“Do you believe in destiny?
That even the powers of time can be altered for a
That the luckiest man who walks upon this earth is
the one who finds...
One of my favorite stories
has to be Bram Stoker’s epistolary novel:
A gothic tale of an antihero, told through diary entries and letters of a
young barrister, Jonathan Harker. Frogwares has once again taken up the
reins of a work of classic literature and transformed it into an
entertaining adventure full of the macabre. While this is not a verbatim
interactive work, much of the plot is gleaned from Stoker’s original
novel. This adventure possesses a refreshing new twist in its retelling.
It is imparted to the gamer solely through the viewpoint of Professor
Abraham Van Helsing: Vampire Hunter Extraordinaire.
The title of this game, for
some, may be slightly misleading. Dracula: Origin doesn’t
allow the gamer to observe the events of Count Dracula’s early life.
Instead, the gamer assumes the guise of Professor Van Helsing as he probes
Dracula’s past and fights for the life of Jonathan Harker’s fiancée, Mina. Is discovering the whys and wherefores of Dracula’s original
transformation as intriguing as being bitten on the neck and living to
tell the tale? Will Van Helsing continue to view this “dark angel” as an
abomination, unclean and undead? Or will he begin to show empathy for
Dracula as a wayward soul driven mad by loss
and betrayal? These are
the possibilities which shine through in this version of the Dracula
Dracula: Origin takes many
liberties with the classic tale, and these work well. The adventure takes
place in four sections in the game universe, encompassing two major
European cities, the Transylvanian countryside and Egypt. Now what (you
may ask) would Dracula have to do with ancient Egyptian culture? Have you
read “The Book of the Dead” lately? No? Tsk, tsk – pity. I found that
Egypt worked superbly with the storyline and made perfect sense, giving
the game an added, clever dimension.
The graphics are hauntingly beautiful. The look is
sleek, using a dark palette, with a blue overwash for an ethereal quality
and jewel tones for shock value, including plenty of red -- a perfect
setting for high gothic melodrama.
The game environments include your basic Victorian
interiors for Mina’s apartments, plus a delightfully morose, abandoned
estate representing Carfax Abbey from the original novel (although in the
game it is known by a different name: Godalming Manor). This is the Manor
house which Harker helped Dracula to purchase in London. It is replete
with a familiar butler with a penchant for edible delicacies (there for
the amusement of longtime Drac fans). Attached to the estate is a truly
atmospheric graveyard, filled with statues of martyred angels and a
sinister crawling mist. A mist that carries itself forth over two
continents; spreading virulence in its wake…ultimately pointing the way to
crumbling, remote castle. This "Cetatea Lui Negru Vodă" or “Citadel
of the Black Prince” stands in mystical defiance near the Carpathian
Mountains on the border of Transylvania and Moldavia, an area steeped in
blood and tumultuous history.
“Listen to them:
The children of the night…
What sweet music they make!”
Dracula: Origin evokes a
strong sense of apprehension in the player, suggesting a constant threat
just around the corner. The dark, moody music adds measurably to this
effect. However for me, the game’s atmosphere was significantly degraded
when -- well I’m not going to tell you when. All I am going to say is:
keep an eye on your inventory. I was flabbergasted that a man of the
Professor’s age and bearing could carry a particular item around with him
in his briefcase. I laughed until tears came; it took awhile to re-immerse
myself in the game’s atmosphere of suspense and dread.
The voiceovers are, for the most part, well done. There
was only one voice which grated on the ear because it was so annoyingly
high pitched and sounded like Queen Victoria from a previous Sherlock
Holmes adventure. Van Helsing’s voice was enjoyably on target, as was the
little that I heard from the frustratingly elusive Count Dracula.
Drive on…like the Devil”
I had no trouble whatsoever installing, running, saving,
or loading Dracula: Origin. I noticed however, that the Alt+ Tab
did not work in various places, which for me is a definite minus. The game
provided approximately fifteen to twenty hours of gameplay. The basic
interface is identical to that of the Sherlock Holmes games (also
developed by Frogwares), and includes functions for Inventory, Reports,
Dialogue and Documents. Right click to see it all; right click to get back
into the game. I say -- if it works, keep it. However, for Dracula:
Origin, the 3D graphics and the option to use keyboard controls and
360 degree panning have given way to 2.5D, third person perspective, and
point-and-click controls. Despite the move to 2.5D, the game plays and
feels much like the Sherlock Holmes games, with detailed Victorian-era
graphics, a solid story and intricately designed, mind-bending puzzles.
There isn’t an awe-inspiring end confrontation in
Dracula: Origin, and there are no serious setbacks or dead ends. The
game gives plenty of hints if one takes the time to read through all of
the documents and reports. Everything is there at the player’s fingertips.
The storyline moves along in an effortless, uninterrupted fashion. Never
once did I feel that I was lost. Hitting the spacebar reveals all the hot
spots if you want to eliminate pixel hunting – this smoothes the game’s
progress even further.
The puzzles are the true masterpiece here. There are
inventory items that must be gathered, color coding and selective matching
challenges, mechanical puzzles, combination locks -- even a musical puzzle
that you can solve without music, and a hieroglyph-deciphering challenge.
There is a range of puzzle difficulty – from simple combinations in
inventory or pixel pickups, to moderately difficult challenges, and on to
some real mind benders. All were quite enjoyable and left me wanting
“I give you life eternal.
Everlasting love. The power of the storm.
And the beasts of the earth.
Walk with me...
Dracula: Origin is an
adventure gamer’s dream. You can’t die, and you won’t encounter mazes,
timed sequences, or slider puzzles. You will be challenged by lots of
varied and satisfying brain teasers and see plenty of dramatic cut scenes.
The horror is embedded in the atmosphere of sight and sound; it plays on
the gamer’s natural psychological fear of what is yet to come. Although
there are intense scenes filled with blood and gore, I feel that Adventure
purists will love it.
I do have to say however, that in a game about Dracula,
I personally would have liked to have seen some player death possibilities
-- even a timed chase or two…through a mist-enshrouded maze…with a big
slider puzzle of Vlad the Impaler at the end. Ok, I’m just kidding but I
would have liked an option to use the keyboard if I wished (again just my
own preference). All the action in Dracula: Origin takes place in
the cut scenes, so the players can take as long as necessary to explore
the universe at their own level.
I did like the ending. Can one really want to vanquish a
misunderstood “bad boy” whose attraction for susceptible females is his
aura of exoticism and danger? Perhaps one shouldn’t try…. The ending also
left me with some unanswered questions. Where did Professor Van Helsing
live and teach? Didn’t Dr. Watson study abroad at the University in
Amsterdam? It looks to this reviewer as though a sequel may turn out to be
from the novel by Bram Stoker