Last Half of Darkness: Society of the Serpent Moon
First posted on 19 August 2012. Last updated on 30 August 2013.
Last Half of Darkness: Society of the Serpent Moon is the fourth game in the Last Half of Darkness series from indie developer Bill Fisher (William R. Fisher) of WRF Studios. The long running series has enjoyed a loyal fan following, exceeding expectation from some critics. Differing from all previous installments for the series, this installment now plays in third-person instead of first-person perspective. Clearly, the developer has taken a big risk in changing the graphical style of the game that has worked well so far for the series.
Once again, in this point-and-click adventure game, you take on the protagonist role of an investigative reporter named Billy Black. Billy's fiancé, Wendy Sothers, has been sent to Antibes, a tiny exotic town somewhere in France. As a journalist, Wendy is there to investigate and report on the numerous mysterious disappearances and murders of women who have visited the town over past few weeks. All of the victims have been found with small odd puncture marks on the neck, synonymous with the bites of fabled vampires. These puncture wounds, however, contain traces of snake venom. When Wendy also disappears, Billy must muster all his grit, courage, and nous to save her from becoming another dead body. At first, he meets up with some oddball locals who may know of her whereabouts. As he investigates further, however, he learns of an ancient society called the Serpent Moon that may be tied to her disappearance.
Installation of the game is simple with no glitches. The game is supplemented with a brief but informative manual (15 pages). From the main menu, you can choose New Game, Load Game, Save Game, Options, Credits, or Quit. You can also select Easy Mode that will add an additional hint book to the inventory. Within Options, you can control the Volume as well as enable or disable Faster Game Play, Subtitles, and Effects. The game supports a native resolution of 1024x768 pixels. There are 200 save game slots available.
The story begins with Billy receiving a package from Wendy with a return address from Antibes. Inside the package, he finds her personal notebook and a mysterious disk. Fearing that Wendy may be in danger, Billy travels to Antibes to be with her. Upon arrival, however, Billy discovers that Wendy has gone missing. Determined to find her, Billy begins his search in room 19 of the Chateau de la Passur hotel, the same room where Wendy has once stayed before her disappearance. Billy talks to his friend Johnny to seek help to search for Wendy. He tells Johnny that Wendy has signed into the hotel but has never signed out. He also asks Johnny to check out the Blue Iguana, a seedy night club where many of the disappearances have occurred.
The game's interface is minimalistic. Left-clicking a hotspot directs Billy to walk to there. Right-clicking on some items in the inventory, located at the bottom of the screen, brings up a close-up view of the selected items. A gear icon in a hotspot indicates that an inventory item is needed to interact with the hotspot. The Tab key shows all exits in the scene. Double left-clicking on an exit will take Billy there instantly.
The production is the highest by far for the series. The rain, fog, and smoke effects are realistic, giving lots of atmosphere to the dark murky streets, cemetery, and mines around the town of Antibes. The many cinematic cut scenes are well animated and complement the storytelling. Oddly, Billy's face is never shown in close-up. The village environs are stylized to portray an eerie, nightly appearance. Sounds effects are used to good effect, such as dial tones on a telephone, a snarling dog, claps of thunder, operating machinery, and even a flushing toilet. There are also plenty of creaking, squeaking, and other noises of the night, all of which add to the spooky atmosphere. Ambient music features a single recognizable tune but is otherwise sporadic. The spoken dialog is clear, and the voice acting is professional. Billy is portrayed as stoic and unflustered with a deep husky voice. Some of the characters speak with an echo as an added sound effect. The subtitles are in sync with the spoken dialog, with no spelling or grammatical errors.
The 14 or so puzzles are well integrated with the story and not contrived. The clues are fed to you at a rate to always keep you on track, though you need to pay close attention to what you look at or read to get these clues. You can also use the map as an aid, with each new location being added to it after it becomes available. The Raven's Hunt is possibly the hardest puzzle in the game. Other puzzles include wiring and piping diagrams as well as mixing potions. There are some 83 items which you can use or combine to make new items. Throughout the quest, you also need to search for green coins that are often hidden in dark corners. You must find all 28 green coins as they are used in a puzzle towards the end of the game. It is not possible to bypass any of the puzzles—except for Raven's Hunt, but only after a long period of inactivity.
Playing the game without the hint book, the game took me around 28 hours to finish. I found the game to be quite challenging but not unfairly difficult.
Last Half of Darkness: Society of the Serpent Moon is an absorbing, thrilling, and enjoyable game to play. I highly recommend this game to any horror adventure game fan. Just a word of caution—under no circumstances do you want to find yourself misplacing the game manual, since it is needed to solve some of the puzzles later in the game (perhaps as a security measure to prevent piracy). In sum, the game delivers a solid adventure and is a great addition to the Last Half of Darkness series.