Realms of the Haunting
First posted on 01 March 2015. Last updated on 01 March 2015.
Realms of the Haunting Limited Edition Director's Cut
The Limited Edition Director's Cut of Realms of the Haunting includes, in addition, an exclusive behind-the-scene "The Making of Realms" video and an added bonus of a special hint guide through first 10 chapters of the game.
Unlike their older counterparts, modern adventure games tend to lead players along by the hand, subjecting them to little more than interactive storytelling on rails. Realms of the Haunting, by either old or modern standards, is a most unconventional game. In it, you need to travel through several plains of existence and even several layers of hell. Strange, frightening, and unique, Realms of the Haunting is a game that arrests your attention and requires you to use your brain power (literally speaking at some point) in order to make your escape.
If you are to classify the game, then Realms of the Haunting is best described as a first-person point-and-click adventure with elements of survival horror set in a Lovecraftian mythos. It is most likely that this game has had a subtle influence on many later games in the same subgenre, such as Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth and Amnesia: The Dark Descent.
The game's story begins in an old house in Cornwall, United Kingdom. You are Adam Randall, son of a pastor of a small village. You are there trying to discover what has happened to your late father, whose death you believe is linked to the house. As you enter the poorly lit foyer, you light candles and turn on lights just to see your surroundings. You walk up to a suit of armor and smell the stench emanating from it. You then enter into brightly lit living room and are in awe at the chandeliers and the decorative furnishings. Suddenly, you hear a tapping sound. You turn around. You see a gun on the desk. You also see a typewriter there that is typing all by itself. A note appears. You read the note. Somehow, you know you probably need that gun...
You open the nearest creaky door. It leads to a dark corridor. The window at the end of the corridor appears to be wide open. You see boot prints on the floor. Without warning, the door slams shut behind you. You walk toward the window. You find a dead headless rat there. You walk upstairs and enter another room with a gramophone inside. You turn on the gramophone. It plays a delightful recording of a man and woman cackling at a screaming baby...
It does not take long for you to become completely absorbed in the Realms of the Haunting. You will forget that you are playing an old game, as you become immersed into the game's oppressive atmosphere. You will also be impressed by the game's unique blend of action and adventure gameplay. It is a cleverly written game, drawing you into a convoluted plot that weaves between religion and occultism, reality and fantasy, myths and legends.
It is immediately apparent that the attention to details in this game is amazing. It is true that the game's 3D graphics have not aged well. However, each room in the house is filled with numerous interactive set pieces, including furniture, paintings, and artifacts that you can pick up and analyze. Each item that you collect is represented in the inventory and can be examined closely as a slowly spinning and fully rendered model. The game makes heavy uses of Full Motion Video (FMV) to tell its story. These videos are entertaining to watch, with only the occasional poverty of good acting being present (the Spirit of Raquia being the worst).
On the other hand, the biggest outstanding flaw in this game is the creature design. Despite their originality, the enemies that chase after you are little more than the archetypical and unimaginative zombified creatures. Why do the demons wear bright yellow trousers? Among the otherwise frightening gothic scenery, these demons appear far too out of place. Thankfully, the atmosphere is generally so oppressive that even creatures wearing brightly florescent attire can still scare you.
The game is excellently paced. A good example of this occurs when Adam is transported to Raquia. Raquia is tranquil and peaceful. You can hear birds singing and see the water rippling. The ambient music is soft and calming. As you enter the large maze, however, you notice a subtly creepy shift of tone. There, on the hedge, is a chain saw, and at your feet, a trap! Knowing that there is nowhere else to go, you slowly walk past them. Fortunately, you come away unharmed. You then go around a corner. There is another chain saw and another trap. Again, you come away unharmed. The traps, apparently, are harmless. Yet, each time you pass by a trap you come to fear for your life. You wonder why the traps are there as you eventually find your way into the castle at the centre of the maze. Just when you are relieved to have safely arrived at the castle and finally get out of the creepy but innocuous maze, you discover that you cannot make a single sound while you are inside the castle—if you do, you will probably be murdered in violent ways.
Throughout the game, you will need to search for usable items that will aid in your survival. You will also get help from a mysterious female companion. These interactions serve to further deepen the game's tense atmosphere as details of the game's dark story unfold. Even unusable items that you find are accompanied by some foreboding dialog. You become absorbed in your detective quest to find the truth. You constantly anticipate the danger that you may find yourself to be in, not knowing what may happen to you when you solve the next puzzle. You are sucked in, perpetually on the edge of your seat and thoroughly engaged in the puzzles, but always tentative and hesitant.
If you are claustrophobic, easily scared, or lacking in complex orienteering skills, then Realms of the Haunting may not be for you. If you dare to play, however, then you will find a challenging game that delivers a ton of scares. You will get stuck in a few puzzles, and you will get lost in the disorientating maze. Yet, you will be rewarded when you finally manage to solve the big mystery—that is, before you get murdered violently by some odd looking creatures dressed in yellow trousers.