|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Kheops||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Encore Software / Microids||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Aug. 25, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
It seems you just can't keep a good unholy prince of darkness down. Despite supposedly being slain repeatedly, Dracula has been featured in a fair share of adventure games over the years. Hell, he's seen two more titles launch within the past few months.
Just when you thought there were no more angles left to explore in the classic vampire mythology for yet another point-and-click adventure title, a new journey has surfaced. Dracula 3: The Path of the Dragon is steeped in religion, mythology, scientific tests, and voluminous research - a formula that sadly leaves little room for thrills and chills. Many years have passed since Jonathan Harker found himself trapped in an adventure game nightmare seeking to reclaim his beloved Mina from the clutches of his bloodsucking nemesis in Dracula: Resurrection and then once again in Dracula: The Last Sanctuary. Though Kheops Studios' addition to the series stays in line with the creepy source material, Dracula 3 plays more like a Vlad Tepes research project than an exciting vampire hunting escapade.
Sent by the Vatican to investigate the recently deceased Dr. Martha Calugarul as a candidate for canonization, Father Arno Moriani finds himself drawn to the small town of Vladoviste where he uncovers tales of vampirism among the villagers there. At the request of the Catholic Church, Moriani turns his attention to learning more about these bizarre instances in order to dispel them as myth, only he becomes drawn in by the dark powers at work. He must put his humanity at risk and walk the Path of the Dragon to seek out and attempt to strike at the heart of the evil affecting the region. The story is on the dry side, as far as adventure games go, but it does eventually pick up toward the mid-point. It stays true to the gothic universe created by author Bram Stoker, while providing a different twist for players who've already bogged through other Dracula series interpretations.
Gameplay utilizes a stationary, first-person perspective that allows use of the mouse to look around in 360 degrees to explore each area. This is combined with traditional point-and-click hotspot interaction and item-sensitive puzzle-solving. There's nothing remotely new or fresh about this aspect of the game. Instead of walking around freely from one location to another, you'll click a forward arrow to jump instantly to the next area frame. This form of navigation is initially awkward, especially when compared to third-person adventure games or even newer genre entries featuring first-person shooter style movement. Almost all the controls are mapped to the mouse button - except for the spacebar, which is used to skip through dialogue. Lack of innovation aside, the mechanics are solid and it should be familiar to the experienced adventure game fans this title is designed for.
Like much of the game, Dracula 3's puzzles are too deeply rooted in academia. The amount of time that went into developing the work and integrating some amazingly challenging and clever puzzles is impressive, but often they end up overcomplicated, dull, and inaccessible as a result. Many puzzles require you to decipher obscure clues often in the form of Latin words or numerals culled from reading pages upon pages of collected documents. In more than one occasion, you'll find yourself pulling randomly from hundreds of books located on voluminous shelves of bound tomes in search of a few key titles or clippings needed to proceed. The process can be expedited if you can make sense of their archival method or pick up on subtle clues leading to specific dates, but it quickly becomes tiresome and feels unnecessarily complicated. Other challenges involve a mixture of complex rituals, logic puzzles, science-based medical experiments, and even some standard item-base fare.