Realms of the Haunting takes you on a ride of hidden surprises, spirited adventuring, and shrewd, crafty plot development. The game is played from a first-person perspective in a realistic 3D environment and it actually contains a few scenes designed to rattle even the most seasoned gamer. As your character Adam Randall explores the mansion and uncovers sinister beings and secret passages and rooms, you'll become involved in his quest and more than a few times hit the edge of your seat as you peer around the next corner or tiptoe into the next room. You'll have to decipher cryptic messages left by beings of another world, solve devious puzzles that are based in logic (none of those trumped-up, insidious math or letter puzzles found in so many other adventure games), and utilize your abilities of deduction and intuition to piece together clues.
The game evolves and progresses in chapter fashion, with most revolving around the mystery of a certain room. In order to continue exploring, you'll have to complete a task or solve a mystery before moving on to the next location. You'll stumble across secret tunnels, ethereal beings and voices, hints of unknown origin, and beguiling traps as you work your way through this enormous mansion. Oddly enough, the mansion appears to be much larger on the inside than it does from the outside....
There are many items to pick up along the way, such as maps, weapons, and magical objects. Using these items is one of the stickier annoyances with the game. Not only is the interface cumbersome when manipulating objects, but the needed action of combining them together to get the right piece of equipment can be obscure at times. At certain points in the game, you'll trigger a video sequence that you'll need to watch carefully, as it will invariably contain clues and vague hints to help you along. Revisiting characters you've already talked to also plays an important part in the game, as new evidence or discoveries can trigger a retro-effect that demands further interaction with them.
Realms of the Haunting contains a fairly large game world to explore and the manual has a special "hint guide" walkthrough to help you get through the first ten chapters where the plot, understandably, is the most vague. A very nice option allows you to customize the difficulty level of adventuring and combat to your liking. Movement is accomplished via mouse or keyboard and, other than item use, the interface is smooth and accommodating. There are nearly 20 competent actors and voice actors employed in the game, most of whom add a professional quality to the films and various scenes. In a refreshing outlook, most of the solutions you'll painstakingly (but proudly) deduce are tied directly to your advancement of the game.
The full motion videos, excellent 3D backgrounds, and appropriate atmospheric music all combine to give the game a spooky, intelligent feel. Jaded adventurers and first-person fanatics can feel right at home in Realms of the Haunting; it's the best of both worlds.
Graphics: Full motion videos are professional quality and the atmosphere portrayed is perfect. Backgrounds, coloring and effect is top notch.
Sound: Solid all the way. From music to voice, it's a good package.
Enjoyment: Immersing story, that given a chance, will grab you and hold your interest. It's a time killer because you'll just have to know what's around that next corner. Interesting plot (you'll learn it slowly) and fun to play.
Replay Value: Maybe just to watch the videos and play it through at speed.
Realms of the Haunting is a very interesting combination of first-person shooter and three-dimensional adventure game with quite a bit of live-action Full Motion Video thrown in to boot. Navigation through the game world is done through a FPS interface very similar to Doom, however there's also a free-floating cursor controlled by the mouse which you can use to interact with the various objects around you.
There's also an inventory system and quite a few object related puzzles. The game has standard Doom-ish combat against a variety of monsters, however the combat is placed at intervals rather than throughout the game, and the emphasis is more on exploration and atmosphere.
Realm's of the Haunting's plot starts out as a typical haunted house story but soon mutates into an end-of-the-world tale combining New Age pseudo-philosophy and biblical Revelations. You take the part of Adam Randall, a pastor's son who is sent to investigate a haunted mansion by a mysterious priest who claims it's linked to your father's death. Once you enter the mansion you soon learn that not only is it infested with demons and evil spirits, but that the mansion itself is built over an old Satanic temple and the priest who sent you there is in fact a five-hundred year old French sorceror trying to bring about the end of the world.
You are soon joined by a helpful young psychic and aided by the ghost of a defeated knight. You'll also start a grudge with an ex-demonking as well as be chased around by the Antichrist-in-training. Instead of plain English, all these characters are compelled to speak in cryptic pseudo-mystical mumbo-jumbo, but even so they somehow seem to get across the point that you're some kind of Chosen One who's supposed to sort out the whole sorry mess. Things gets even more surreal as you travel to different realms of existence via gateways located in the mansion, chat with a variety of supernatural entities via FMV sequences, learn the real secret behind life the universe and everything, and of course do your darndest to stop or at least delay Armaggedon.
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