Genre:   Adventure

Developer:     RA Images

Publisher:   Meridian4

Released:  2005 (Europe), March 2006 (NA)

PC Requirements:   Windows® XP, 2 GHz Pentium 4 or equivalent
512 MB RAM, DirectX® 9 compliant 128 MB video card with T&L support, DirectX® 9 compliant sound card





by nickie


“The sky was overcast with heavily laden clouds from which, every now and then, thunder, claws of lightning roared and sank somewhere into the depths of the forest. During these brief flashes of light, twisted branches of trees were visible in the mist and stretched towards me like hands of the dead.”(Daemonica)

So begins the story of Nicholas Farepoynt, the Beast Hunter and Haresh al-Dorem, the one who speaks with the dead. Responding to an invitation, Farepoynt has traveled to a small hamlet in England in order to solve a murder mystery. The mayor who requested his services is unaware of what methods Farepoynt uses to find murderers, but he knows that Farepoynt has been successful in the past in resolving cases across England.

Farepoynt, always hooded and gloved (and heavily tattooed), is never welcomed with open arms into these towns. With the threat of the Black Plague barely over, the townspeople view strangers with suspicion. Many will do nothing for him until he earns their trust, and some have their own agendas. He will have to overcome their reticence in order to find out details about the murdered victim. Only then can he apply his skill, which has to remain a secret from everyone lest he be burnt at the stake. The Hunter’s greatest secret – the Daemonica, the language of demons. This allows the Hunter, after ingesting a potion concocted of deadly plants, to travel to the realm between the living and the dead and speak to the murdered souls. They can tell him themselves what they know of their murders, although often the information is sketchy or they speak in riddles and confusion. He must have particular information about the soul he is seeking, and he must have the body of the person by him when he undergoes his sacrificial ritual.

On this occasion he is met with stumbling-blocks right away. Since the letter was written requesting Farepoynt’s assistance, a woman has been murdered and the mayor took it upon himself to hang her boyfriend for the crime. The mayor believes the two missing bodies for which he asked assistance from Farepoynt were also victims of the same, now dead perpetrator. All he wishes from Farepoynt is for Farepoynt to find evidence to back up the mayor’s actions, since half of the townspeople believe that he hanged an innocent man. Farepoynt has dealt with so many atrocities in the past that he is immediately of the opinion that the mayor has done wrong. Adding to the problem, the murdered woman has been cremated, and the body of the hanged man is under heavy guard.

As the player, your initial goals are to find a way to make the townspeople talk to you, gather plants to make potions, steal the body from the gallows, and correctly conduct the ritual at the Temple of Sacrifices. Your ultimate goal is to find the murderer responsible for the deaths in this hamlet without allowing your secret life to become common knowledge. Along the way you will find that this is no simple murder case, for there are many secrets that others hold dear. During this quest you will also find that, while you have shunned friendship since the death of your companion, there are good people in this town who see beyond your bizarre appearance to the hero within -- and they will extend a hand to you.

“I pursue the worst human monsters. I track and kill murderers of children, poisoners of town wells, arsonists who set fire to houses in which innocent families sleep in peace. Seldom am I welcomed and everyone is happy when my mission is over and I am off. I do not need gratitude, friendship or understanding. I have seen the worst the world can offer.” (Daemonica)

This is a moody game, both in ambience and in the eloquent text; it is much like reading a gothic horror novel. Most of the dialogue in the game is presented as text, but fortunately it is well written. Rather than viewing a cut scene or an action being played out before you which requires your response, a text screen comes up detailing what has happened. Aficionados of the old text games will probably be happy with this, although I found it rather disconcerting. I think it is strange to use this method, and then have the required action of a half dozen fights. The fights are not difficult, as the enemy characters stick completely to the same pattern of movement. All that is needed is to block with the space bar, time the movements, and click your sword at the opportune moment. All the same, I was jolted by the change from the immersive text to the banal fighting, and would have preferred that the developers do away with the fighting altogether and make that part text as well. Or they could eliminate the text and have active screens throughout -- but perhaps budgetary constraints were an issue here.

Before you play the game you can access the backstory from the main menu, and it is worth doing so to understand why a man such as the main character would become a Beast Hunter. The writing is exquisite and I found the theme intriguing and unique. During the game you have access to a diary in your inventory, which helps to clarify information you have gathered. It also contains ingredients needed for potions and the appropriate methods to use when you are at the sacrificial temple.  This last bit of information is essential, for if you do not follow the correct steps you will die and it’s game over. To ensure that you do not have to reload, you need to question game characters in order to acquire various bits of information (such as birthdates and the souls’ aspirations) that will be used when calling out to the souls in the temple. This information will be automatically recorded in your diary and is easily accessible under individual names.

Also in your inventory is a map. Once you have visited a location, you can thereafter zoom back to that location. This is a highly useful feature and one that I wish more developers would utilize, especially in a game such as this where there is a lot of ground to cover. You will still need to wander quite a bit to find plants to combine to make potions. The potions you will need will be the soulgreep used in the temple, a potion to restore your health, and a couple of others that are necessary to fulfill part of the storyline.  While this is standard stuff for role-playing game (RPG) enthusiasts, it is a different idea for an adventure game. The developers were ambitious in trying to merge the two genres, although the RPG influence is very slight. In another salute to the RPG, you have a health meter on your screen which will lower as you sustain damage in a fight. As I said before, there are few fights that are mandatory, although you can elect to have more if you choose to do so by not talking your way out of situations.

The game is in third person from a top-down perspective.  Although there is a lot of text to read, there are also many places for your character to visit. Movement in this game is simple and effective. It’s point and click mostly, and it’s even easier than usual since you can click practically anywhere to move to a location in this 3D world. In other words, there are no static positions which you must click on to move your character, and you can wander as you will. The default pace is running, but you can change this if you wish. It becomes necessary to use the keyboard if you wish to block during a fight (by pressing the spacebar) or if you change the camera angle. I sheepishly admit I didn’t think to adjust the camera angle for some time, and was wondering why scenes appeared cut off, and characters that I was talking to were hiding under the stairs. You move the camera angle by pressing the left and right arrow keys for a different view. You can also use the up and down arrow keys to zoom in and out, or you can use the mouse scroll wheel. (In retrospect, the paper manual that accompanies the game does explain this.)

The graphics are adequate, but far from sensational in mainly muted browns and greens, and it rains often in the little town where the game takes place. There’s a nice use of shadow, with trees swaying in the storm. But it’s a mixed lot, and more artistic flair could have been used on some of the trees, water and characters. However, this doesn’t detract from the game, and does nothing to change the brooding atmosphere of the story. I thought the art work in the temple itself was very good, and it is obvious that care was taken to make this more visually pleasing.

The ambient sounds further heighten the mood, from heavy rainfall to sounds of crickets, hens and birds. It was amusing to watch the hens react if you scatter their group as you walk. The musical score is orchestral and very pleasant, especially the strains of the piccolo gently playing as if carried on the wind.

While most of the character dialogue is written and not voiced, the main character does speak many of his lines. The voiceover for Nicholas Farepoynt is a very strange choice. The background of the game tells you that he is an illegitimate son of noble birth, raised in obscurity in France. However, the accent of the voiceover is Cockney, or maybe an Australian trying to speak with a Cockney accent. Or perhaps it’s an Englishman trying to speak…never mind, the accent is all wrong, though it’s interesting to listen to anyway.

Another minor quibble is the load screens, which occur every time you leave or enter a location. They only take about five seconds, but they happen so frequently that they disturb the immersion in the game.

You can save at any point, and should do so in the final act. For here I experienced the greatest discontent with the game. There are five acts, and in each act there are new plants that can be gathered for potions. However, the plants are in limited supply. This wasn’t a problem until the fifth act during optional quests; I came up one plant short of being able to continue, and had to go back to a saved game. There doesn’t seem to be any point in limiting the plants as the game does, except to force you to wander around looking for them. I wouldn’t mind this so much if they existed, but you don’t know they aren’t there until you wander the entire game world inch by inch. Note to developers -- pixel hunting is not fun! And please tell me why the local herbalist has nothing in the way of plants or potions in her house, or why there are no plants in the mayor’s wife’s basket when she spends most of the game picking them.

Other than the plant searching, there are several puzzles to be achieved. These are all well integrated into the storyline, and are simple, practical problems like how to get a body away from a guard, or where to find a lock for your door. Generally, if you read the dialogue of the various characters you come across, there will be hints within their comments. There are no slider puzzles. There are two brief mazes, but they are exceptionally simple, and you won’t go more than a few steps out of your way. There are no timed sequences except for the fighting. Once engaged in combat, you do have to press the spacebar to block or hit with your sword until the enemy dies, or you do.

The puzzles in the temple are very enjoyable, and consist of deciding which door to enter according to the manner of death of the victim, and then which attribute describes the victim at two different sacrificial bowls. It did take me a bit of time to realize that you must right-click to select the attribute, another glowing example of why it is a good reason to read the manual before you play. There is also a third sacrificial bowl where you need to call up one of two demons. It is hugely entertaining to call up the wrong one (after saving of course), as you die in a most spectacular manner. The save slots are limited, but can be overwritten. There is a quick save and quick load feature.

The control panel is full of options. Besides the ability to change the default “run” movement to “walk” as I mentioned earlier, you can also choose “normal” or “difficult” combat. Unfortunately, I noticed no difference between the two. There is also the ability to change the screen resolution, with a choice of 800 X 600, 1024 X 768 (the default) or 1280 X 1024. You can change the visual effects and the shadow projection from full to simple to accommodate older video cards. There is also a music, sound, and gamma control. The game is on one CD ROM, and it is not necessary for it to be in the computer drive to play the game once fully installed.

“The prey never comes to the hunter on its own, the hunter must chase it. Anywhere.” (Daemonica) 

Although there are flaws in Daemonica, if you are not opposed to reading a lot of text, this is a most melancholy game to play due to the story and a brooding, moody atmosphere.

Grade: B



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