Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Realms of the Haunting (MS-DOS) - Part 2

Click to journey back to part one.

Oh man, it turns out that sitting in the chair maybe wasn't such a bright idea. Looks like I just got earned myself a death cutscene for poor Adam, who flinches in agony as the chair cooks him alive. I half expected Ghost Dad to turn up here as well and go into a rant about how only an idiot would sit on an ostentatiously evil chair in an demonic cultist church with creepy quotes all over the walls...

It's funny, they've managed to isolate the actor from the blue screen pretty well with hardly any noticeable fringe, but when the video's playing it's instantly obvious what's live action and what's CGI, as there's no film grain on the backgrounds. The pixels making up Adam and the skull are continually shifting, but the rest of the chair is completely still.

Oh it wasn't killing him, it was just burning a symbol into his palms, Raiders of the Lost Ark style! I'm starting to get the feeling that the developers knew full well that no one could resist sitting in the chair, as this mark looks like something that'll be essential to making progress.

It didn't open any doors in here though, so I guess I'll leave this place for now and continue exploring the hallways outside.

Okay, so my current goals are still:
  1. Find Alf the Knight.
  2. Free Ghost Dad from eternal torment.
  3. Meet the mysterious woman from Adam's dreams.
  4. And most importantly: get those damn sealed doors open in the house.
I'll see if I can get at least one of them done before I turn this off.

Oh hello, this is new. I don't remember this guy being here, and if he was he definitely wasn't saying anything.

Apparently my presence here violates the pact, which, shall be, enforced by, weird looking robot, knights for, all eternity enternity. Well no one told me about a pact (or much of anything really), so I'm going to whip out my boomstick and get to the business of self defence.

Enemies aren't all that dangerous right now if I keep my distance, but each new type I come across is even more of a bullet sponge than the last, with your average yellow-pants demon taking four bullets to kill and these assholes taking four shotgun shells. I suppose I should just be grateful that I actually found guns to shoot them with in the first place in Cornwall, England.


LATER.


Hey I've been given a choice for once. As I approached this stick a mysterious disembodied voice informed me that I've been marked for my destiny and commanded me to take this artefact and "recalibrate the Powers". See, I knew that sitting in that chair had a purpose! Apparently whoever sits in that thing gets to be the chosen one, and I'm the first person dumb enough to try it.

But am I dumb enough to trust the voice and pick up the strange object? I'm going to say... yes.

Hey, I also got something called the Shrive, which seems like the head from a staff with a design that matches the mark on Adam's hand! This hasn't gotten any less Indiana Jones.

I was kind of hoping the artefact I picked up would be a weapon, but I wasn't expecting to obliterate enemies with a single blast of blue fire! Shame I have to wait forever for it to charge up again for the insta-gib shot, as otherwise it's just an infinite ammo pea-shooter. Still, it's probably at least as powerful as the shotgun so I'll stick with it.

Annoyingly though, this particular room seems to spawn infinite enemies and they're coming out faster than I kill them. I found and activated three switches in here, but who knows what they've done, so I'm making a run for it. Hopefully these idiots are still confused by doorways.


MUCH LATER.


I was a bit stuck after the infinite enemy room as nothing new seems to have opened up, but then I remembered the mysterious secret button next to the Hydra logo at the (collapsed) entrance of the mausoleum. I put my new Shrive thing in there and it opened up a staircase!

Sorry game, but you have to be trickier than that if you want to outwit me. I may take a while, but I'll suss you out in the end.

Uh... this is the office I started in. This is where I met Ghost Dad and opened up the bookcase to get down to the mausoleum in the first place!

So the mysterious Shrive artefact that has been waiting in this place for the marked one's arrival for longer than he can possible imagine... is used to open a staircase to bypass a cave-in that hadn't happened until I got here. The fuck?

I mean I think multiple exits are a fantastic idea, I'm fully 100% supporting them on that one, but why is one of them restricted to the chosen one? They both open up to the same room, they both lead to the same bookcase... I... I can't figure this place out logically. That's it, I give up, I'm checking a walkthrough.

Turns out that I was on the right track back in the infinite enemy room, I just missed a single switch hidden in that dark alcove on the left, which apparently only appears once I've started hitting the other ones. I'm gonna have to deduct 23 points here for it wasting my time with a dumb puzzle.

Hitting the final switch deactivated the robots and revealed mysterious text on the wall. I chose to read the text aloud when asked, and was teleported elsewhere.

Hey it's Elias Camber again, looking less like a priest this time and more like a evil magician. He wants the Shrive, Adam wants him to go fuck himself, and neither of them really get what they want in this cutscene; though that doesn't stop Camber from grinning like an smug cat some more.

Then he grabs an old bone off the ground, snaps it into into dust and walks off.

Oh good, he's raised a trio of demon skeletons and locked us all in here together. So basically now I have to keep running laps of this room, backwards, firing my staff at them until they return to resting in pieces. Then hopefully the doors will open, or else I really am screwed here.

It's funny, I'm not actually missing the strafe keys all that much because the combat doesn't really require them so far. It takes so long to kill these things that I'm better off just running backwards and making a 90 degree turn whenever my back's up against the wall.

Hey it's a tiny little snake statuette sitting in one of the corners. I picked a bunch of these up from the office earlier (and I think there was also one on that painting I opened up with the candles right at the start), but I haven't figured out what they're for yet. Man I really hope I'm not supposed to be collecting these as I go, as this is the first one I've seen in the whole mausoleum and it would've been so easy to miss.

I crossed the room to search the other side for more ammo and snake statues and I accidentally triggered another FMV cutscene instead, this time featuring a miserable ghostly knight. Hey, this is Aelf! I've found Father Randall's ghost buddy at last! Maybe now I'll finally get some bloody answers about what is going on here.
"I may only give you knowledge, yet within this place are things that were taken from me; they will provide a link between us. The charge is met. Go with open eye and wings of angels; the sword of the dragon is held aloft as a beacon. Find the Tower Adam!"
That's the last time I dare hope for a sensible conversation out of a ghost. Not that I wanted an exposition info-dump, it'd just be nice to know... well, anything.

And then the skeletons come pouring in. Not a huge problem to be honest seeing as I have an infinite ammo staff and room enough to run backwards in circles.

Oh hang on, they seem to be respawning and now they're coming at me from all directions. Well... balls.

I'd show you the game over message I got, but there wasn't one. The game just put me back at my last save a little wiser and a little wearier. Now at least I know I just should make a run for it. And with nowhere else left down here to go now I suppose I should get back upstairs to the house.


LATER.


Hey it's the girl from Adam's dreams! She even calls him by name and hints that she knows he's been dreaming of her.

She skips introducing herself or explaining why she's here and jumps straight to offering her help, which sends Adam into a long rant about how shitty his day's been. He seems more pissed off about the 2 hour cab ride and having to walk to the door in the rain than the army of demons out to kill him, but to be fair he has been doing all this survival horroring in damp clothes and he's likely too polite to explain that the real reason he's pissed off is that no one will ever tell him anything.

The woman tells him that she's called Rebecca Trevisard and that what's going on here affects her as well. He seems satisfied by this, hands her his lantern and I guess they're partners now.

Hey I've achieved two of my goals now! I should probably turn the game off at this point, but I'll give it five more minutes. Mostly because I want to see what's behind these bloody sealed doors already.


CHAPTER III: "KEEPER OF TIME".


I can't see Rebecca in the room, but she does seem to be around as she's commenting on everything that Adam examines now. Sometimes this even leads to more dialogue options from inside the inventory, which is cool. The two of them are trying to piece this mystery together with the clues he's collected. They can even discuss the people he's met, which means there really is a point to the Adam Randall moody head-turn video clip button after all!

This also explains why he says 'any ideas' after examining one of the mysterious vials of liquid he's been stashing in his coat. He wasn't asking the player, he was asking Rebecca... she just hadn't turned up yet. But yeah she reveals that they're all health potions like they obviously were all along.

And now I finally get to see what lies behind the mysterious doors, as the seals disappear and I get access to the rest of the house...

... oh, it turns out that they've got Egypt in here. Well that's my curiosity satisfied now, so I suppose this would be a good place to turn the game off.


CONCLUSION

Realms of the Haunting's got a bit of that Alone in the Dark/Resident Evil thing going on, with the scary mansion, the cutscenes, the inventory of clues and puzzle items to use etc. but it's been far less of a pain in the ass. I was allowed to see where I was going, I could save whenever I wanted, I could pick up objects with a single click, I didn't have to shuffle things into storage boxes to make room... and it still let me watch my inventory items spin around!

The default movement controls are still a little terrible (and impossible to remap in the UK version without some messing around), but I soon found that I didn't really find much use for those awkwardly placed jumping and sidestepping keys anyway. The combat seems to exist more to add tension to exploring dark hallways rather than to entertain in its own right, so walking backwards and shooting the gun until all the bad men fell down was usually enough to get me through. Though sometimes they came right back again and spoiled all my fun.

Like with a lot of classic shooters, there were a few times that I reached a point where I had no idea where it wanted me to go next, and had to run laps of the map looking for doors I missed or things I'd forgotten. It's been playing fair with its physical switches at least, if I flicked one I was usually made aware of what it did, but I often came out of cutscenes with no clue what I'd achieved by triggering them or where to go next. Like I had no way to know that Rebecca would appear back in the house after I talked to Aelf, and "Find the Tower Adam!" wasn't exactly pointing me in the right direction. Doesn't seem like great game design to me.

I did like the cutscenes though. The FMV footage was always going to look cheesy against virtual sets designed to match the in game graphics, and the low resolution and dithering doesn't do it any favours either, but the actual acting doesn't seem that bad at all. It's like they took clips from a mid-budget mid-90s fantasy horror TV series and spliced them into an action-adventure shooter type game. The lead actor was good when he was basically carrying the game by himself with his low key narration, and when Rebecca started joining in with her posh know it all British accent that was good too. And I like good things in my games.

It's interesting, that's what the game is. Flawed for sure, and pretty dated, but it's interesting. I'd definitely voluntarily play more of it.



Ray Hardgrit likes a game with first person shooting in it, what a shocking and unexpected outcome! You can comment on this incredible turn of events, the game, my writing, this website, and other related subjects in the box provided below!

5 comments:

  1. this is such a great review. i like it a lot. mama mia.

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  2. good........good............this was actually pretty interesting, heard about this game from quackguyver but never had the chance to give it a go.

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  3. i also heard about this game from this... "quackgyver". he or she seems like an amazing person.

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  4. Great review, Amnesia:TDD I'm reminded of. Now Ray please play Alien Isolation, Among The Sleep, Going Home and Rust... ^_~

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    1. Alien: Isolation would be way too scary for me. I'd be terrified that my PC's ageing CPU was going to explode out of its case at any moment, assuming that I could convince the game to even start. I can't even look at the price without cringing in horror.

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