Wow! Wow, wow, WOW!!! Whatta game!
I can't recommend this incredible game enough! Consider Realms of the Haunting an antidote to short games like Amerzone and The Crystal Key because it is HUGE!
It's from Interplay, 1996. You'll need at least a 486 and 16mb of RAM, so that shouldn't stop anyone from playing! The game is “DOS based with Windows 95 support.” I sometimes have buckets of trouble with DOS games, but this ran very well on my Windows 98 machine. I just double-clicked the Win95run icon in the RotH folder, and the game started right up. The game froze on me once, and I got bounced to my desktop once or twice, but in a month of playing that's nothing to complain about! There is no patch needed for the game.
I know this will make some people flee in terror, but it is an action/adventure. The adventure part has two settings: Easy/Normal. You can toggle between the two throughout the game. In easy setting, inventory items are automatically selected for you when you come to a hotspot. I only used this a few times late in the game when I needed to open a door again, but didn't want to sort through the keys I had accumulated. The action part has four settings: Easy/Normal/Hard/Very Hard. Choose carefully grasshopper, as you can't change this without restarting the game! I am no master gunslinger, not by a long shot (pun always intended), but I chose Normal and thought it was the perfect setting. You find a variety of weapons and items in the game to restore your health, and I had plenty of both leftover at the end.
To get the other baddie that makes people flee out of the way: there are mazes in this game. (Heck, you could consider the whole game a maze since it's so huge!) But they're mostly very easy. If you keep your eyes peeled, you'll find quite a few documents scattered around, and some of these are maps of the mazes. (I think there are only two significant mazes without maps.)
Although it reminds me a great deal of my Number One game, Azrael's Tear, by both its similar graphics and level of intricacy, RotH really is in a class by itself. Well-developed story with mostly excellent acting coupled with a wide variety of realms and great sound effects add up to a wonderful gaming experience. The Tower is probably the most bizarre place I've ever seen in a game before. Definitely not a place for someone with vertigo! Wild! And I want my own Key of Tears!! What an exquisite piece of work!
In an earlier post I made right after I started the game, I raved about finally being able to see my (character's) reflection in mirrors (proclaiming that I was no longer a vampire!). Little did I know that would come back to Haunt me in one of the puzzles. Yes, there actually is a “House of Mirrors” maze, just like you'd find at the State Fair! What a trip! There are a number of puzzles I've never seen before in other games, mostly bunched near the end. A nice change of pace from the mostly inventory-oriented puzzles in the beginning.
This game does have a few short-comings. For example, the graphics are a little primitive. This was most troublesome when trying to read some of the graffiti on the walls in the game. I had to keep switching my viewing angle to be able to read it all. It's not imperative that you read these items, and there's not a lot of it, but it does add to the plot. Still, it would have been nice if the character read them for you. (The game does have subtitles for all dialogue.) And there were one or two occasions where I really wanted a rest from the monsters but they just kept on coming. (There are some spots where you can choose to run instead of fight.) It also has the annoying requirement of needing disc one in your CD drive to start the game. I used the maximum install, and it appeared that the game ran from the hard drive except when I came to one of the very nicely done cut scenes, which is when I had to switch to one of the other discs. (But there is definitely not a lot of disc-swapping in the game.)
Movement is mouse or keyboard controlled. I found the mouse movement to be a little difficult to master, so I stuck to using the arrow keys for movement.
Mini-spoiler: I was perplexed by one part of the plot: Upon my second meeting with Belial, I give up the sword and shrive without a fight, then I'm transported to a cell in a totally new realm where Rebecca is easily able to find and rescue me. None of that made any sense, and weakened an otherwise very well-developed and intricate plot.
An overall wonderful gaming experience! I wasn't so sure I'd enjoy the action aspects of the game, but I ended up feeling they were a nice change of pace from the regular ol' exploring, searching, pull that lever, push that button, talk-to-everyone-you-meet-about-every-inventory-item-you-have menu that pure adventure games offer. Realms of the Haunting is most assuredly a permanent part of my collection!
The longer I ramble on about this game, the longer I keep you from starting it, so I'll close with my non-winning limerick devoted to this experience:
A horde of monsters – I'm on a killing spree
And my father's soul must be set free
For I'm currently immersed in Realms of the Haunting
Florentine and Belial - I must ignore their taunting
And the fate of the world is up to me!