Dracula 3 is a first person adventure game that places the player in the role of Father Arno Moriani, a priest who must investigate the possible Sainthood of a recently deceased Transylvanian woman. Clearly inspired heavily from the Myst series of adventure games, Dracula makes little attempt push the genre forward and only ever seems to pay passing lip service to simple things that are expected from modern computer games. This isn’t to say that Dracula isn’t an interesting game; just that it is hard to ignore its pointy, rough edges.
While the story starts out with Father Arno going out to investigate the life of a young woman, it quickly becomes clear that not everything is as it seems with both the father and the town that the story revolves around. Although there is nothing wrong with the core story of the game, or the way in which that it is told, the minor interactions with other characters always seem forced and bogged down by meaningless roundabout conversations. It is often the case that a person will ask Father Arno to do something crazy and out of character, such as a doctor asking him to take his own blood, which he simply does without question.
As with most adventure games the quests have a way of twisting together after enough time has passed, unfortunately for Dracula 3 all of these seem to be drawn out into meaningless busywork. The simple act of taking your own blood is drawn out into what feels like dozens of steps, each one requiring the player to try several things before the correct one is found. This proves to be rather frustrating as it manages to throw off the overall pace of the game and can make other, seemingly more important, tasks take a back seat.
Graphically the game itself is rather interesting, gameplay looks O.K. while the cut scenes always seem to come off as bad and grainy, which is interesting because they seem to make the same graphics engine look worse than when the player is controlling it. All of this is hampered by the way that the game does not allow for any adjustments to be made to the graphics settings, so when the game starts what you see is what you are going to be playing through the rest of the game with. This is also annoying for those of us without widescreen support because instead of stretching the image, or widening the screen there are two rather annoying black bars constantly on each side of the screen.
While the game does look alright while playing, the most annoying part is that none of the dialog or cut scenes seem to be skippable. This can prove to be annoying as the core mechanic of adventure games is talking to people again after some new twist has occurred, and they normally will utter the same conversation over again forcing the player to sit through it.
Almost all of the conversations that take place in Dracula 3 are fully voiced, which is always a nice addition. The dialogs that Father Arno has with most of the people that he encounters are rather good at conveying the emotion and the weight of the events that have taken place. The main problem is that at no point do any of the characters in the game feel believable, and some of this seems to be tied to the fact that Father Arno always seems to be needed to advance the story.
Father Arno himself feels like a tool used to tell a story, instead of a character that takes place inside of it. This is rather problematic because the player is forced to play Father Arno through all the vast array of poor choices and forced decisions. He seems to be incapable of telling people “No” for any reason, which becomes annoying when that means doing chunks of pointless busy work.
Probably one of the stranger things about Dracula 3 is that none of the game mechanics ever seem to be explained. A perfect example of this is how the game drops the player off in the middle of a small village and simply expects them to find the Inn they are staying at. This is rather immersive as the camera spins smoothly around the player as they look around, but is still very confusing as the town doesn’t seem to have straight streets or have been laid out in any form that makes sense.
The best thing about Dracula 3 is that it never seems to care about any of these faults, instead just soldiers on trying to make the best out of what it is. The game itself feels designed from the ground up for people going through withdrawals for a new first person adventure game. It seems to do this so well that for those of us that didn’t know we were looking for such a title we can easily be drawn in, but only to a point. The game seems to throw repeated roadblocks up for anyone who doesn’t go to sleep thinking of these types of games making it rather hard to recommend to anyone who won’t power through these rough spots, because most of us will just stop playing.