Introduction -- the Dracula Series
Dracula 1 and 2
(Resurrection and Last Sanctuary) were recognizably part of the same
series. They shared the same art style -- Dracula looked the same, other
characters looked the same, even some of the locations visited in Last
Sanctuary were exactly as they were in Resurrection. The games were
published only a year apart, so the resemblance isn't too surprising.
Dracula 3: Path of the
Dragon was another matter. Published seven years after Last Sanctuary,
Path of the Dragon had a more intense, more serious storyline than the
previous games (as well as the ugliest, most monstrous version of
Dracula I've ever seen). A long game, drenched with oppressive
atmosphere, Dracula 3 became a favorite of many horror-loving adventure
So now, five years
later, Dracula 4: Shadow of the Dragon has been released. Despite some
promising preview videos, there's no doubt that it's a lesser game than
it's predecessor. Not only is it considerably shorter, it seems to be
Part 1 of a two- (or more-) part game. The game ends suddenly, with a
surprise discovery and a "to-be-continued in Dracula 5." Bah! We've
heard that one before.
At first glance,
Dracula 4 seems to have little to do with Dracula 3: Path of the Dragon.
Most of Dracula 3 took place in the ruins of Vladoviste shortly after
World War I. Dracula 4 takes place in the present day, many years later.
The post-war despair of Dracula 3 is absent. None of the characters are
the same -- possibly not even Dracula. But there are a few mentions of
the "Path of the Dragon." And a recorded message on an old phonograph
cylinder recounts a tragedy involving Ioan Hartner, his wife Luciana,
and the narrator. This same story was witnessed in a ghostly dream
sequence by Father Arno, the protagonist of Dracula 3.
Characters and Story
Your character in
Dracula 4 is a young woman, Ellen Cross, an art expert working for the
Metropolitan Museum in New York. Some valuable paintings were donated to
the museum by the eccentric Professor Vambery. The paintings were
believed to have been lost with the sinking of the ship that was
delivering them to the museum. Mysteriously, one of the paintings may
have turned up on the black market in Budapest. If that painting is
indeed the original, there is hope that none of the paintings were
actually on the sinking ship, and they may eventually be recovered.
Ellen is sent to Budapest to verify the authenticity of the black market
painting, and later to Whitby, England and Istanbul, Turkey to follow up
on what she discovers. Most of the game takes place in and around
Professor Vambery's manor house in Whitby.
What does this have to
do with Dracula? That starts to become clear as the game progresses, as
Ellen discovers Professor Vambery's obsession with the Dracula legend --
something Ellen herself believes is mere folklore.
Voice acting was
believable. I especially liked Ellen's voice, even though she did
mispronounce Celtic and possibly "scytale." If she pronounced "scytale"
correctly, then Adam did not because they pronounced it differently in
the same conversation. Music did not call attention to itself, in either
a good or bad way. It wasn't particularly memorable, but it wasn't
intrusive either. The Options menu contains an Audio Menu with separate
volume controls for sound effects, music, videos, and voice.
Though the game had
nicely rendered locations overall, there were some shortcomings. Looking
out of windows was like looking at an overly "impressionistic" painting
-- all blurs. And some areas seemed a little unnatural because of the
lack of background animations. Maybe it's because I've become so used to
background animations in games, but I noticed the lack of them a lot
more in Dracula 4 than in Dracula 3. It's not that there were none at
all. There was a nice animation of the ocean with fluttering butterflies
at one of the locations. But overall the environments seemed strangely
lifeless. Dracula 3 didn't have many animations either, but somehow the
stillness seemed appropriate in the depressing war-torn environments.
Dracula 4 doesn't have the same atmosphere, and the lack of animations
calls attention to itself. Even casual adventures have background
animations these days -- and if they don't, they get reamed for it in
the Big Fish user reviews.
Navigation and Controls
Dracula 4 is a
point-and-click node-based game with 360 degree panning at the nodes. In
order to pan, you must hold down your left mouse button and "drag" the
screen. You can look up or down at an angle, but not directly up or
The game allows 5
player profiles, in case more than one gamer wants to play. To change to
another profile, you click the profile icon that's in the upper right of
the main menu. That takes you to a screen where you can highlight a
different profile icon to select a different profile to use.
There is a tutorial
section, accessible from the main menu, which also serves as a prologue
to the game. During the prologue, your character visits a jail in
Budapest to verify that the stolen painting is the original. She also
sees what has become of the man who was in possession of the stolen
The Main Menu has
selections for New Game, Continue, Prologue-Tutorial, Load a Game,
Options, Quit the Game, and Profile. Inside the Options Menu you find
Audio Settings, General Options, and Credits. The General Options Menu
allows you to toggle Mode (Adventure or Casual), Subtitles, Display of
the Markers, and Rotation of the View (Normal or Reversed). Display of
the Markers shows inventory and interactive hotspots, and is
automatically turned on when playing in Casual Mode. When "Rotation of
the View is set to "Reversed," dragging the screen to the right will pan
the view left, and dragging the screen upward will pan the view
Once you've started
playing, you can access the Main Menu again through the Inventory
screen, then select Continue after making any changes.
If you start a New
Game, it does not automatically include the tutorial. Instead you get a
video synopsis of what happened in the prologue. The New Game starts at
Professor Vambery's house in Whitby, England. You can play (or replay)
the prologue/tutorial by choosing the option in the game menu.
When you start a New
Game, you are asked "What kind of player are you?" and given the option
of playing in either "Adventure" or "Casual" mode. Casual mode will
point out inventory for you with a coin-like icon resembling an opening
and closing eye. In Adventure Mode you must search the screen with your
mouse, and when your cursor is over an interactive area or inventory
item, an icon appears. Inventory can be tricky to see, especially in
dark areas, so I spent a lot of time "scrubbing" the screen with my
cursor to locate inventory and other interactive areas. If I'd been
playing in Casual Mode instead of Adventure Mode (or if I'd selected
"Display of the Markers" in the General Options Menu) I would not have
had to search so carefully, no matter how dark the screen. Besides
pointing out inventory and interactive areas, there is also a "puzzle
skip" feature that you may notice if playing in Casual Mode.
Inventory that you've
collected is accessed through an icon located in the lower right side of
your screen. If this interface looks familiar to you, it may be because
Microids/Anuman uses the same interface in their iPod ports of PC
adventure games -- even those that originally used an inventory bar at
the bottom of the screen.
Clicking the inventory
icon takes you to the inventory screen. The left side of this screen is
a multipurpose inventory section with tabs to select regular inventory,
health-related inventory, and a dosage-testing area. On the right are
tabs for your diary, objectives, and a transcription of dialogues.
Ellen has more on her
mind than chasing down paintings. She has a fatal blood disease which
requires her to take medication when the screen starts turning red.
Because the company that manufactured her medicine has discontinued it,
her supply is low and she must conserve it. Fortunately she can
sometimes gain health from eating food or vitamins, but she has to be
careful that what she ingests doesn't make her worse. Ellen's health bar
(viewable from the inventory screen) seems to slowly drain over time,
but occasionally she will encounter a situation that will frighten her,
causing her health to drop suddenly. When this happens, she must take
time to swallow pills or eat fruit before she can proceed. Figuring out
the optimum combination of pills to gain the maximum amount of health is
one of the puzzles in the game.
Saving -- or rather the lack of it
Want to replay any
favorite parts of the game? Miss part of a cut scene because of a phone
call or family interruption? Unfortunately the game doesn't allow manual
saving. It has an autosave that kicks in whenever you exit the game.
Restarting the game and selecting "Continue" automatically loads the
autosave and will restore you to where you left off. This autosave is
overwritten every time you exit the game.
What makes the save
system in Dracula 4 especially confusing is that you have a Load Save
button staring at you from the Main Menu. If you can load a game, surely
that means you can save a game to load later. Except it doesn't, and you
The game autosaves
when you reach certain points, and it is these autosaves that are
accessible through the "Load Game" screen. But there is no easy way to
save a favorite part of the game to replay later. and the game warns you
that loading any of the saves on the "Load Game" screen will overwrite
your current autosave.
It doesn't help that
the game doesn't include a manual or readme. At least the download I
received didn't include one. I guess the tutorial was supposed to cover
most things, but it never once mentioned how games were or weren't
Like many casual
games, Dracula 4 has "awards" that you can get for performing certain
actions. Some of these actions are necessary to complete the game and
some aren't. Personally I do not like these and think they're a waste of
code. I do not like the distraction of having some message pop up
announcing you achieved this or that.
Casual or Adventure?
In many ways Dracula 4
resembles a casual adventure more than a "real" adventure. The
"Adventure Mode" that Dracula 4 offers is no different from the "Hard
Mode" or "Advanced Mode" found in most casual adventures and HOPA's
(Hidden Object Puzzle Adventures). The restrictive autosave is
unfortunately standard for casual adventures, and not something I want
to see in an adventure game. Some relatively recent adventure games
include both manual and automatic saves, letting the player choose which
they'd like to use. I don't know why this system wasn't used in Dracula
4. Maybe Anuman/Microids wanted their interface to match their iPad
version, but wouldn't it be better to add manual saves as an option to
the iPad version instead of decreasing the functionality of the PC
As far as game length,
Dracula 4 took me about 6 hours to complete in Adventure Mode, which is
similar to the length of some casual game Collector's Editions. But it's
also similar to the length of many episodic adventure games. Though many
of the puzzle types could be found in either casual or regular
adventures, the 360 degree panning (as well as certain other features)
made me feel like I was playing a real adventure (albeit a short one).
Allows the player the
option of whether or not to highlight inventory
Nice clear graphics
Short, with "to be
continued in Dracula 5" at the end
No manual saves --
Not very scary
Lack of background
animations in environments that look like they should have them.
For casual gamers, a
major PRO is the 360 degree panning, which I don't remember seeing in a
A major CON for many
casual gamers is that there is no "Hint" button to tell you which
direction to go or what to do next.
Fans of Dracula 3
aren't likely to be satisfied if they're expecting a similar game. But
Dracula 4 is not a bad game, and taken on its own merits it's just too
short (and uses an inferior save system). As a casual game, I'd probably
give it a B, but since I'm grading it as an adventure game, I only give
it a C.
One of the ways
Dracula 4 differs from the average casual adventure is in the listed
system requirements. I don't know of any casual games that require a
video card with 1GB of video memory. At least one person has reported
that it played using a 512 MB video card, but that's still much more
than casual adventure games require.
These are the listed
CPU: 2 GHz
RAM: 2 GB
Video card with 1 GB
I played the game on a
AMD Phenom II X4 905e
processor 2.51 GHz
8 GB RAM
AMD Radeon HD 7770
with 2 GB VRAM
ATI High Definition
Audio Device (onboard sound)
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