What have we here?

Dracula! One of the most terrifying names in European mythology, and yet one which inspires so many teens to wear black and red, put on heavy make-up and stay out of the sun. The idea of the vampire has been the seed for so many stories; it's such an attractive, subversive image – great power, immortality and the complete sociopath. But at the same time, such intriguing weaknesses: garlic, sunlight, holy water, mirrors, and the stake. Out of such contradictions are great characters woven.

And so we also find a fertile seedbed for games: Castlevania, Legacy of Kain, Pathologic, Vampire: The Masquerade (and others called Vampire), Bloodrayne, Dark Angel, all in just the past five years. And that's before we consider the Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Van Helsing spin-off games!

Now, we have a new game Dracula Origin, this time in the point-n-click genre, developed by Frogwares, and published by The Adventure Company. This means that it is a third-person game, in pre-rendered scenes (but with a certain amount of live animation for flavouring), with good technical presentation, and high production values.

Notes from a short journey

In this game, you take the part of Professor Van Helsing, the vampire hunter, and we begin with a letter from Jonathon Harker, regarding his investigations in Transylvania and a request that Van Helsing take care of Mina, in London. The plot seems taken directly from Bram Stoker's classic tale of Count Dracula. The cast list most certainly is.

So, to the game itself, what do we have? A richly rendered environment of Victorian London (to begin with). A very Sherlock Holmes-ian aesthetic of subdued colours and somewhat ectomorphic human characters. Think Kate Moss or Richard E. Grant. The colours are muted, but the environments are realistic, detailed, and absorbing. Not everything is click-able, but much is.

It is nice to note that someone at the Adventure Company or Frogwares is paying attention to the frequent complaints of game reviewers about the quality of voice acting in many games around at the moment. The characters that I encountered have a variety of well executed accents. Even the cockney gravedigger – a time-honoured accent for really getting wrong! My only complaint here is that there appeared to be no attempt to make the characters lip-sync the dialogue, and their expressions are fixed too. This is a disappointment when compared to the rest of the technical presentation.

What about the puzzles? Well, in my relatively short time with the game, I saw a mapping puzzle, a research puzzle, a combination lock, some inventory puzzles, and a number of mechanical puzzles. There was quite a range in only the first few hours of the game. None were particularly difficult, but all quite logical and satisfying in their way.

Actually, I nearly gave up playing when I was first defeated by a series of mechanical puzzles in a graveyard. I thought I'd seen enough to write my first impressions. But then I found myself dragged back to the game. I had to solve those puzzles. And I did it, too, and was glad I did. The particular puzzles are no more complicated than those in Pandora's Box, but like that game, it is nonetheless, satisfying to complete them.

Jumping to conclusions?

To conclude, I think that the early part of Dracula Origin reminds me strongly of the experience of gaming in the village of Valadilène in Syberia. I would be very glad to see the rest of this game live up to such a benchmark.


Would you like to learn more about Dracula: Origin? Read the full review by Inferno.