Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Realms of the Haunting (MS-DOS) - Part 1

Realms of the Haunting logo
Today on Super Adventures I'm switching over to 'R' games, starting with a look at classic DOS adventure/shooter game Realms of the Haunting. Because someone asked me nicely (and paid for it).

Often when I play a game blind I'm coming into it with some foreknowledge; maybe I've seen someone else play a bit of it, maybe I've read a review, maybe my friend won't stop sending me gifs from it etc. But this time around I have absolutely no clue what I'm getting out of this beyond the flash of spoilers I got downloaded into my brain when I made the dumb mistake of glancing at the wikipedia page for half a second (I just wanted to know when it came out, damn you wikipedia!) I've definitely heard the title before but beyond that this is all new to me.

I'm guessing it's closer to Myst than it is to Quake, but then I haven't played Myst either so I should just shut up and put the game on.

The game begins with a kryptonite meteor hurtling through an alien landscape of rocky columns and waterfalls (one waterfall per column), before impacting in the center of a stone circle and releasing an emerald angel who then ascends from the ground while engraving symbols into the rocks with magic lightning.

It's like sitting through a Final Fantasy VIII summon attack, except it's skippable and there's a good chance there'll eventually be a point to it.

Then it cuts to this guy taking a cab ride in glorious live action FMV, presumably somewhere a bit closer to present day Earth. His narration explains that his father died six months ago, before he was able to repair their strained relationship, and afterwards he started getting these strange dreams.

Dreams straight out of a mid 90s fantasy horror TV series. The kind that looked cheesy enough already at the time and haven't improved with age.

Though sometimes he also dreams of a woman silently staring at him from this subspace anomaly in the sky. He knows in his heart that she must be a real person, even though he's never seen her before anywhere else in his life. Which is kind of how I feel about the cast in this game.

I'm reminded of how Gabriel Knight also started with the protagonist's meaningful nightmare, but his actor is giving a far more natural performance than Tim Curry did so far.

Eventually a priest called Elias Camber dropped by to see him. He was the kind of person his father always disliked and mistrusted, apparently, though he's not all that eager to explain what he means by that. Maybe his dad just couldn't stand people with long hair and moustaches, especially when it makes them look like Patrick Stewart in a bad disguise.

It can't be that Camber is a man of the cloth, as his father was himself a pastor in a Cornish church. The priest explains that the two of them had met at a conference and that he had stayed in touch via letters. A week before he died, his father had sent Camber a package with a note asking the man to make sure to give it to his son, and Camber sure took his bloody time getting it to him.

It turns out that his father had discovered something terrible about a strange house and what he found there led to his death. The parcel contained fragments of carved discs but no explanation of what they are and what to do with them, so our hero has decided to followed his instincts and take a cab ride to the house of his nightmares to get some answers. In the middle of the night.

Wait hang on, his dad was a Cornish priest, so this takes place in a village in Cornwall, England? I just assumed it must be set in America after hearing the narrator's accent, who still doesn't have a name yet by the way.

Uh, so this is all the title screen menu I'm going to get then? This is what Gremlin Interactive decided to greet people with at the start of their advanced high resolution SVGA PC game? That logo would look tiny even on an original Game Boy screen! Wow, now I'm actually kind of curious if I'm right about that, hang on a second.

It is actually a little small, but it's not that bad. Damn, now I want to see a Game Boy game that comes on 4 CDs and comes with a 'Quit to DOS' option.


CHAPTER I: "SHADOWS".


Hey this looks like it's built with similar tech to Duke Nukem 3D or Shadow Warrior, which I guess makes a lot of sense. It (apparently) came out right at the end of 1996, a few months after Quake, but before first person games had really started to switch over to full 3D engines.

Though this control system is right out of the dark ages. 'Duck' and 'jump' are on the left of the keyboard, 'strafe left' and 'strafe right' are in the middle, and I turn with the arrow keys. That's three hands I need so far for keyboard, plus I'll need a fourth to hold the mouse.

The keys can be redefined, but only in the US version it seems. The UK version I got from GOG doesn't have that feature.

For some reason this abandoned haunted mansion is giving me a bit of a Resident Evil vibe so far. Though with the first person perspective it's also reminding me of Undying. It doesn't have loading screens every couple of rooms though thankfully.

All the doors coming off the entrance hall are locked (even the entrance itself), so I'm going to head left down this corridor and see where that takes me.

More locked doors! They're not even regular locked doors, instead they're sealed with magic glowing pentagrams; so either I'm not going to enjoy what I have to do to open them or I'm not going to like meeting what was sealed in on the other side.

Hey, I've found a book! Also I've found that I have an inventory to put it into! Plus a name: Adam Randall.

I can even look at a video clip of Adam looking like Anakin Skywalker cosplaying as Max Payne if I want. I'm sure there must be a point to this, but it's eluding me at the moment.

Hey, a table full of objects for me to interact with! Moving the mouse controls the cursor rather than my aim, right click examines an object, left click interacts (or takes), and Adam has a comment for practically everything I click on. Fortunately these mouse controls are way more sensible than the keyboard controls.

Alright I'll take the gun (it'll go well with the magazine full of bullets I just pocketed), and I'll have a look at what the typewriter just printed out.

Uh-huh... and I thought I overused ellipses. Though I have to be impressed that they managed to fill a whole sheet like this without making a single typo; these spirits are good.

I guess I won't be using this typewriter to save on then. The thing's missing an ink ribbon anyway.

A proper working mirror! It's always nice to see a developer put the effort into getting these working, even though it means they had to create a set of sprites for the hero doing things. This is his jumping animation by the way, which looks a lot like his standing perfectly still animation.

You might be wondering why I'm jumping in front of a mirror; it does seem like a reasonable thing to wonder. Basically I'm a little stuck and a little bored of bumping into locked doors. There's no obvious way for me to make progress here, so I've switched to doing less obvious things. I even tried to get him to leap out of an open window and go home, but nope he just had to stay in the creepy house full of glowing pentagrams.

Aha, I solved it! All I had to do was light this pair of candles with my matches and the snake/sarcophagus painting lifted up to reveal a secret alcove! This is all too easy.

Oh hey, it's rigged with a trap that fires magical orbs at people who've lost their keys. Though I suppose that the people this spare key was put here for would've known to duck.

Kind of sucks for whoever has to pay for new windows afterwards though.

Okay I admit this hit me the first time around. Plus it got me the second time too when I tried it again to see what got me the first time. Thankfully the game has quick saves, so traps like this aren't a huge issue, whether you think they're good game design or not.

It wasn't long before I found the door to fit the key (it was the one without a glowing pentagram on it), and triggered another video sequence of Adam walking inside and coming face to face with a ghost!

His reaction to meeting a real dead spectre isn't exactly what you'd expect, but the camera sure takes its time to turn around and reveal what he's actually looking at.

It's his father, Father Randall! Ghost Dad explains that he's trapped here now and that it's up to Adam to save him. He also explains exactly what he discovered here before he died, what the mystery of the house is, and the exact steps Adam will need to take to save his soul...

Nah, he actually reveals very little that I can use, and basically just appears to raise the stakes and tell me to go find Aelf the Knight (pronounced Alf).


CHAPTER II: "SIGNS AND PORTENTS".


Well I'd better get to work reading other people's mail then. This letter was sent in 1929, so I imagine it's been here a while, but then I'm not sure what year the game's set in. It's set after the invention of the automobile, that much I'm sure of.

I'm pretty much back in the situation I was in before finding the key now: trapped in a few small rooms full of very little I can use, with no obvious way to make progress.

A secret passage in the bookcase! I figured that out all by myself as well, so that's 2-0 to me I think.

Though I can't help but notice that opening the doors has revealed a sword wielding demon out to murder me! The dumb fool can't figure out how to step through the doorway through, so I can just shoot him from over here.

Not much fun in that though

A sword fight, way more daring! Actually I'm taking damage here now by getting in so close so fuck it, I'm switching back to the pistol.

Oh shit is that the Hydra logo on the wall? Nope, but there is a secret button thing next to it which I can't activate right now. The passageway from the office is off screen to the right of it, but that just got blocked off by a really convenient cave in, so it seems I won't be heading back to the house for a while.

Well I can either jump the fence and go swim in a river of lava, or I can continue down the corridor. Actually I'm joking... I have no idea if I can actually jump that fence.

Funny how there's crates of pistol ammo lying around all over the floor down here and yet the demons all use swords. It means I can just back away out of their melee range and they can't even touch me. Well, unless they spawn behind me as well and get me pinned between them, but it's not like they're going to keep pulling that trick on me... they're totally going to keep pulling that track on me aren't they? Whenever I see three enemies crawl out of the floor I've really got to get into the habit of turning around to shoot the one behind me first.

Alright there's a metal sphere on the shelf behind me and a sphere shaped hole in the door to my left, so I think I've figured out my next move. The game has two difficulty modes, but as far as I can tell the harder difficulty only means that I'd have to dig an item out of my inventory manually when I need it. I think I'll leave it set to automatic, at least until item puzzles get more Monkey Island and less 'use red key on red door'.

The locked room contained a mysterious vial of green liquid! It's so mysterious in fact that Adam's asking me if I know what it is. Well Adam, my first assumption would be that it's either a health potion or an antidote, but I'm not about to drink it to test my theory. Let's hold on and see if we can find any bottles with a label on.

There's also some more pistol magazines in here hidden behind a chair, so I'll click on them too and put them into my inventory. It doesn't seem like there's any limit on what I can carry, so I'm hoarding absolutely everything I find down here.

Oh plus I've grabbed a paper map. As much as I appreciate being given a way to find my way around, it would've been nice if they could've made the window a little bigger so that I could actually see anything on it. I mean this is even worse than Oblivion's map window!

Realms of the Haunting mausoleum map
There you go, I stitched the full map together and it's still less wide than the screen. They could've totally fit half of that on screen at once at this res.

Okay, so this is the mausoleum... am I even in the mausoleum right now? I don't recognise anything I'm seeing here, where are all the underground rivers of lava I've been walking past? I'm sure it'll all click into place later, assuming I ever manage to find this particular map again amongst the steadily increasing piles of junk in my tiny '10 items at a time' inventory screen.

Aha, this is looking a bit more mausoleumy now. There's a door to the left up here, and I can see another two doors further along the hall, so I've got a few options here. Oh wait, I took a step forward and the staircase I was standing on dropped flat against the floor, so that one exit removed from the equation.

At least these knights lining the walls are playing nice for the moment. I keep expecting them to spring into life and attack, but it seems that they're just empty suits of armour.

Crap, I approached the second door and it dropped the floor from under me when I got close! Took half my health off in a single go. Logically that brown potion on the floor is likely to be health, but I'm not risking it. Not now that I know that the game is a bastard.

Well there's no way I'm getting out of here the way I came in. Guess I'll whip out my shotgun and go take my annoyance out on some demons.

The passage eventually circled around back to the hall I started in, so it wasn't the point of no return I was worried it might be, but it also lead to an evil underground lair and a glowing throne made out of T-Rex bones! It's like a Joel Schumacher remake of... a horror film with a throne made of T-Rex bones down here. Man that line would have worked better if I knew anything about horror films.

Do you reckon I should go over and try sitting on the thing? I'm definitely tempted to go over there and try sitting on the thing.

Am I stupid enough to actually sit on the thing? Find out in part two!

Semi-Random Game Box