Realms of the Haunting



Developer:    In House

Publisher:    Gremlin Interactive, Interplay

Released:   1997

PC Requirements:   486-66, 8M RAM, 30M hard drive space





by Drrizt

Think about horror. What is your definition of horror? To sit in a dark room and all of a sudden jump out of the chair, shout a terrified yelp, and feel your nerves trembling? If you define this as horror, and also enjoys it, then perhaps it is time for you to enter the Realms of the Haunting.

Has there really been that many horror games released? Those I can name just off my hand would probably be the old Sierra games Phantasmagoria 1 and 2. But these was principally nothing more than a collection of movies, and how fun can that be? Let's say instead, that you would like to have a game which successfully mixes horror, adventure, puzzle, a bit of roleplaying and also a big piece of action together, then ROTH will fit you like a glove.

Everything starts when you, Adam Randall, gets a mystical package delivered to you by a man who claims to be your recently deceased father. Apparently, you are his only heir, and his whole mansion is yours now, and this lies of course far out away from everything, surrounded by moors, which fits this kind of game perfectly. The game starts when you finally, after a nice intro sequence stands in the foyer of the mansion.

A little word of advice I think I should give before the I start reviewing more closely; If you have problems completing even games of average length, don't even try to bother with this. It consists of enormous 20 chapters filled with mysteries, puzzles and quests, and also one of the best written stories I have ever experienced.

The atmosphere in the game is absolutely incredible, and despite that it is old, it is impossible not to appreciate the effects and shiver from contentment when you see the lightning reflecting and lighting the old dusty hallways up, the trees, swaying in the wind and the rain whipping the windows.

You play the game in the classic first-person perspective, but use the mouse considerably more here than in similar games, for example to pick up and examine things. You will collect an incredible amount of things during the game, of which a few are necessary to go further, and some simply will add to the story or the atmosphere. One will also have to use the small gray ones, considering the fact that a great deal of this game requires massive brain activity, and there is no lack of puzzles.

About the story itself there is so very much to praise, but that is nothing I can say here without spoiling it, while it is very thickly put together, and also a very massive one. You will most probably find tons of documents, parchments, scrolls, old letters and journals that will each have their own place, and after a while you uncover a very sinister plot, involving Satan himself and his henchmen, and gradually one notices not everything is as it should be with even the people one meet.

Graphically, the game is very old, but when it was released it was a pure masterpiece, and there are still traces of it left. To name one example, the monsters are made with motion capture, which means they move quite "gracefully", and not like in other games that arrived around this time (e.g. Duke Nukem 3d). In other words, it looks very well to for an old game, and in some places, the amount of detail is amazing. I should also add that this was one of the first games that actually showed the objects in 3d, which means they were no longer sprites and now looked different depending on what point of view you were looking at them by. The sound is just perfect, with weapons thundering, while the monsters are growling as usual. What adds a lot to the atmosphere, though, is the sounds made by the environment the player currently is in. You can hear water drip in caverns far below the earth, in the few outdoor environments that are there, the wind howls, and the leaves rustle, and deep down in catacombs you can hear the sound of constant stone grinding somewhere far in the distance.
All the movies are in FMV-format, and before you run away screaming, I shall tell you it is very well made. The actors really don't sounds as bad as one would think they might, but they are actually quite good, and even the effects made for the cutscenes are good, considering this is 1996.

But as all games, even this has its share of flaws. The most apparent is that the game is very linear in the beginning, and even if the gamer is quite big itself, there is often just one direction to go to in the first chapters. But gradually this wears off, and it becomes quite non-linear, but it is still annoying. Another flaw is the story, while it is extremely well written, with many twists and turns, it gets very messy at places, and it is not until chapter 12 or 13 you understand what all is really about. Some of the problems are very logical, while some other are totally illogical and can easy frustrate anyone attempting them. And also, I have a very hard time seeing someone who has completed ROTH sit down and replay it, while you know the story perfectly well. It is a very joyous experience, and although it is extremely long, it is also just a one-time game.

Despite this, Realms of the Haunting is an incredible game, with one of the best stories to date, and should keep even the most experienced players nerves tense as strings during many dark evenings.

Graphics: 7/10
Sound: 9/10
Gameplay: 10/10
Story: 9/10
Replayability Value: 4/10

My Grade: 9/10

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