Dracula 3: The Path of the Dragon
The Path of the Dragon
|Developer(s)||Kheops Studio (Windows)
Tetraedge Games (iOS, OS X)
|Distribution||DVD-ROM (1), Digital distribution|
Dracula 3: The Path of the Dragon is a 2008 point-and-click adventure/horror video game for Microsoft Windows developed by Kheops Studio and published by Microïds in Europe and Encore Games in North America. In 2010, an abridged version of the game was released in a three-part episodic form for iOS (as Dracula: The Path of the Dragon), developed by Tetraedge Games and published by Chillingo. The game was also ported to OS X in 2010, published by Coladia.
The game follows 2000's Dracula: Resurrection and Dracula: The Last Sanctuary, although the storyline is unrelated to either game. A loose sequel to Path of the Dragon was released in a two-part form in 2013; Dracula 4: The Shadow of the Dragon and Dracula 5: The Blood Legacy.
The game is played from a first-person perspective with the direction in which the player is facing controlled by the mouse. On each static screen, the player is free to look around 360o. The game's interface is very simple; there is no HUD, instead the player has access to an inventory in which all items are stored. From the inventory, the player can also access objectives, review dialogue and examine any documents they have acquired.
To speak to people or interact with objects, the player must click on them with the pointer. As the player moves the pointer around the screen it can change to an arrow (meaning the player can move in that direction), a magnifying glass (meaning the player can inspect something in more detail), a cog with a red line through it (meaning the player must use an item on the object), a cog without a red line (meaning the player can operate the object without using an item) or a hand (meaning the player can pick the item up). When the player clicks on a person to whom they wish to speak, a list of conversation topics appear on screen. When the player picks up an item, it is automatically put into an auto-holder rather than the main inventory, and must be transferred manually from the auto-holder to the inventory screen. This allows the player to sort the inventory in any way they wish.
The game begins in 1920, with Father Arno Moriani of the Sacred Congregation of Rites speaking to Cardinal Felicio Briganti in the Vatican. Briganti tells Moriani that he is sending him to the village of Vladoviste in the diocese of Alba Iula in Transylvania to investigate a candidate for sainthood, Martha Calugarul, a physician and scientist who died several months previously. The process is being fast-tracked because Transylvania has recently been annexed by Romania, leaving Catholics in the minority, and the church feels a local saint may help the Catholics in the area reaffirm their identity in relation to the majority Orthodox inhabitants who share the diocese.
When Moriani arrives in Vladoviste, his innkeeper, Ozana, tells him that Calugarul saved her son, Ariel, by paying for him to move to the coast when he was extremely ill. At the inn, Moriani also meets Janos Pekmester, a professor in Medieval History who is in Vladoviste to excavate the ruins of the nearby Castle of Twilight. He also learns Calugarul's biography; after becoming a scientist she was badly burned in a laboratory accident, forcing her to wear a veil over the side of her face. Later, she worked with Professor Heinrich von Krüger investigating a disease they called the "P syndrome". During the war, she remained in Vladoviste and cared for combatants on both sides. She died in bed, apparently from exhaustion, soon after the war ended.
The next day, Moriani meets a reporter, Stephan Luca, who tells him Calugarul was murdered for defying evil. He shows Moriani a letter Calugarul wrote, in which she reports people dying of inexplicable anemia. He also shows Moriani Calugarul's medical files, in which she describes patients sleepwalking, reacting violently to garlic and dying of unexplainable blood loss. All of these patients had two small hematomas on their neck when they dies and all had the "P anomaly" in their blood. Ariel was such a patient, but when Calugarul sent him away from Vladoviste, he soon recovered. Calugarul had come to believe that a vampire was at work in Vladoviste and had vowed to walk "The Path of the Dragon" in an effort to find and confront it. Moriani reluctantly concludes that because Calugarul believed in vampires and engaged in occult practices to combat them, she can never be canonized.
He calls Briganti who tells him to close the Calugarul case and instead open an investigation into proving vampires don't exist. Briganti explains that ever since the publication of Bram Stoker's Dracula, the Vatican has found belief in vampires at an all-time high and they want to put a stop to the rise in superstition. To do so, Moriani must secure the testimony of a recognised historian and a recognised scientist who can refute the existence of vampires. Luca, however, tells Moriani that Dracula is not a fictional character, but a real being, and The Path of the Dragon leads to his lair.
Moriani calls Professor von Krüger who explains that the "P syndrome" is a disorder in the blood which produces results very similar to those attributed to vampires, and he is currently trying to develop a serum to counteract it. The next day, he heads to Budapest to meet Professor Irina Boczow, the world's foremost expert in vampirism. Boczow tells Moriani the history of vampirism, beginning with Lilith, and much to Moriani's surprise, she reveals that she believes vampires to be very real. She then gives him a book, The Lords of Twilight, which says that to become a vampire one must complete The Path of the Dragon. The book speculates that the real life Vlad Tepes walked the path in his youth. Boczow tells Moriani that the book was written by the Thule Society, an evil organisation obsessed with power.
Back in Vladoviste, Luca decides he must venture on The Path of the Dragon alone. That evening, Moriani writes his report refuting vampires. The next morning, in the room next door, Luca is found shot dead, and Moriani decides to walk The Path himself to confront the evil he believes to be threatening the village. He finds correspondence from Calugarul to Luca saying The Path begins where Vlad Tepes was held prisoner in Turkey. He travels to Vlad's jail in the mountains where he discovers that the prisoners were left as food for a creature living in the forest to feed on so she would spare the nearby villagers. Vlad, however, was determined not to become her victim.
He heads back to Budapest to see Boczow, however, upon arriving, he finds her murdered. He then returns to Vladoviste to find the church has been burned and Calugarul's mausoleum defiled. Upon going to the dispensary to check on his friend, Dr. Maria Florescu, Calugarul's replacement, he finds a bloodied shawl. In the shed he then discovers an unconscious Pekmester in a coffin, holding a book from Boczow's library. Back in the inn, Moriani finds a bomb on his door. He manages to disarm it and Ozana tells him that Pekmester and a man from Alba Iula were in his room. Moriani enters Pekmester's room and discovers he and von Krüger have been working together, and both are members of the Thule Society and are attempting to walk The Path, which they believe ends in the Castle of Twilight. He also finds that they have discovered Calugarul's grave to be empty.
Enlisting the help of a local gypsy, Luana, Moriani is able to enter a secret passage in the hills leading into the Castle of Twilight. Finding his way through an underground labyrinth, he encounters Pekmester, who explains that Florescu is a servant of Dracula. He works his way through various traps and eventually enters the catacombs, finding Dracula's body in a coffin. Von Krüger arrives in the courtyard above, begging Moriani to trust him, but Moriani refuses to let him down. He uses all of his anti-vampire weapons (garlic, holy water, a crucifix etc.) on Dracula's body, but the coffin disappears, leaving Moriani with the unexploded bomb as his only weapon. Florescu then arrives. She reveals she is/was Calugarul. When she followed the Path with the intention of killing Dracula, her offered her her beauty back, and eternal life. She reveals that Pekmester killed both Luca and Boczow and that Von Krüger is actually the head of the Thule Society. She wishes Moriani luck as Dracula himself approaches. However, as he nears Moriani, Moriani ignites the bomb and the catacombs are destroyed. However, from the rubble, a green vapour rises into the air.
The game then cuts to London 1942. In a bunker below the city, Pekmester is being interrogated by Captain Cunningham of the British Army. Cunningham wants to know what was the nature of a secret operation in 1941 headed by General von Krüger codenamed "Operation D". Pekmester asks Cunningham if the name Vlad Tepes means anything to him. Cunningham is dismissive, and Pekmester asks him "Don't you believe in vampires?" as the lights in the room go out.
For Halloween 2008, Microïds ran a stencil-based pumpkin carving competition. Also for Halloween 2008, The American Red Cross held a Dracula themed Blood Drive at five locations in Northern California, USA, where each donor was given a copy of the game.
Adventure Classic Gaming's Mervyn Graham was extremely impressed, scoring the game 5 out of 5, and writing "Dracula 3: The Path of the Dragon is a cut above the rest. Gamers will appreciate the effort that the developer has put into developing a convincing storyline that leads the player from country to country down the Path of the Dragon. Some puzzles are straightforward, but other puzzles are more perplexing, albeit logical. [...] As amongst the best adventure games released in recent years, I highly recommend this game to all adventure game fans."
IGN's Emily Balistrieri was also impressed with the game, scoring it 7.2 out of 10. She praised the graphics, sound and voice acting but was highly critical of the puzzles, saying "forget blood-sucking, these puzzles are soul-sucking," and concluding "There are definitely gamers out there who, rather than dashing out boss brains, prefer to have their own splattered all over. The price of admission to a PC adventure with such high production quality might just be...your sanity! If code breaking, chemistry, and arcane rituals are your ultimate brain-melt fondue, though, bare your neck for Dracula 3."
Adventure Gamers' Cameron Urquhart also responded positively, scoring the game 4 out of 5. He praised the historical element of the storyline, and how the game used factual information in its fictional narrative. He was also impressed with the graphics, sound and voice acting, although he criticised the lip synching in the cutscenes. Unlike Balistrieri, Urquhart was complementary of the puzzles; "Rather than being loaded down with contrived puzzles for padding, Dracula 3 relies heavily on inventory puzzles, yet you are never resigned to trying everything on everything. The hotspots are almost always necessary, while puzzles are logical and accessible and never feel out of place." He concluded "The game rarely wows you in any one way, and the pace can drag at times in dry subject matter, but overall it's both logical and accessible, and with its interesting approach to vampire lore and deftly crafted storyline, Dracula 3: The Path of the Dragon is worth picking up."
GameSpot's Brett Todd was less enthusiastic, scoring the game 5 out of 10 and writing, "Busywork puzzles and stone-age visuals drain the creeps out of this supposedly scary saga, which unfolds more like an uninspired detective story than an ominous encounter with a legendary monster." He was also critical of the graphics and sound; "Most scenes are grainy, and character models are afflicted with slow-motion movement tics that makes it seem like everybody you meet is underwater. Voice samples often sound vaguely slurred in a rather similar fashion." He also disliked many of the puzzles, and concluded "Dracula 3 is dry, traditional, and stilted [...] Adventure gamers with a taste for methodical puzzle-solving could appreciate it, whereas everybody else will be too busy stifling yawns to feel any chills running down their spines. This is a vampire-inspired adventure by the numbers that holds few surprises in its dry puzzles and dated presentation values."
The three-part iOS version received equally mixed reviews, although each of the three individual episodes received different levels of coverage in the gaming press. Part 1 was widely reviewed and holds a score of 62.50% on GameRankings. Part 2 received considerably less attention and holds a score of 60.00%. Part 3 received very little coverage and holds a score of 50.00%.
AppSpy, 148Apps and Slide to Play all reviewed Part 1 only. AppSpy's Dave Flodine was impressed, scoring it 4 out of 5, and writing "Dracula: the Path of the Dragon is a solid adventure title for the iPhone. The slow investigative gameplay won't appeal to everyone, but for adventure game fans, this should keep you busy." Chris Hall of 148Apps scored it 3.5 out of 5, writing "If I had a game like this was on my phone in 1999, I would've freaked out. It reminds me of a slightly easier to navigate, but slightly less epic version of Myst, or The X-Files, or Blade Runner, or Phantasmagoria. I'm just having a real hard time getting into a game like this now because the genre is old and exhausted. I'm all for a good story, but tapping on arrows to navigate scene by scene is just tedious in today's marketplace, even on a mobile device." Slide to Play's Grant Holzhauer scored it 2 out of 4, writing "Given the static nature of the visuals, these games depend on an intriguing story to keep the pace moving, and Dracula isn't one that you can sink your teeth into. It lacks real scares or characters that you'll sympathize with, and the religious overtones don't do much to make it feel more believable."
Pocket Gamer's Keith Andrew reviewed Parts 1 and 2, scoring them both 6 out of 10. He praised the graphics of Part 1, but concluded that "Dracula: The Path of the Dragon strikes a supreme style, but doesn't stake claim to the depth of gameplay and satisfaction to support such an ambitious setting." Of Part 2, he criticised the plot, writing "Dracula: The Path of the Dragon is a slow adventure with literally reams of dialogue to sift through – dialogue that's neither concise nor especially gripping."
TouchGen's Torbjorn Kamblad reviewed all three episodes. He was unimpressed with Part 1, scoring it 2 out of 5, and writing "With only a minor amount of puzzles demanding zero to no skill it is hard to really view this as a puzzle game at all. There is no fighting, no quick time events and no inventory management of interest. Dracula: Path Of The Dragon is a shallow game with a lot of graphical polish." He was more impressed with Part 2, scoring it 3.5 out of 5 and writing "Dracula: Path of The Dragon – Part 2 is a great looking, eerie sounding point and click adventure. Short gamelife and easy puzzles draw the final rating down, but it is definitely entertaining venturing into the Transylvanian night." However, he was disappointed with Part 3, scoring it 2.5 out of 5, and criticising the implementation of the puzzles, which he felt "are generally harder than those found in the earlier parts. This is mainly due to a lot of content being left out of the game from the PC version. This means that some puzzles come with no build up, and you basically have no information to solve them with." Of the trilogy as a whole he wrote, "the third part takes about an hour to complete, and that clocks the entire trilogy to around three hours. For me it is barely worth getting the complete game for $5 as there is little to no reason to replay it."
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