Realms of the Haunting review by Al Giovetti

Realms of the Haunting
Review by Al Giovetti
Price: $49
Genre: movie adventure
Release: March 3, 1997
Developer: Gremlin Interactive
Medium four CD ROMS
Art: (not animation)
Music: Chris Adams
Sound Design: Darren Lamborne
Programming: Anthony Crowthers
Producer: Paul Green
Publisher: Interplay
Phone: 714-533-6655, 714-553-6678
Website: http://www.interplay.com/games/roth.html,
http://www.gremlin.co.uk/games/roth/news.html
Requirements: DOS 5.0 and native Windows 95, 486Dx2, 66 MHz, 16 MB RAM, 20 MB hard disk space, VGA ore SVGA with VESA drivers, SoundBlaster 100% compatibles,

Company line: The fallen archangel of storms and lightning, Rimnon now commands these terrible beasts and grants them as familiars to only the greatest of magicians. Summon them at your will, for it must be your own. Do not make them thine, for they cannot be leashed. Their form is taken from fear and desire within the mortal mind. It is to this that these creatures lend their form. From you, the magician who reads these lines. A note of warning.

Imagine an adventure game that pushes the traditional sense of interactive storytelling into an all new, terrifying dimension. Imagine a story of truly epic proportions, woven together with one of the most sophisticated and ambitious interaction systems ever developed. Inventory is intelligently linked to conversations, character history and location. Character dialogue flows from your actions, story knowledge, and world events. A world where puzzles will rip at your mind. Where you will leave reason to the damned and run and fight with the blindness that falls only with true fear.

The tale begins in deepest Cornwall, where the main character, Adam Randall, arrives for his fathers funeral. His father's death, happening under the most suspicious circumstances, sparks a series of nightmarish visions, all revolving around a house that Adam has little recollection of. Haunted by these images, he eventually tracks down the house, discovering it to be the erstwhile home of a powerful French sorcerer whose experiments unleashed hoard of demons. The evil controlling them has taken Adam's father--body and soul--and is now residing in the building, waiting for future victims. Within this house is located the soulstone.

What we beleive to be Angels and Demons are really projections of the minds of mortals, the Soulstone providing the catalyst to give them form within the world. Yes, God and Satan do exist but only as 'powers' of the Universe; God the ultimate Power of all that is good and alternately Satan as the ultimate Antonym. The Soulstone is an integral part of the make up of the Cosmos. It is the balance that keeps all things equal though some speculate as to whether it was created or simply came into being. Are then God, Satan and the Soulstone part of a greater galactic and spiritual whole. Maybe, but for game conventions no one knows the truth of it.

There is a grand Skein woven about the fabric of time and space which is centred around the Soulstone. As mentioned, the Soulstone is the great Universal fail-safe; too much evil for Man's own good and the override steps in with the intervention of the Watchers.

History: Gremlin created Normality which was a big success based upon the three dimensional first-person perspective game engine. Realms of the Haunting is the next use of the Normality engine for a new game product. The game Realms of the Haunting is a mixture of full motion video cut scenes, first-person-perspective three-dimensional fully-interactive real-time fighting game (Doom-like) and elements of a fantasy-role-playing adventure.

Plot: Realms of the Haunting is a disturbing vision of the future based on visions of the Apocalypse. The player is a young Adam Randall whose father's untimely death leads him to the remote Cornish country village of Hellston, an actual town in England. Through the contents of a strange parcel, hand delivered by a distinguished clergyman and reputed friend of his father, Adam is pulled into a macabre and brooding fantasy by entities gathering in St. Michael's Vicarage. Adam searches through several spirit realms to search for an ancient relic to vanquish the evil inhabiting his father's house.

The intrigue in Realms is not ghosts and goblins, but the underlying fear of the end; the collapse of the light, and the dawn of the new age of darkness. And whose fault is this? Who could possibly be capable of this? Who is so ignorantly blind to the world that they openly invite in the darkness? The answer is simple you are the savior or the ultimate cause of manís downfall. The soulstone, found in the game, contains the power to convert the dreams of menís minds into the reality of angels and demons. You must solve its riddles and master its power.

The goal: to ward off the impending doom using your wits to unite the broken Shrive with the Soulstone so that good may reign the Earth. Immerse yourself in the Realms of Sheol(Hell), Hellud (Earth), Raquia (Spirit) and Arqua (Divine). Outwit the devious Belial, invoke Rebecca's psychic powers, release Hawk and more in the intricate world of the Realms of the Haunting.

Game play: True 3D is the combination of a 3D environment with real-time motion capture and mimics real world effects and forces such as gravity and inertia. Game play includes running, jumping, crouching and firing of weapons.

Puzzles: The puzzles are of the treasure hunt type with general items saved in a bag with the artifact shards given early in the game. Magic items are stored on a separate magic inventory. Inventory items can be combined or used together by using the left mouse button to drop one item on another in the inventory menue. A scroll inventory holds the contents of books and letters found. There are over 155 inventory items, maps, weapons, and magical objects.

Combat: Real-time combat is available, but running away is recommended for many situations. The weapons include shotguns, fireball staffs, an automatic pistol, and others to combat over 20 fully rendered monsters, including demons, dark beasts and others who are not too intelligent. Adversaries home on you and get shot up in the process. Keys two to six store up to five weapons for ready access within the house.

Graphics: Full motion video will take the player on a tour of over five hundred locations with characters to interact with and objects to manipulate, pick up and use. The resolutions are in the 640x480 pixel, SVGA range, with a lower setting in VGA at 320x200 pixels for less powerful machines. Realms contains almost 120 minutes of FMV. This was filmed using the 'Blue Screen' technique at Bright Light Studios in Warwickshire. Bright Light are SFX experts with over 12 years industry experience. The CV of Tom Lauton, Bright Light's owner, includes credits for Nightbreed, Starman and 'The Nightmare on Elm Streetí series.

The True 3DTM engine (see notes) in Realms Of The Haunting , was developed in house by Gremlin and was first used to great effect in Normality . The version used in Realms... is the more advanced and provides the powerhouse for the game's genuinely photo-realistic locations. The textures are very grainy but appear real inspite of the almost transparent textures muting the crisp details.

Animation: The animation is equally spectacular with rendered and motion captured Demons, blending seamlessly with 90 minutes of FMV and digitized animation. The majority of the in-game objects have either been rendered or are actual Polygons, giving real depth to the game and allowing you to view objects from any angle. It's probably fair to say that Realms... has the most advanced 3D environment ever. What this means is a huge leap forward in realism from anything else you may have seen. The frame rate is smooth and fast with no abberations.

Voice actors: The voice actors include Corey Johnson, 'Big' Al, and Rob Rackstraw at Rhubarb and Voice-Box Studios. The cast also included fifteen video actors. The protagonist, played by you in the game, was portrayed by David Tuomi. The voice of the lady psychic who speaks to you during the game with hints and comments.

Music score:

Sound effects:

Utilities: Games can be saved and loaded at any time making the game exceptionally easy to play. The automapping feature is difficult to use placing itself in the center of your screen. The transparent maps of Doom combined with paper maps with notes, such as used in Stonekeep would have been better.

Multi-player:

There are no multi-player options available for this game.

Future plans: Hopefully Gremlin will come back and do more of this stuff, they are good at it.

Reviews: Jeff wants us to play on our conundrums again and see what sounds they make. Doug, you need to check your history of computer games. Look at Origin's Ultima Underground and other games that preceded Doom by years and you may find that Doom incorporated the 3D free wheeling engine used by role-playing games that preceeded it.

Cheats, Hints, and Walkthroughs: Realms of the Haunting Walkthrough

Journalists:

Please send us your review or preview text by email to publish right here.

References:
Interplay Realms of the Haunting Web Site
Gremlin Realms of the Haunting Web Site
Jeff Sengstack, http://www.gamespot.com/previews/roth/index.html
Cindy Yans, Computer Games Strategy Plus, issue 71, October, 1996, pg. 48.
Glenn Broderick, Computer Player, volume 3, number 7, December, 1996, pg. 38.
Doug Radcliffe, Computer & Net Player, volume 3, number 11, April, 1997, pg. 74, 80%
Peter Olafson, PC Games, volume 4, number 4, April, 1997, pg. 76, 87%.
Todd Vaughn, PC Gamer, volume 4, number 4, April, 1997, pg. 140, 86%.
Robert Coffey, Computer Gaming World, issue 154, May, 1997, pg. 128 - 130, 90%.
Jason D'Aprile, Computer Games, issue 78, May, 1997, pg. 91, 90%.

Please send us your comments and suggestions. *