Saturday, December 7, 2019

Bram Stoker's Dracula: A Grave Example

Bram Stoker's Dracula is kinda a funny movie. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola in 1992. The film is quite a big departure from the novel yet is somehow the only film to hit on most key elements of the novel. Its also got a novel adaption that was written by a guy who also wanted to write the novel adaption of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, a film similar in nature to BSD. I couldn't find the source for that little factoid, but Coppola was originally going to direct before the second worst British entertainer to enter America handled it. I have never seen any of these things, this is just what I've heard about them. I mean, I own the films, they came with Underworld, but I've never seen them. Its really something I should change one of these days, but eh.
Adaptions of BSD are on all major systems in '93. You've got the NES, Sega Master System, Gameboy and Game Gear, which is apparently one of the worst games of all time according to some magazine no one has ever heard of. A slick looking Genesis and SNES game. An Amiga game that nobody cares about. A Sega CD game that uses digital actors and backgrounds, to the enjoyment of absolutely no one. And this fucking thing for DOS.
I've mentioned before that this isn't my first time playing a lot of straight, unarguable FPS games. BSD is where we shift the crap factor from "Good for its day" to "This is terrible". From "What do you expect?" to "Are you kidding me?". From "Important historical background" to "Blatant padding so I don't have to play the game".
The intro music is jamming, so I'd better get started. This game does have an interesting first, the first appearance of the CyClones style shooting mechanic in a FPS. We also have the first appearance of an inventory system and changing the height of your character. These would go to make a few more appearances, with this inventory system going on to be the bane of anyone buying a shareware CD in the later half of the decade. Pie in the Sky, people, Pie in the Sky.

There's nothing fancy needed here, just make sure you use dracula.bat instead of drac.exe or you'll be stuck with PC speaker.

Hmm, maybe my old experience with this game is untrue. Its confusing to understand the controls, since nobody ever bothered putting the manual online. The accompanying text file lists no use key, so I guess the items are the only thing I'll be using. Fortunately, I can play something roughly akin to a modern FPS here, another first. You can't turn with the mouse*, but the ASDZXC cluster offers you something like modern movement...just with manual turning. Like a real human being.
The forest is a nice spooky, but let's not forget, large level. There's two more parts connected on this level. I've got like 53 coffins to destroy. The right click is both the attack and use changes weapons, which I do whenever I need to use something. I'm sure I'll need a lot of ammo to kill all these infinitely respawning undead hanging around.
You see, the game functions sort of like you're killing vampires. Enemies respawn from coffins, until you use holy wafers to destroy them. The text file says they're from another dimension or some weird thing that doesn't have anything to do with Dracula unless somebody popped him in Doom. Items are on the ground and you need to use them to get them.
This level is supposed to be a forest. Because of graphical limitations it looks more like an in-door garden. Is it really that hard to draw a new wall texture? Full of obelisks and impaled corpses. Really jabbing home that Vlad the Impaler thing, are we? Sometimes from a distance an obelisk and a corpse together look like some kind of hooded figure. The forest part is done by having a lot of dead trees around. This would be more effective if the ground wasn't green.
This game was so hopeful until the fighting started. I start off knifing this dude. First time...its not great, but its not bad either. The dude comes back alive. Thanks...he gets me a few times. Ah, so the knife is not a good weapon. How about the gun?
Elsewhere, against a skeleton, he goes down with one hit. Something tells me I shouldn't abuse that too much. The sound that plays when an enemy is killed is a triumphant horn. It sounds like I'm shooting a horn. Sound isn't great, but the music is. That leaves me with two options, knife guy, risk damage. Shoot guy, risk death against Dracula later.
Skeletons are weaker than the zombies, but both die just as fast against the gun.
I find a way further down, its locked, but I have the key, I don't remember where I got it, I should have put that down. The rest of the level is seemingly locked off to me at this point, the only other place I can find is another locked door. The locked door out, apparently, as it needs a crystal key and the manual says Dracula gives the crystal key. Its hard to tell. The forest section is a big, confusing mess. Its not really any bigger than a Wolfenstein level, but a combination of being open, everything looking the same and fog that shortens your range after 15 feet makes for some fun times wandering around aimlessly.
The underground doesn't look as bad with the fog. There's a skeleton, or zombie. Whoever did the graphics for the enemies was lazy. No wonder nobody remembers this game. I kill him a few times, then destroy his dimensional portal. There are two doors here. One, won't budge, the other, is locked. I said at the start of this level that maybe my old experience is untrue. That sentence is untrue. So I begin my journey back, across the graveyard. Yes. That's what I want to be doing. Not playing something of arguable quality, like Dark Seed. The jewel case of Dark Seed taunts me. I find a monster, just one I found before. I can't reach him yet. I don't know how I'll reach him. There's another one behind me. Not right behind me, just a way behind me, out and about. A knife seems a crappy weapon against skeletons, but that could just be my fondness of Neverwinter Nights coloring my perception of things. Not in this game, two hits and they're down.
The skeleton was guarding a area that looks like it has doors, but really doesn't. Five people are credited under the graphics sections and none of them thought this was a bad idea? This, as it turns out, helps me none and I'm back at the locked door. Then I get lost, find a few more items, and then return to the way down. Clearly, I've missed something vital in the forest. There's an area with two monsters that has a door down, I'm supposed to get there from the underground I think. I have three already known options, with the potential that I missed something. Could there be secret walls? That's a mechanic I think someone would mention when writing a manual, but I'm no hotshot licensed game developer.
As it turns out, they were doors. They're just very difficult to open. Right up against the wall, multiple times. I think just now I've gotten farther than anyone else has in five years. You're supposed to activate a particular hotspot, like a real door or an adventure game designed by a colossal monster. That is some harsh design for a licensed title. The interior has a bunch rooms with health and bullets, plus a single wafer. The back door has a golden key and lots of holy wafers. Back to the underground.
The music changes whenever you either fight or go down stairs. Fighting has fighting music, obviously. It ends up like the first few notes of any battle music, annoying through the amount of times you'll have to hear it. The stairs, on the other hand, gives a weird building crescendo that sounds kinda like rushing through stairs. The regular music is some moody stuff, but has some weird static in the background, I don't know what that's about. At first I thought it might have been stepping sounds, there are in the PC Speaker soundset, but it happens even when paused.
The path leads me to another stairway down. No alternate path, only another locked door. The stairs lead to another locked door and another set of stairs.
Pressure pads, something this game may be the first FPS to do. I don't know or care. What I do know, is that this is probably a trap, so I won't go here yet. I find a silver key up here. Maybe this key will unlock the previous door...except because I just assumed it was locked because when I activate it, it just opens. It leads to a fourway path. It has a spinner on it, as in like in the old RPGs like Dungeon Master and Wizardry. Of all the things to take from that game, they take arguably the most annoying aspect of it.
The area has a lot of doors that need a lot of keys to get by. Fortunately, the silver key opens one of them. This game is weird, it has the illusion of being open, but you've really just got to do a series of predetermined events in order to win. Can you figure out that the developer of this game before and after this did a bunch of RPGs? Bloodwych and the Legend series. You know, games that were interesting, but heavily flawed and unplayable whenever you actually got past the character creation. This is just a weird experiment by a RPG guy disguised as a licensed title. Or a licensed title quickly and crappily made because they had the RPG guy do it. Strange.
This is a button. Who knows what the button will do? It opens a door. Behind the door is another door, locked this time, but also with a bunch of bullets and a teleporter. That teleports me 15 feet back. Mysterious pressure pad it is. That just takes me down to the cross hallway, but lets me know that stairs can go up multiple levels.
I...uh...this puts me in a difficult place. I've got a lot more than three things to obsessively search now, I've got a lot of ground to cover. I don't want to do that. I really don't. I need a break from this, this thing takes like three of the worst design decisions you could take from both RPGs and shooters and just combines them in a way I haven't seen a proper FPS/RPG ever do. I'm at the 2 hour mark and I'm just barely skating by on not just giving up.

*You can, but you do this by left-clicking. You can't move while attacking if you exclusively use the mouse. Times were tough before people figured out how to use a mouse and not suck.

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