I’d be the first to agree with you, Abadd. This introduction is flawed, because, just as you say, there’s little gameplay in what’s supposed to be a game. However, I’ll ask that you persevere with it - Act One and the first third or so of Act Two consists very much of ‘scene-setting’, and more consistent and prolonged gameplay will start to become more apparent from thereonin.
Regarding the “theory of gaming narrative” that you broached upon in your post, I’m also inclined to concur with you there, as well. Whilst I would laud cutscenes and cinematics as indicative of the industry’s maturity - both in technical accomplishment and the germination of ‘interactive literature’ - there is a small nub within me that feels uncomfortable that I’m just watching films on a monitor and not a game. But then, you have to pause to listen to other characters speak even in games like Half-Life with their integrated dialogues, so is there really any way of escaping that?
Seeing as Abadd’s raised the issue of gameplay, here is a brief and rough draft-sketch of a Field occuring much further on in the game. How would you react to it?
FXX: Heaven’s Thunder
The Southern Migration consists of four great settler-armies, under the auspices of the “Four Pretenders” - the princes who failed in the war of succession that occured in the southlands and were expelled from that domain. One prince has chanced across an Imperial installation which has been abandoned by its staff - and within it, are found no less than three Deathmakers, sister-missiles to that fired on Zoah in Saga. The prince wants to use these missiles as they are an asset to dominion, the right of the strong, but one of his nobles protests that such devices are dishonourable, because they strike hidden and from afar instead of the ideal battlefield which is a clash of souls and steel and where the strong truly prove themselves. Asserting that the gods will decide which course to take, the prince demands that the intractible issue be settled through a duel (not spectacular, as it is Southern custom). It’s hard-fought but eventually the prince fails when a swordblade cuts through his ankle. As the noble apologies for injuring his lord, the prince growls something along the lines of “You forget, it’s first blood from the torso!”, but instead of contecting himself with a slash or a nick, he buries the blade up to the hilt in his opponent in a fit of pique.
The gameplay opens up as Lagi, Ombar and Yumen swoop down on this base to disable the Daethmakers. There’s a time-limit as the missiles are currently being armed. They can either forge directly through the forest of formidable ground defences, inviting on themselves a lot of costly battles but saving time, or with a discerning eye, thread a maze-like path through them which avoids each defence emplacement’s alert-zone, which avoids too many confrontations but sacrifices time and the potential for more experience points. On reaching the launch rails and defeating the “Corona Ring” defences surrounding it, though, it is discovered that they are protected by a shield which Lagi can’t penetrate. The next stage involves the trio trying to find enter via an escape route (:p) to bypass this sheild and enter the subterranean parts of the base - there are a few red herrings which cause you to be attacked by air units if you mistakenly access them.
All the while this is happening, Ombar and Yumen are arguing heatedly between each other over whether the Deathmakers should be completely destroyed (Ombar) or merely deactivated and preserved for possible future need (Yumen).
On successfully finding the correct path, an Event occurs requiring you to dodge and weave through the congested and perilously tight architecture of the base in real-time, before emerging into the cavernous preparation chamber for the Deathmakers - you can destroy them now, but the only problem is that they’d probably take you with them, and also there’s an awful lot of rifles being aimed up towards the ceiling…