|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Frogwares||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: The Adventure Company||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 29, 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
There's no argument to be had; fanged undead, satanic blood rites, unholy castles, and ancient evil makes for some gripping storytelling. In 1897, Bram Stoker perfected the formula with his original gothic tale of vampirism and seduction - after all, Dracula is considered the quintessential work on the subject. Though the story has been told in numerous ways over the years, the core elements and players remain largely untouched.
Such is the case with Dracula: Origin. Certain liberties taken with the plot give the vampire-slaying adventure a fresh angle, while it doesn't veer too far from the basic framework. Those whose taste for blood rivals their desire for a good point-and-click adventure will find Frogwares' latest endeavor a dark delight indeed. Loosely following some key elements from the classic, the game branches off to focus on Van Helsing's diligent efforts to slay the Prince of Darkness before he can fully claim the innocent Mina as his latest victim and imbue her with the soul of his long-lost, scorned love. The good professor is alerted to Mina's imminent danger by an ominous letter indicating her betrothed Jonathan Harker has succumbed to the perils of Dracula's abode. Van Helsing immediately sets off on a journey to discover how to destroy the sinister creature. As it's billed, the ensuing adventure explores the nature of Dracula's origins in a relatively short but satisfying jaunt through London, Cairo, Vienna, and Transylvania. Most adventure games are nothing without a good story, and this tale is intriguing enough to carry player through to the end. A smattering of tasteful (yet substantial) gore and the highly detailed gothic backdrop doesn't hurt either.
Dracula: Origin doesn't do anything to reinvent the point-and-click adventure genre; it doesn't need to. The old-school formula is left fully intact: you'll search numerous environments to obtain important clues, pick up anything that's not bolted down, find ways to combine and use obtained items to your advantage, and solve reams of increasingly challenging puzzles. The game's lack of innovation in these areas is actually more of a positive note than a complaint.
The basic tenets are so solidly implemented there's little to take issue about in terms of the mechanics. Van Helsing's movement can be a tad slow at times, but everything else runs smoothly. Inventory and relevant documents can quickly be accessed with a simple right-click of the mouse, and item combinations are fairly intuitive. More importantly, a quick tap of the spacebar will reveal all hotpots within view, saving time from agonizing over a missed crucial interactive element. Players are also graced with reasonably short load times, and the loading screens themselves feature excellent scenic artwork that's quite pleasant to view. The game clearly possesses a certain flourish and style that sets it apart from its adventure brethren.
From the eerie graveyard outside Godalming Manor to the sandy crypts in Cairo, every single location is teeming with intricate detail. Dracula: Origin is easily one of the better looking adventure titles of late. The scenery and environments you'll explore are extremely realistic, and they play right into unearthly energy of the story. Some of the game's horror-infused imagery may be a bit unsavory to some - pentagrams drawn in blood amidst piles of human remains and nasty dripping meat carcasses hanging from hooks are among plenty of other gruesome scenes - but it lends an edginess to the adventure that'll keeps things from getting dull. All of the characters, both classic and new, are believable and their movements are pleasantly realistic. The voice acting for Van Helsing and a few other main roles is good, though some of the lesser parts are a bit wacky. The character models themselves are fluid and impressive, even with the graphic detail dialed to nominal settings.