantine:
The Betrayal's opening movie. Indeed, most of the game was
filmed in full-motion video, on location in Istanbul. The story
began with my old college friend, Emre Bahis, imploring me via
letter and accented voiceover to hop a plane there from the USA
for first dibs on a story of potential Pulitzer proportions. As
a rebellious, sarcastic, freelance journalist-type character (which
of course bore no resemblance to the real-life, fish-loving, unassuming
journalist me), I took the bait. It wasn't fish bait, either.
That first destination of Emre's apartment may have been somewhere
no gal had gone before (as evidenced by the discombobulated masculine
decor), but plenty of men were familiar with it. They were bilingual
Turkish policemen, as it happened. Their head detective began
questioning me with a native accent so strong you could cut it
with a sword. My cross-shaped mouse cursor had become a lips icon,
and at each pause, multiple answers appeared at the bottom of
the screen that I could click on in response. None of the conversation
paths seemed to help. The detective didn't like the fact that
I showed up to meet Emre after all these years just as he was
under suspicion for involvement in an international crime ring.
He didn't like the fact that my friend had eluded capture yet
had managed to communicate freely with me. He didn't like the
fact that four previous visas had been cancelled on my rebellious,
sarcastic passport. What a nitpicker! He then planted a spy outside
Emre's apartment, called off his troops, and left. I shrugged
(in an unassuming way, of course) then started nosing around.
My cursor changed to a hand icon as it landed on a photo lying
on Emre's desk; I clicked on the Polaroid snapshot of Emre and
a mysterious female. The hand icon then looked like it was holding
a ball; in response, I picked up the photo. The picture was immediately
whisked into the always-visible inventory bar at the bottom of
the screen. I dragged the photo to the magnifying glass at the
bottom left to examine it more closely. I should have known by
the very fact that a gal was in the picture that it wasn't snapped
in the apartment, but hey, it never hurt to double check!
CursesI Mean Cursors!
I waved the cursor around on screen and clicked, following the
forward arrow to move around. A magnifying glass indicated closer
inspection of certain items was warranted, the backward arrow
pulled me out of closeups, and amidst all of this I began to find
veiled clues as to Emre's whereabouts scattered around the place.
A triangular shell puzzle gave one hint. A colorful, shape-coded
locked box revealed another clue once I decoded it. I decided
to save the game, just to test out the "save anywhere"
feature. (Call it journalistic paranoia, but I have never trusted
the timing of any game's auto save.)
Then it happened. The phone rang. It was Emre! Before I could
respond, nay, before I could barely breathe another breath, I
was ... dead! I had been killed by UFOs: Unidentified Furious
Oppressors. During my second attempt through that area, waving
the mouse cursor a tad more hysterically I admit, I noticed several
things. First, I noticed that not only could I go forward or back
out of closeups, but I could slide the view up toward the ceiling
and down toward my cement shoes. Second, I noticed that I could
also view the room in 360-degree rotational fashion by moving
the cursor to the left or right edge of the screen. Third, I noticed
that the one thing I had forgotten to take on my trip to Istanbul
was a huge bottle of Dramamine. Whew, that whip-around-the-room
interface must have been part of a gaming engine called "Verti-Go."
I even tried slowing down my mouse in the Windows 98 control panel,
to no avail.
Naturally, as I was dizzily scrambling to dig up even so much
as a sharp-looking pen out of Emre's desk, I was bumped off again
(so to speak) to the load/save game screen. It was then I noticed
that this screen had an automatic note-taking area, which I suddenly
felt inclined to peruse. I subsequently added a mental note to
self: A built-in hint section was also available if a weapon could
not be found ... I needn't have worried, for a journalist
scared for her life could eventually puzzle through even the most
deadly of problems sans violence, and Emre left more puzzles in
his apartment than the entire Toys-R-Us chain sold that whole
Have Attitude, Will Travel
At any rate, once the final section of the explorable area was
exited (in the calm fashion of a mentally stable writer, of course)
via a special long arrow, I was deposited to the map screen. New
areas like bars, underground catacombs, stores, and churches opened
up via the continual triggering of story events, and then they
could be clicked on from the map and visited. These new locales
were introduced through short cutscenes, then I was left to freely
explore them. What was up with the alleged "conspiracy ring"
thing with Emre, anyway? I wasn't sure, but apparently neither
were the police, who could be found in the most unlikely places!
My trusty eyeball icon would alert me if I could casually sneak
up to people and eavesdrop on their conversations. Otherwise,
I meandered into merchants' markets, and marveled at marble and
mosaic mosques and museums. Many more puzzles (I'm out of "m"
words; sorry!) awaited me as well. Some involved playing brain-bending
ancient Turkish board games or using high-tech equipment. Others
required creative inventory manipulation, mechanical repairs,
or even finding a hidden message arranged with domino-like gambling
There was also much cryptic conversation and enlightening information
to be had. Centuries of rich Turkish history and culture were
offered via voiceovers and close-ups of gorgeous artwork, graceful
statues, poetic stained glass, intricately carved woodwork, and
ornate metal accouterments. (Of course, I only listened and absorbed
the beauty for the sake of any future questioning from my friend
Everybody I met, from museum curators and business owners to
Emre's college mates and his own family members, seemed to know
or have heard of Emre but yet not know where he had vanished to.
Each person also seemed to have something to hide, one way or
another! Multigenerational conspiracy and intrigue, futuristic
computer equipment, international thefts, professional competitors,
greed and double crosseswhere would it all end? I was told
to seek out "Klio" for help in finding Emre. Could that
be the mysterious female in the photo?
Being the inquisitive type, I clicked and dragged certain of
my many acquired inventory items onto the locals as I conversed
with them. Sometimes I got help, and sometimes I got hell. (Remember
that save-anywhere feature? Use it!) I also developed the bad
habit of snooping around the hotels, offices and back rooms of
Istanbul without formal invitations to do so. Perhaps if Byzantine:
The Betrayal had offered a cat as a lead character, I would
have had enough lives to make it through this game in one shot,
but, alas, no such luck.
And the Beauty Pageant Winner Is ... Miss Istanbul
Visually, this game offered some computer-rendered virtual locations
featuring additional intrigue and interesting puzzles that supported
the story woven throughout the filmed locales. These virtual scenes
had the same type of cursor movement but did not have the beauty
of the filmed parts of the game. They were, however, decent-looking
considering Byzantine: The Betrayal's original 1997 release
The music was strongly ethnic, reflecting Turkish-sounding stringed
and percussion instruments. It added much ambiance to Byzantine
and underscored the building tension and busy tempo of life
in Istanbul. Sound effects also increased the feeling of reality
within the game; bells on shop doors jingled, crowds murmured
and swelled, water dripped and echoed in underground caverns,
and pots and pans clanged in the restaurants. Voice acting was
generally very good, albeit thick with Turkish accents that were
sometimes difficult to understand.
Every Silver Lining Has a Drop of Rain on It
Wending my way through both the virtual areas and the lavish
filmed portions of the game never proved disorienting, except
for a somewhat nasty timed hallway maze at game's end. I did wind
up with a couple of unused inventory items, but I hesitated to
label them red herrings as I questioned whether I just missed
fully completing a scene or two in the game. This may possibly
have been because I had half of Istanbul gunning for me by the
end, but perhaps your trip through the game will be somewhat different
all around. There were multiple conversational options, which
occasionally prompted different responses from interviewees, and
maybe different final choices at those times could have redirected
my path through the game.
Outside of the dizzying swirl of the 360-degree panning and the
occasional quick jerks up or down, there was not a lot for me
to complain about in this fabulous game. There were a few stealthy
scenes where I couldn't figure out what to do quickly enough the
first time through and was subsequently killed. A quick game reload
usually had me back on track, though. Those untimely demises truly
supported the exciting tale and were avoidable without violence
in all cases, once the proper actions were carried out. I did
not need super reflexes to complete those sequences, but merely
good focus and calm rationality.
This game ran with only an occasional video stutter on a Windows
98 Pentium III 500 MHz PC, with an NVidia TNT2 video card
and 128 megs of PC100 SDRAM. I did adjust my CD-ROM cache down
to its lowest setting, which lessened the stutters to practically
I absolutely loved the many layers of Byzantine's thrilling
tale; they slowly swelled to a final climax, explaining a lot
and wrapping up the loose ends in a very satisfying way. The many
puzzles were all very organic to the plot while still being varied
and original, as well as appropriately challenging for a seasoned
adventure gamer. Its educational aspects were mostly optional
via museum tours and the like, but I felt compelled to soak up
every last bit of this engrossing game.
In case you couldn't tell, Byzantine: The Betrayal quickly
planted itself among my top-10 favorite computer games of all
timea star among stars. My only regret is that there was
never a Byzantine 2 ... Well, okay, I do have a second
regret. It is that Ames won't allow me to leave my rollaway bed
in front of its entrance doors ...
Release Date: 1997
Four Fat Chicks Links
Windows 95 (works fine in Win98)
Pentium 90 MHz processor (133 MHz recommended)
16 MB of RAM (32 MB or higher recommended)
55 MB hard drive space
Video/audio cards compatible with DirectX 5.0 or higher
2 MB video card
4X CD-ROM drive
Where to Find It
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