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SummaryThe best blend of gothic horror and comedy for the PC back then.. or until now???
The GoodWow,what is there not to like?? This was the first PC game I ever bought, mainly because of the great box design: graves, tentacled monsters, witches and skulls, when I saw it I fell in love. Added to this all the booklets, full of gothic puns and spooky stories I thought it couldn't get better.
This game is mostly an adventure game combined with RPG elements which make it really decision-open. You can go anything you like, click at everything and read something clever, talk to anyone and actually do anything you can think of, almost.
The graphics were superb for 1994 with very nicely drawn surroundings and some of the most distinctive faces ever made for a game (ahh... Rusalka...). The sound effects and music add very much to the eerie atmosphere and a cozy feeling of old horror stories featuring ghosts and curses in little towns were the townsfolk bolt their houses at night (for example the inn features a midi sample of Grieg's Annitra's Dance, magnificent!).
The gameplay is a bit on the easy side, with most adventuring riddles being solved with a combination of using the right item on the right place, conversing with everyone and advancing the right skills to overcome obstacles. There is so much to be done though, and the feeling of adventuring is always there so its not so much of a hindrance that the various objectives are mainly easy. There is also a bit of fighting which adds an extra flavor, although it was very badly implemented in this game .
In the end the best aspect of this game is its concept, imagery and spooky feeling. It is a combination of all the classical horror themes (vampires, werewolves, mad scientists, ghosts, graveyards, Slavic mythology along with a Poeish and Lovecraftian touch). The master aspect of all these is that they never feel out of place or disjointed like in other horror games of that time (waxworks etc), but completed each side of the story of one of the best RPG adventures ever made.
The BadWell there were some bugs, but I didn't care at the time.
The really hideous part of the game is one that was advertised on the box.. combat. It was badly programmed and not entertaining. There was even an option that the character's fighting was carried out by the PC on autopilot which was very awkward at first, but really logical after the first few lame battles. Also the sound effects after a victorious battle were so kitsch and out of place.. a common feature of all Sierra games. Sierra could never really criticize their games effectively and cut some stupid art or effects out of them, but hey they had just come out of the 80's eh?
The game these days can be seen as a little retro. It hasn't aged very well as most of Sierra's games unfortunately. A bit childish in some aspects too.
The Bottom LineThis is the perfect blend of a mixture of gothic horror and comedy in a PC game adventure/RPG. You have to try it out if you like graveyards, superstitious folk, vampires, bloodthirsty bunnies and early 90's gaming. Actually there hasn't been one single game to be compared to it since then.
My dream one day, is not to see the wars end and earth be a better place, but some gaming company make another game that could compete this one in gothic horror feeling , mixing traditional spookiness and a bit of comic humor and make an equally open actioned game with more clever puzzles. Is it so hard???
My only hope right now for something a bit close to this, is "A vampyre's tale" an adventure made by Autumn moon entertainment, although its more on the cute graphics , leaving a bit of horror aside.. but since its supposed to be made from the creators of the perfect Monkey Island 3 its ok I guess.
So still Shadows of darkness is as close as it gets to the perfect gothic horror themed RPG/adventure. There is always Ghost 'n Goblins of course and Castlevania but these are arcade platformers and another story.