Two things up front - I love vampire stuff, and quite enjoy trashy horror films. They are two traits that are essential if you intend to visit the town of Gothos.
The game box talks of journeys through the mazes of the undead, a search for the Scrolls of the First Blood, a mystical tale of murder and deceit. Vampires are descending on Gothos, there is hunting and talk of great power, and the Deceiver is drawn by a desire to destroy.
You are sent by your Coven into Gothos to investigate, and whatever else you might find, acting talent will elude you. In the best tradition of over (and under) acting, the FMV characters will make you cringe. Like every Japanese monster movie ever made, it's so bad it's good.
In a town of B-Grade thespians, the articulate is king, but he or she is hard to find. The dialogue trees are a riotous mess, and cheesy accents abound. Conversations are generally hit and miss; you choose from 5 possible attitudes each time you respond, and then simply let fly. You have no idea what the text of that response is going to be. Your supposed agreeable response might end up as a smart mouthed irritant to the receiver, provoking not at all what you intended.
You can in fact turn your response off altogther; you will still give it but you won't hear it. This, says the manual, lets you play with a certain edge of doom as your attitude will speak for itself. The hysterical conversations that result from having the voice response turned on gives a lighter vein, or so says the manual. I toggled back and forth and am still not sure which was preferable.
In amongst this mish-mash is information that will help you sort out what to do and where to go next. It's highly likely you will have no idea on occasions and will just try the much revered pot luck approach. Which I didn't mind, because wandering the streets of Gothos is a treat in itself, particularly as you never know who you might meat!
Which is a word I use deliberately because as you play as a vampire, you have to feed. Moving around takes energy (ie blood) and your "blood bar" will empty as you go. Run into trouble and it will empty quicker. What could be more delectable when feeling peckish than meating a lost tourist, or a different sort of lady of the night. If all else fails, there are always rats.
You can play as a male or female vampire, and your chosen facial image will appear below screen (when the game first came out, sending photos to the maker meant you could play using your own face). To engage in the conversations referred to above, you simply manipulate your image to obtain the desired attitude. My female avatar looked positively pouty when being agreeable, and had all fangs well bared when a stroppy response was called for.
The wardrobe is a giggle as well. Think Lord Byron and a dominatrix but with a severe shortage of vinyl.
You can toggle a map of the streets of Gothos that will indicate where you are, and this is fairly essential. Walking (and flying) about is guaranteed to be confusing. Icons indicate whether you can move North or South etc from where you are, but the compass may well have you facing a different direction than the scene you last left. So North can be up or down and will change as you go, and you will seemingly walk backwards out of scenes as well as forwards. Swap discs a few times, and turn around or enter some buidlings, and the map will be your best friend.
All the scenes are street and town vistas, or the insides of buildings. They are the photo-realistic type reminiscent of many FMV games. Some of the colours are a bit haywire, but they are quite detailed, as would be expected. There is of course a cemetery and an old church, and it is of course at night. Occasionally you will reach a location which you can view by "dragging" the scene through 360 degrees. Generally though, each scene is a single static shot.
The game world is about two thirds of the screen, the rest being utilised by your avatar, compass and blood bar, icons for your inventory, your options and save screen, and of course a set of fangs for feeding. One final small window will indicate the possible actions and directions available as you move the cursor around the game world.
I eventually found the scrolls, but have no idea in terms of the plot why some of them were where I found them. Perhaps I missed some vital information. However, much information is clearly not needed, as looking over a walkthrough indicated after the event. Some things I just didn't do, others I did way out of order. I also didn't save one character as I had promised to do, but irrespective of how I responded, he gave me the scroll anyway. So some leeway is provided, which is a good (and essential) thing.
Another review suggests dead ends are possible, and well they might be. The wrong response can certainly cause a character to disappear from a location, and no amount of replay will get them back. But I muddled through without getting irretrievably stuck, so perhaps simply being in that location with that character was enough. But if I had never had the conversation to send them there, well who knows what the outcome might have been?
You can die, all at once or by gradually using up all your blood. Saving regularly is recommended. The game is a hybrid PC/Mac version and comes on 3 CDs, which you will swap back and forth, probably a lot. There are no subtitles.
It is not a great (or even a terribly good) game by any standards, except the standard whereby you have always wanted to be a shlock-horror vampire not at all sure of what is happening and lost in a dark and maze-like town. I had a great time walking backwards and light-heartedly biting my way round Gothos. More than one annoying conversation was ended by a quick and fatal puncture of the neck. More than most, and in more ways than one, this game is definitely a matter of taste!
Copyright © Steve Ramsey 2004.
All rights reserved.
Windows 95 (ran fine in 98) 486DX/66 processor, 8MB RAM, 15MB disc space, 2x CD ROM, 16 bit sound card, SVGA monitor.
68040 Macintosh (Power Mac recommended) System 7.0 or higher, 8MB RAM, 15MB disc space, 2x CD ROM 16 bit colour display.
Though not listed in the specs, the game uses Quicktime 2.1.2 which is on the install disc