Doctor Who: Worlds in Time: A puzzling, serial sci-fi social game

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Doctor Who Worlds in Time in action
"We think, if we do our job right, we can build the largest online community ever created around Doctor Who," executive VP of games and digital entertainment at BBC Worldwide Robert Nashak tells us. That's a tall order, but the media company behind the treasured Doctor Who TV series has teamed up with Spiral Knights creator Three Rings to make it happen. Doctor Who: Worlds in Time goes into public preview today, and based on early look provided by Nashak and senior product manager Max Engel, BBC Worldwide and Three Rings look like they have a shot of doing just that.

Worlds in Time throws players into the Doctor Who universe as a member of one of four races plucked from their bed (literally) by the Doctor himself to save the universe with the Tardis, his time machine. The Doctor will guide players through a series of missions to eventually restore 10 worlds--including Earth--from destruction by altering the space-time continuum. You know, classic Doctor Who scenarios.

Luckily, players will get to enlist the help of their friends in real time to take it to various time-bending aliens like the Daleks, the Cybermen and the Weeping Angels across worlds such as Mars, Skaro, Messaline and more. The missions that the Doctor will challenge players with are called "Interventions", because they'll work to save each given world by intervening with the space-time continuum. Doctor Who fans will arrive to new worlds in ruin to see them restored by mission's end.
Doctor Who Worlds in Time Logo
Since much of the show revolves around puzzling plot lines involving time travel, it's only fitting that the game employs puzzles almost exclusively. Players can complete these puzzle-based missions all by their lonesome, or join up with other aspiring Time Lords in real time to tackle them. Taking the latter approach gives players the opportunity to attack several puzzles at once in order to achieve a goal, perhaps each specializing in certain types of puzzles. For instance, Engel describes a scenario in which one player hacks the main frame, another keeps the enemy from getting through the door and another picks a lock--all through playing different puzzle games.

As players progress through the game's randomly generated missions (Three Rings uses a complex algorithm to create new missions recycling the same worlds with new monsters and scenarios), they'll earn new decorations and artifacts. These can be placed inside their personal Tardis, which of course is much larger on the inside. More importantly, players will earn upgrades to their own personal gadget that will become useful in special situations. In time, it will become as powerful as the Swiss Army knife of gadgets in the Doctor Who universe: the Sonic Screwdriver.

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Worlds in Time presents the Doctor Who franchise in an art style not seen before. Frankly, it looks like a Saturday morning cartoon. A shock to some hardcore Doctor Who fans, but Three Rings has taken an intense attention to detail. That said, this is one of the most visually-appealing Flash games this writer has seen to date. (Based on these screen shots, it's tough to argue that Worlds in Time doesn't look better than most social games on Facebook.)

However it's surprising that Worlds in Time won't be hosted on Facebook or Google+, considering Three Rings used Flash to create the game, the most prolific technology used in games on those platforms. Nevertheless, Worlds in Time will feature Facebook Connect by its commercial launch in March 2012, as well as semi-competitive Guild Play to make each version of the world seem larger. Since multiplayer is done in real time, groups of players will be separated into "shards" of the same game world.
Doctor Worlds in Time on Mars
"We want [Worlds in Time] to [have] a great feel of agency for what's taking place," Engel tells us. "If we have those shard sizes too large, it wouldn't feel like you're making a discernible difference in helping the game move forward. We are keeping those sizes a bit smaller, so every time you're successful in a mission, you do get that sense that you're making a difference."

Based on an early, hands-off preview of Worlds in Time, the game shows promise for the rabid Doctor Who fan base. However, it's tough to see a game like this appeal to a much wider audience. Even so, Doctor Who fans span the globe--the franchise is nearly 50 years old--so we doubt Worlds in Time will have much trouble finding a large, dedicated player base. Check out the trailer to see for yourself.


Click here to play Doctor Who: Worlds in Time Now >

Are you psyched to see Doctor Who's first-ever social game? Is this enough for a mega fan of the sci-fi series? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.
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