Dracula: Origin Preview (PC)

Dracula: Origin
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Developer: Frogwares
Release date: Q2 2008
Genre: Point & click adventure

Ask most gamers about the current state of the point-and-click adventure game, and most of them will tell you that it’s basically dead. This isn’t entirely true, obviously – but we’re certainly a long way away from the days when Lucasarts bothered to produce anything that wasn’t based on bloody Star Wars. But with the resurgence of the casual market over the last few years, thanks to the likes of PopCap Games (if we’re focusing on the PC here), it’s become acceptable for bored housewives to spend some of their free time glued to the family computer. A new niche in the market that you can imagine a solid point-and-click adventure would fill quite nicely indeed.

Dracula: Origin casts the player as famed vampire-hunter Van Helsing –  not quite the action hero played by Hugh Jackman back in 2004, but the game based on that movie was pretty duff anyway. Dracula: Origin’s Van Helsing is far more believable – older, wiser, and his adventures focus more on detective work, rather than running around castles with an automatic crossbow. While we’ve only played the first section of the game, it eventually takes the player to a bunch of varied locations as you try and track down Dracula in order to stake the pale bastard and stop him killing innocent folk.
The curious thing about the game is that it’s actually pretty funny. Not so remarkable in and of itself, we know – especially considering its genre. But most of the time you’re not totally sure if you’re laughing with the game, or at it. For the most part, the game is totally po-faced. Everything’s deadly serious, and all the dialogue is delivered in an almost entirely deadpan manner (that’s not to say the dialogue is poor – it’s just that the game’s set in the late 1800s, and everyone is achingly polite to one another). And then, out of nowhere, a newspaper article mentions a prostitute who goes by the alias “Mammy Bloomers”. It probably doesn’t sound like much, but it feels so out of place that you can’t help bursting out laughing. Couple events like this with the fact that the game’s newspapers are called things like “News Times” and “Daily Big Mirror”, and you begin to wonder if someone got a bit bored whilst working on the English translation for the game, and decided to have a little fun with it.

Of course, it’s debatable whether or not this even matters. It seems a bit of a shame if the original developers wanted the audience to take the story totally seriously, because that’s pretty unlikely to happen with the way the English translation has turned out. But then, the game’s still entertaining, even if it’s for a totally different reason. And entertaining the player is the whole point of a game, right?

Story aside, no point-and-click adventure would be complete without a generous helping of puzzles. Dracula: Origin doesn’t disappoint in this regard – from what we’ve played, the puzzles are challenging but fairly intuitive, and fairly unique in places. One early puzzle has you cross-referencing information from newspaper articles against a map of London, seeing where people have been attacked, and the direction in which the attacker appeared to flee. Drawing lines across the map, you quickly find that they all cross a certain point – bingo. You’ve found your target.

Overall, the game is looking promising. If you can either see past or, preferably, learn to laugh at the comical translation job, and you’re looking for a slow-paced adventure game, Dracula: Origin looks set to provide you with a fair few hours of mirth and puzzles that challenge you without making you feel like a total dunce. Hopefully, the finished game won’t disappoint.


By DarkStalker (SI Veteran Newbie) on May 19, 2008
I love vampire games, i hope this one is going to be very interesting:-)
By JamieSI (SI Core) on May 20, 2008
It plays well, check back soon for our review! :)