Dracula: The Last Sanctuary

Developer:  Dreamcatcher
Publisher:  Index/France Telecom Multimedia/Canal+ Multimedia
Year Released:  2001

Review by Steve Ramsey (March, 2001)
They inhabit a world of red and black - their clothes, the darkness and blood. They slide through shadowy gardens and shun the light. They can live forever. They are darkly seductive - who among you would not offer up your throat to the chance to be a vampire?

Regrettably, the Jonathan Harkers of the world remain determined to ruin your day.

Jonathan has returned to London from Transylvania, having rescued Mina and taken the Dragon Ring. But the Prince of Darkness is also in London, and Mina remains under his spell. Jonathan knows he must confront and defeat Dracula - for Mina and for all on this earth.

This is a sequel to Dracula (Resurrection) in every sense of the word. It starts with the last scenes of the previous game, and picks up the story a mere week later. It looks the same, and gameplay is identical. You will recognise rooms you have been in before and will start searching in the same places. It is like an old friend, assuming you were on friendly terms with the first game. You should read the review of that game here; much of what Rosemary said applies equally to this incarnation.

Darkness be my friend
The graphics are every bit as superb as the first game. The locations are rich in detail, and the colour scheme is suitably understated. The scenes have a slight grainy texture, and everywhere there is darkness. Add some appropriate ambient sounds and an occasional eerie soundtrack, and you have a perfect environment in which to brood and creep.

Which is good, because you will do a lot of the latter. You will creep through numerous locations, including an old house, a cemetery, a theatre, a sanitarium and of course a sewer (more than once). Creeping is what you do - a menacing mood pervades the game, and you feel you should be cautious. Play with the lights off and everything is accentuated. I jumped more than once.

By comparison with the first game, this one is longer and more difficult. These are both good things given that the first game was considered by many to be too short and too easy. The puzzles and challenges seemed to me to get more difficult as you moved through the game, which gives you time to settle into the rhythm and feel of the game before you have to think too hard. Some puzzles are slightly obtuse, but never annoyingly so, and some are deviously clever. Occasionally to move on you have to find a single small hot spot, but as far as I can recall there were limited places to look.

Dracula himself also has a much bigger on screen role in this game, which speaks for itself as a very good thing.

CD Rom be not my friend
One downside (how large a downside will depend on you) to this game is the amount of reading that is done from the CD Rom. It is almost continuous, and results in constant small delays every time you do something. It is ever present, and is at its most irritating when you access the inventory. I am not a technical person, but given that hard drive space is rarely an issue these days, the need for constant access to the CD Rom seems unnecessary.

For me, this was an irritation that other aspects of the game pushed into the background and which overall did not detract from my enjoyment of the game. However I am aware that some players found it completely overwhelmed their own enjoyment.

Death becomes you
There are a few (fairly gentle) action sequences in the game and you can die. I died more than once, and on occasion had to die several times before triumphing. The action though is pretty much limited to working out how to vanquish a foe, and you don't have to run around evading things to stay alive whilst you do it. You get a certain amount of time, and either you work it out in the time allowed (indicated by an emptying gauge), or you die. Clues abound, and it usually involves using the right inventory item (or items) but can be more complicated than that. If it's the latter, you tend to get more time.

Hunting the undead is risky business. The tension in the game would have been markedly decreased had you simply been on a non-lethal stroll. The fact that the action is underplayed also added to the overall feel - it wasn't round every corner and you were never sure just when it would reappear. It made the experience more "real" and was an important aspect of the game. You may feel differently though.

Mortal mechanics
The game is played entirely with the mouse. Right click is for the inventory, left click for everything else. To look around you simply move the mouse around - there is no need to click and drag, and your cursor always stays centre screen which seems to give you greater control over your viewing area. You have full 360 degree viewing, but there is no transition from scene to scene.

Most of the scenes are totally static, but the cut scenes, and there are lots of them, are excellent. The voice acting is generally good. There are however no subtitles.

Inventory management is easy. Combinable items are kept separate and are labelled as such. There are 8 save game slots, which I found to be plenty, and your current scene is simply "pasted" into the slot with time and date details. rating:  

Copyright © Steve Ramsey 2001. All rights reserved.

System Requirements:
Windows 95/98/ME
Pentium 166 MHz (200 MHz recommended),32 MB RAM (64 MB recommended)
8x CD ROM (16x recommended), 3D Accelerator video card, 16 bit sound card
MacintoshPowerPC G3 or iMac / 
OS 8, 64 MB RAM, 8x CD ROM (16x recommended), 3D Accelerator video card.