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DRACULA: The Last Sanctuary

Reviewed by  Mr. Bill & Lela

This is the sequel to Dracula Resurrection and it continues the gothic horror story, based on the Bram Stoker novel, which began in that game. However it is not necessary to have played the first game, because both the introduction and the manual review the story to date for you. There are many similarities between the two games, but the developers have also made some major changes in this one. Some of the changes are good, but some of them are questionable, at least to us.

As you may or may not remember, in the first game Dracula had lured Jonathan Harker's wife, Mina, away from their home in London, to Transylvania where he planned to make her his own bride. Jonathan followed her there and finally found her, lying unconscious in Dracula's castle. He took Dracula's dragon ring and escaped with both it and Mina just in the nick of time, with Dracula and his minions in hot pursuit.

It is now one week later and we learn that upon returning to London, Jonathan had placed Mina in therapy under the care of Dr. Seward. But Dracula's hold on her is still too strong, and her progress is slow. Jonathan realizes that if Mina is ever going to have any chance for recovery, he must seek Dracula out in London and destroy him completely. So he goes to Dracula's London home at Carfax to try to find him.

But what he finds there turns out to be more than he bargained for, and soon he is fighting for his own life. And to make matters worse, Dracula then recaptures Mina and flees once again to Transylvania... and into his Last Sanctuary!

This is a linear, 1st person, 3D, point and click game with 360-degree views and a smart cursor. The inventory is fairly large, but it has the nice feature of keeping those items that will combine with something in a separate section, thereby saving you from having to try everything with everything. There are no subtitles, but there is relatively little dialogue and the voices are clear, even though the lip sync (and acting) leaves something to be desired. The game saves easily with a timed thumbnail picture, but there are still only 8 saved game slots, and unfortunately you can die easily in this game. And the first CD must be inserted each time you start the game.

As in the first game, the static, slideshow-style graphics are really excellent. The settings are detailed, eerie, foreboding and dark (although that does make finding hot spots difficult at times). And the many cinematic cutscenes are absolutely stunning, with the fantastic highly detailed and ghoulish-looking 3D characters almost leaning out of the screen to scare you, and with a good orchestral soundtrack that heightens the mood. There is no music for the actual game screens; indeed there are very few sounds at all. But that only makes it all the more startling when you do hear something, and the moans and groans can be unnerving.

The puzzles vary in difficulty, getting harder as you go along. Most (but not all) are logical, and involve using inventory items according to clues gleaned primarily from various journals and recordings. But be forewarned that in this game, unlike the first one, there are several puzzles that involve timed sequences where you can die if unsuccessful. They are not particularly difficult once you realize what the situation is, but you do have to do certain things before the time runs out as shown on a timer that appears.

Also note that there is more violence in this game. There is little actual graphic blood and gore, but there are huge bat-like creatures, etc, which attack you, and suggestions of unspeakable torment. And in this game you have to personally kill various members of the undead with things like a stake through the heart, or a silver bullet.

This is a much longer and more challenging game than the first one was, with many more puzzles, characters, and additional diverse locations. We loved the first game because we felt that it was a gothic work of art, true to the spirit of the novel, an understated classic horror story that primarily relied on the atmospheric setting and your own overactive imagination to build suspense. However apparently it was criticized by some as being too short and easy, with too few appearances by Dracula, and so in this sequel the developers have gone to great lengths to address those so-called shortcomings.

But in our opinion, they have lost a lot of the appeal of the first game in the process. We started this game several months ago and have had great difficulty making ourselves finish it, and not because it was too scary or challenging. On the contrary, it was because the game just couldn't seem to hold our interest. No doubt part of the reason was due to the lack of novelty because we had played the first game. But there were other reasons as well.

As you probably know by now, we dislike timed puzzles, and since you are first hit with them soon after beginning the game, the dread of them appearing again from then on detracted from our normal enjoyment of exploration. Plus they also effectively broke the spell for us, with the sudden appearance of that artificial timer and the unreal-looking monsters that stand stock still and just wait until your allotted time runs out. Several things felt totally out of place to us in a gothic story, like the 'Vampire Glasses'. And some of the puzzles were frustratingly hard to make work correctly even when we knew the answer, like the 'Jacob's Ladder' puzzle.

The features of the characters also seemed to be more grossly exaggerated in this game, and that served to push them over the edge for us, making them repulsive rather than frightening. Even Dracula himself, though he appeared regularly, soon lost his menace, since illogically he never tried to do anything to us until the very end.

So for a variety of reasons we found it difficult to get immersed in this game. Nevertheless we realize that different people like different things in games, so it may not have the same effect on you. But even if it does, we can promise you one thing... if you manage to hang in there, you'll be rewarded with a whale of an ending!

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Co-developed (2001) by Index, France Telecom Multimedia and Canal+ Multimedia.  Published (2001) in North America by The Adventure Company.

Rated:   M   for Mature 17+

Minimum System Requirements:  Windows   MAC

Where To Buy This Game:

Walkthroughs or Hints:

"Walkthrough" available here!

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Copyright  November 2002
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