Dracula: The Last Sanctuary
First posted on 15 June 2006. Last updated on 01 July 2013.
This game is part of the Dracula Trilogy in the Adventure Classics series released in 2009 by Iceberg Interactive.
The compilation includes 3 games previously released by Microïds separately in 2000-2008:
- Dracula Resurrection
- Dracula 2 The Last Sanctuary
- Dracula 3 Path of the Dragon
For some time, many critics have believed that the much beloved adventure genre is dead. This is because there have not been many adventure games released in recent years, and those adventure games that have been released are neither imaginative nor inventive to attract new fans or command big sales. For the genre to survive, high quality adventure games are needed that deliver captive storytelling, stunning graphics, beautiful music, and most importantly, enjoyable gameplay. The designers of Dracula Resurrection (the prequel to this game) must have heard the cry for help from the troubled genre. This is because they have managed to develop an adventure game that is both visually stunning and fun to play. In Dracula Resurrection, you take on the role of Jonathan Harker who must rescue his wife Mina from the evil Dracula. The game has been well received by both fans and critics, despite being a somewhat short and easy game. Now, only a year later, the next chapter in the series, Dracula: The Last Sanctuary (also known as Dracula 2 'The Last Sanctuary'), has arrived. With the sequel, the designers have promised better storytelling, more stunning graphics, and most of all, improved gameplay.
The story of Dracula: The Last Sanctuary continues immediately after the end of Dracula Resurrection, where Jonathan has just rescued Mina from Dracula's castle. While flying back home to London on an airplane that Jonathan has hijacked inside the castle, he remembers the dangerous quest that he has taken to reach Transylvania and silently vows to find and destroy Dracula someday. That day, tragically, arrives far too quickly for Jonathan and Mina. Barely a week has passed before Dracula arrives in London with his evil henchmen. The twisted Count has only but a single goal—to kill Jonathan and make Mina his queen. Meanwhile, unaware of Dracula's arrival, Jonathan tries impatiently to figure out how to finally defeat his nemesis. To make matters worse, the bite marks on Mina's neck are causing her to have vicious nightmares. Jonathan's friend, Dr. Seward, tries to care for Mina and studies the dragon ring which Jonathan has brought back from Transylvania in an attempt to find a cure. Unfortunately, Dracula soon succeeds in kidnapping Mina once again and even turns Dr. Seward into a vampire. When Dr. Seward chooses to sacrifice himself using Jonathan's gun, Jonathan is determined to set on another quest to Transylvania to find Dracula's Last Sanctuary in order to rescue Mina and destroy Dracula once and for all.
The excellent production values that are seen in Dracula Resurrection are again evident in Dracula: The Last Sanctuary. If you love the stunning visuals from the first game, you are bounded to love the visuals from this sequel. As with its predecessor, pre-rendered graphics are solely used for cut-scenes and are truly a sight to behold. The developer claims that there are 20 characters modeled in 3D for this game and motion capture animation is used for added realism in these characters. All of the 3D characters are amazingly detailed. Their faces are expressive and their eyes subtly capture the different personalities. In contrast, the quality of the in-game graphics pale in comparison to the cut-scenes. To the developer's credit, the in-game graphics have greatly improved since the last game, albeit they are still grainy and pixilated. Dracula: The Last Sanctuary uses the same Phoenix VR technology that is first introduced in Dracula Resurrection. The engine allows the player to examine the virtual environment in 360 degrees panorama. Movement within the game is node based, such that the player is jumped from screen to screen between prefixed locations. This is a shame since more freedom in movement for the player can only help to show off the amazing details of the game environment.
There are more characters in this sequel with which the player can interact than in the original. Among the new characters are Jonathan's best friend Dr. Seward and a servant of Dracula named Hopkins. All of the characters are adeptly voiced by excellent voice actors, including David Gasman who voices Jonathan in both games. While all the game characters are appealing, the real star is clearly Dracula himself. Even though Dracula has largely had only a cameo appearance in the last game, it is a treat to see that he has a far greater presence in this sequel and even has all the best lines.
The gameplay in this sequel has greatly improved over its predecessor. The biggest improvement is the length of the game. A common complaint of Dracula Resurrection is that the game is too short and too easy. This complaint has been clearly heard by the game designers, for they have significantly increased the length of play in this game which can now take more than 30-40 hours to complete. This change is both a blessing and a curse for gamers because it also means that there is a huge assortment of puzzles. In fact, there are a lot more puzzle play in this game than in the original. Most of these puzzles are quite enjoyable to solve, and all are nicely integrated into the story. A new element not present in the original is the addition of several timed puzzles. However, these timed puzzles are different than the usual timed puzzles from other adventure games. Rather, in this game the monster you are facing stands still until the bar on the top runs out of time. If you still have not done anything when the time expires, the monster then kills you. This means that you have a limited amount of time to figure out how to kill the monsters. These monsters can be vampires, werewolves, and a number of other unholy creatures. The premise of these timed puzzles is executed brilliantly, and it surely put you in a panic while trying to figure out how to kill them. The remaining puzzles are of the traditional point and click style, such as gathering up inventory items and combining them with other inventory items. You then use these items to open doors or bypass obstacles or give to other characters to exchange for information. A particular clever puzzle involves you running into a pack of rats that are blocking your path in the sewers, whereby you have to use a device that you fix in the insane asylum to clear a path with the little rodents.
Because Dracula: The Last Sanctuary uses a nearly identical interface as Dracula Resurrection, you may experience a strong sense of déjà vu when exploring many of the environments in this sequel. The experience is made worse by the fact that the lighting in many of the environments is very poor. It means that you must spend a lot time endlessly wandering on screen looking for hotspots. Fortunately, when you pass over a hotspot, you are prompted with a magnifying glass to indicate an area which you can take a closer look.
There are a lot to like about Dracula: The Last Sanctuary. Foremost is its stunning graphics. The cinematic quality movie sequences are simply unbelievable to watch and the panoramic view gives an unparallel sense of immersion into the eerie atmosphere of both London and Transylvania. If you enjoy a game with a lot of eye candy, then this title is surely to be your liking. Another is the timed puzzles. They create a lot of tension in the gameplay as you struggle to figure out how to kill the monsters. The increased length of play in this sequel can only help but curb any criticism that gamers may have after playing the previous title. The voice acting is top notched as every character is cast perfectly. The ending movie sequence is well done and very satisfying to watch. I do not want to spoil the ending for you; suffice to say that Dracula is defeated at the end, but you just have to finish the game yourself to find out how he is defeated.
Despite the many improvements, it is unfortunate to see that this sequel suffers from some of the same shortcomings as the original. The first problem is the poor lip synching during speech playback. While I understand this limitation may be in part related to the multiple languages that the game has to support, it is still a minor distraction from the otherwise flawless animation. The second problem is the grainy in-game graphics. The contrast between the in-game and pre-rendered graphics are striking, and with this sequel the contrast grows increasingly more noticeable. The third problem is the pixel hunting for hotspots. This is particularly troublesome for scenes that are dark and therefore difficult to see. Having these said, all of the annoyances are minor and do not significantly detract from the overall gaming experience.
Notwithstanding a few minor design flaws, Dracula: The Last Sanctuary is definitely a much better game than Dracula Resurrection. I recommend this game to any adventure fan without reservation. The excellent production values and thoughtful gameplay makes this game a worthy sequel for the series. So bring onto the next Dracula, for I am ready to pounce on him once again!