An early 3D Adventure Game with elements of action from Intelligent Games and published by Mindscape. The protagonist is a sort of high-tech professional tomb robber called a Raptor who gets a letter from one of his rivals one day, saying that he thinks he's located the Holy Grail in northeast Scotland, but may have gotten in too deep. The letter was to be delivered in the event of his disappearance, so something must have gone wrong.
There's also a vague backstory of the world undergoing various upheavals, like massive earthquakes unearthing ancient ruins, and a terrible plague. Against this background, the protagonist sets off to investigate (and possibly attempt to acquire the Grail for himself while he's there), entering the Temple of Aeternis early in December 2012.
Despite having an intriguing and well-written story with an ending that makes you seriously think, it was a commercial failure (no doubt being released alongside the wildly popular Quake did not help one bit) and is not too well known today.
Matthew Stibbe, one of the original developers, released the original pitch and design documents on his blog.
Azrael's Tear provides examples of:
- Ancient Conspiracy: The Prieuré.
- And I Must Scream: The fate of countless people and possibly animals whose bodies are too damaged for grailstone to heal, yet cannot quite die. And even when they do die, their spirits often remain trapped, unable to depart.
- Apocalypse How: Not greatly elaborated, but based on the small amount of information, societal collapse on a planetary scale.
- Arc Number: 12.
- 12 Guardians of Aeternis.
- 12 ships sent to Aeternis before it was sealed.
- The protagonist enters Aeternis during the 12th month of 2012.
- Chapter XII is the only one that can be read in The Holy Vision of Tobias de Treece.
- 12 tracks in the BGM.note
- Diegetic Interface: Not only does the MS-2 helmet display information in the protagonist's field of vision and provide a mapping facility, but it also has buttons to turn the BGM on and off, as well as saving and loading the game.
- Epilogue Letter: Well, journal entry, really. Written by Cesar de Treece, brother of Tobias.
- Everything Sensor: The MS-2 helmet is standard equipment for Raptors. It contains a variety of sensors which can scan surfaces, detect hidden structures, and analyze DNA. It also contains a powerful computer with a very large database, which can identify rooms, machines, artifacts, and lifeforms, and can make intelligent suggestions about the purpose of some things and recommend courses of action based on the data acquired.
- Faction-Specific Endings: Depending on a Last-Second Ending Choice. However, the True Ending, and the only one reasonably good for the protagonist, requires making a right decision a little earlier.
- Heads-Up Display: The MS-2 helmet.
- Immortality Inducer: The Grail, of course. Or rather, the material it's made of, grailstone. But it's not the kind you'd want to actually use for any length of time.
- Last-Second Ending Choice: At least three paths, each leading to different endings. Though to be sure, there is only one True Ending, complete with an epilogue; the others are pretty much just slightly extended Game Overs.
- Mayan Doomsday: Subverted in that the story begins in December 2012 with the world in bad shape, but then ends several years later, with the world in even worse shape but definitely not ended. Then again, the future is left uncertain. It's also an unusual example: while as one would expect most instances appeared in works published in the handful of years preceding the date, this one was all the way back in 1996, 16 years before.
- Omniscient Council of Vagueness: The Prieuré. Somewhat less omniscient than most, but quite powerful.
- Who Wants to Live Forever?: Short-term exposure to grailstone is quite beneficial. It heals virtually all injuries, cures all sickness, and generally makes one healthy. Long-term exposure... not so much.
- The Plan: There is a "chosen" Thief, but the Prieuré knows there is no guarantee he'll succeed. So they've manipulated things so no matter who gets the Grail, it will fall into their hands. If the chosen one succeeds, he may either escape or lose it to Tobias or to Edward and Lurka. Or one of the other Raptors may get the Grail, with the same possible outcomes. Or possibly none of the Raptors succeeds, in which case one of those schemers may somehow get a hold of it. But no matter who emerges with the Grail, the Prieuré is waiting to take it and use it for their own purposes.
- Year Outside, Hour Inside: One of the strangest phenomena in Aeternis is that time is warped such that a day or two inside is actually weeks or even years in the outside world, and the effect is stronger the deeper one goes. In fact, despite spending (from his perspective) only a few hours or days inside, the protagonist does not leave until December 2015, just over three years after entering. It's not clear whether this is caused by grailstone or some Byzantine device.