Reviewed: July 26, 2008
Released: May 29, 2008
What do you get when you mix one of the most infamous rivalries of all times and an independent game development studio? The answer to that question lies within the blood-soaked passage that is my review of Frogware’s latest endeavor Dracula: Origin for the PC.
During this adventure you play as the famed scientist and vampire slayer, Van Helsing, in race to stop a younger high-spirited Dracula from supposedly raising the dead and bringing his one true love back from the dead. To do this he must first get his hands on an old manuscript and secure a likely host for her rebirth.
Before I go any farther I must say that this without a doubt one of the coolest interpretations of Bram Stoker’s famous novel “Dracula” that I have ever seen. The folks over at Frogware’s really know how to take literary masterpieces and turn them into truly amazing works of art for the gaming community.
I was initially surprised to see that Frogwares took a step backwards in their approach in Dracula: Origin considering the recent success of the fully 3D Sherlock Holmes titles. However taking a step backwards sometimes is a good thing, a very gothic and bloody good thing. Dracula: Origin goes back to the tried and true, third-person, point and click style that most of us adventure fans love more than anything else.
Despite the step back in navigation wise, the interface remains the same from the Sherlock titles. As the saying goes, “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” The only thing that has changed with the interface is its look which has taken on a more gothic look.
Van Helsing’s journey to stop his long time nemesis will take his from his home in London, to Cairo, Vienna and finally the home of Dracula himself, Transylvania. Each place beautifully designed to immerse the player as they navigate the well dressed Van Helsing about his tasks.
After receiving a letter from Jonathan Harker, you find out that harm has fallen upon him, now a prisoner of Dracula’s castle. To make matters worse, Dracula has taken an unwavering interest in his wife Mina. Upon reading this Van Helsing sets out to protect Mina and find out what the bloodsucker is up to.
I started out my adventure in the parlor of the Harker resident with the beautiful Mina Harker. After a brief exchange of word, Mina leaves you alone to investigate clues on the whereabouts of the evil Dracula. At first I didn’t have the slightest idea where to begin, but after a bit of trial and error I figured out the puzzle in this room, which was very cleverly, designed.
After that was whisked off to an old cemetery to seek further information regarding the various murders that have plagued London. I will not go into too much detail about this area, but all I can say is that that was the most elaborate way I’ve ever seen to open a door in my life. I was fairly impressed with the level of details in this area and the clever puzzles made this title an instant hit with me.
Dracula: Origin is a fairly challenging title for the most part. There are many puzzles to solve but none of them are difficult to the point of giving up. There is also a hint system in place in case you need a little nudge if you are missing a vital piece of information to complete a current puzzle and even puzzles to come. To use this system you merely need to hold the Spacebar to see everything that can be examined and or taken.
One of my favorite puzzles has to be where you must unlock Dracula’s book. That very book reveals the history of the man that was once a noble soldier that worshipped God. The puzzle involved getting all the symbols and gems to light up on a pentagram styled lock. I won’t go into anymore details as that would ruin all of the fun.
Other than the puzzles one of my favorite parts about Dracula: Origin is the locations in which they located. Some of the puzzles are hidden in plain sight and you very well could overlook them if you are not careful. However hints are often cleverly given on how to proceed with the next puzzle.
Visually, Dracula: Origin is quite possibly the most gorgeous adventure title I’ve seen to date. From the get go I was presented with a very creepy looking menu screen. From there, the imagery just got better. The opening cut scene features Van Helsing showing the player the most proven ways to kill a vampire. I was then presented with one of the most beautifully designed, decorated, and detailed rooms I have ever seen in an adventure title. That chandelier literally looked like it was popping off my computer screen. I also noticed little details like the swaying of Mina’s dress as she moved and the moving shadow she cast due to the light from the window behind her.
The cemetery was also just as appealing to the eye as the parlor was, albeit a little creepier. There was one puzzle that had a “bloody” awesome animation to it upon completing the puzzle. I also really liked many of the statues that littered the cemetery. Everyone was beautifully detailed and aged. I also liked how the grass, bushes and even flowers moved to create a pretty believable wind effect.
The character models were also very well done and each is unique for their native location. Van Helsing himself dons a cool looking leather duster while still retaining a sophisticated look that we expect from the famed hunter. In my opinion Van Helsing was properly portrayed as the smart learned hunter opposed to the recent Hugh Jackman variety. The Prince of Darkness himself is also very well designed in a style that shows both his nobility and the evil charming ways to he uses to seduce his victims.
The sounds of Dracula: Origin are brilliantly creepy and the background music is over the top awesome. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the voice acting is really good. I can only imagine that the voice acting is only going to get better with the final release. The voice acting while being quite remarkable, takes second place to the dark, gothic, ambience that floats through the air. It hangs there surrounding your senses waiting to lull you in before it sinks its fangs into your unsuspecting mind.
As you transverse the globe towards you final destination you will feel like you are there with the excellent atmospheric that can be heard. Each location has its own distinct sound and my favorite is without a doubt the Cairo background music. It just doesn’t get any better than this for an adventure title.
During my adventure through Dracula: Origin, I found it highly enjoyable. This title follows the story by Bram Stoker closer than any Dracula inspired title I’ve seen in my lifetime. While this is a title the average gamer will probably never play again upon beating, it still will remain one of my favorites and I will return to play it when I’m in the need of a dark adventure.
Dracula: Origin retails for $20 dollars at most retailers. However don’t let the budget price tag fool you. There is absolutely nothing budget about this title. Everything is created with the upmost detail and care, and I can’t say it enough. Dracula: Origin looks amazing in every bloody detail.
At the end of my blood soaked adventure, I have found a title that both embraces the story upon which it is based and makes it new again. The creative minds at Frogwares have once again created a work of art and I can only wait to see what they come up with next. I highly recommend picking up this title as soon as you can sink your teeth into it.