Dracula 4: The Shadow of the Dragon
The Shadow of the Dragon
|Publisher(s)||Microïds (Anuman Interactive)|
|Writer(s)||Olivier Train, Marianne Tostivint|
|Release date(s)||Windows & OS X
Dracula 4: The Shadow of the Dragon is a 2013 point-and-click adventure/horror video game for Microsoft Windows, OS X, iOS and Android developed by Koalabs Studio and published by Microïds. It was released for Windows and OS X on June 19, 2013, for iOS on December 5, 2013 and for Android on March 14, 2014.
The game follows 2000's Dracula: Resurrection and Dracula: The Last Sanctuary, and 2008's Dracula 3: The Path of the Dragon. The plot is unrelated to Resurrection and Last Sanctuary, but is the first of a two-part loose sequel to Path of the Dragon. The second part, and the final entry in the Dracula franchise, Dracula 5: The Blood Legacy, was released in December 2013.
The game is played from a first-person perspective with the direction in which the player is facing controlled by the mouse, although the game is also fully touchscreen operable on Windows 8. 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 blinking eye (meaning the player can inspect something in more detail), a cog (meaning the player must use an item on the object or 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.
A gameplay mechanic not used in the previous Dracula games is a player health system. The player-character (Ellen Cross) suffers from a rare blood disorder which must be managed with medication. During the game, Cross' health continually decreases, and if it goes below a certain level, she becomes unable to move or perform tasks. The player has access to various types of medication throughout the game and can experiment with combinations to continually top off her health.
The game can be played in either "Adventure Mode" and "Casual Mode". In Casual Mode, hotspots are automatically shown on-screen rather than needing to be located by the player by moving the pointer over them. Also in Casual Mode, after a set period of time elapses, players are given the option to skip puzzles. The game also features a points system and a series of in-game trophies.
The game beings with a tsunami engulfing a freighter carrying a priceless collection of fifteen paintings on their way from England to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The ship is lost, as is the entire collection, along with their owner, Professor Vambery. The game then cuts to a tunnel leading into a columned room full of water, where a dark figure calls to "Ellen", telling her "the shadow is approaching." Ellen Cross is then awakened in her apartment in New York by a telephone ringing. She answers it, and is told of the loss of the Vambery collection. Ellen is next seen at her doctor's. She suffers from a rare blood disorder, and has just been told that the medication which keeps her alive has been discontinued. Her doctor gives her a last supply of medication and Ellen vows to live life to the full until the very end. Several months later, the director of the museum tells her that one of the supposedly lost paintings has surfaced at a private auction in Budapest and Ellen is dispatched to investigate if the painting is authentic.
Upon arriving, she meets Inspector Bizlos Lazlo and determines that the painting is definitely from the Vambery collection. Lazlo tells Ellen it was being sold by a man named Adrian Friedlen, a well-known petty thief. Friedlen refused to speak to the police, but he talks in his sleep, and Ellen listens to an audio recording where he speaks of failing, warning that "the master is approaching" looking for his mirror, and refers to the "Prince of Exile." Ellen hopes to speak to Friedlen, but Lazlo finds him dead in his cell. Although it appears as if he died of natural causes, his face is contorted in terror, and a moment before he died all the security cameras in the police station stopped working. Lazlo and Ellen also discover that Friedlen wrote "He's coming to kill me" on the wall of his cell. In his belongings, Ellen finds an encoded message, which she takes, unbeknownst to Lazlo.
She calls the director to tell him the painting is authentic, and he tells her that Vambery's assistant has revealed Vambery added a sixteenth painting to the collection, but no one knows what it is. As such, he sends her to Vambery's residence in Whitby to see if she can identify the painting. There she meets Vambery's former assistant, Adam Stoker, Bram Stoker's great-grandson. As Ellen explores the manor, she discovers a secret surveillance room hidden behind a book case. In this room, she listens to an audio recording in which Vambery talks of a portrait by an artist known as Kaneyek. Vambery is greatly disturbed by the portrait, but although he fears it, he is unable to destroy it, and so he ships it with the collection for New York without telling anyone. He reasons that putting the painting in a museum on the other side of the world will give him peace, and he speculates that "he won't think to look for it there."
She goes to the cemetery on the property and examines the Vambery family tomb, where she finds a hidden entrance to an old Celtic shrine. She also finds a vault in which she discovers a bust of Vlad Tepes. In a chest she finds garlic, a stake, silver bullets and a crossbow. Upon discovering all of this, Ellen speculates that the missing painting could be a portrait of Dracula. She also finds a wax cylinder. Using a gramophone, she listens to the cylinder, which was recorded by Herman van Bergen in 1870 (Fr. Arno Moriani also listens to this cylinder in Path of the Dragon). Van Bergen was Vambery's grandfather and made the recording after returning from the village of Vladoviste in Transylvania, where he had gone with his friend Ioan Hartner. Whilst in Germany, Dracula had fallen in love with Hartner's wife, Luciana, and had initiated her onto "the Path of the Dragon". Van Bergen and Hartner followed them to Vladoviste, where van Bergen killed her by driving a stake through her heart. Dracula, however, eluded them. After listening to the recording, Ellen asks Stoker if he knows what the Path of the Dragon is, and Stoker tells her it is thought by some to be an initiation rite one must follow if one wants to become a vampire, although he himself doesn't believe in vampires.
Using a scytale, Ellen decodes Friedlen's encoded note and finds the name and address of a painter called Yanek in Istanbul. She contacts the director, telling him of the painting by Kaneyek, and he informs her that the modern form of the name Kaneyek is Yanek. As such, she is sent to Istanbul to find Yanek. She does so, but he denies knowing Friedlen. After he leaves his home, Ellen sneaks in and finds two paintings from the Vambery collection. Going up into the attic, she finds a body and a sealed case containing a painting. Ellen takes the case and returns to her apartment, where she opens it and sees the portrait of Dracula – it is a portrait of Adam. As she looks at the picture, it comes to life, and Adam grows fangs.
Dracula 4: The Shadow of the Dragon received relatively little attention in the gaming press and what attention it did receive was negative. The PC version holds aggregate scores of 35.00% on GameRankings and 32 out of 100 on Metacritic.
Adventure Gamers' Rob Franklin was extremely unimpressed, scoring the game 1.5 out of 5. He was heavily critical of the brevity of the game, calling it "a meagre instalment with a stingy approach that offers little to no challenge for anyone who's ever attempted an adventure game. You see, despite the "4" in its title, this is, in fact, a stunted three-hour 'episode' at best, and at worst a cynical attempt to sponge cash out of gamers with an unfinished product." He was impressed with the graphics in the opening cutscenes, as well as the music, sound and general voice acting, but he criticised the core gameplay, finding the puzzles too easy and the game itself too linear. He was also critical of the health system; "It's an interesting premise, but one so desperately redundant you'll wonder why it was included at all." He concluded by again criticising the game's length; "The Shadow of the Dragon's shortcomings would be far more forgivable if this had been clearly marketed as "Episode 1". By naming it Dracula 4, Microïds have taken a three-hour prelude and made the purchasing public think it's a complete adventure game. In fact, your only reward for completing this game is a teaser for Dracula 5; there isn't even a closing cinematic."
Adventure Classic Gaming's Mervyn Graham was similarly critical, scoring the game 2 out of 5 and finding many of the same faults. Like Franklin, he criticised the health system; "The mere fact that she has to take medications throughout the game is superfluous and irrelevant." He was also critical of the character animations, calling them "abysmal", and writing "Their lips move when they speak but completely fail to be synchronized to the spoken dialogs. Sometimes, a voice is heard but no lip movement is seen. Other times, the lips move but no vocal sound is made." He concluded by calling the game "a truncated experience that fails to satisfy the appetite of fans familiar with the series."
GamesReviews' Steven van Eekeren was also critical of the game, scoring it 4 out of 10. He too was unimpressed with the health system; "This unusual addition does nothing but hinder your enjoyment of the game and it ends up becoming slightly frustrating." He was also critical of the puzzles, finding them to be too reliant on trial-and-error, and although he praised the music and sound, he was heavily critical of the voice acting. He concluded "I went into Dracula 4 anticipating a game with blood-sucking vampires, spooky crypts and a harrowing, and somewhat frightening story. At the very least Dracula himself should make an appearance at some point. Instead I was treated to monotonous gameplay, popping pills and painting a puppet's arm. With roughly three hours of gameplay, little to no replay value, puzzles that frustrate and voice-overs that irritate, Dracula 4 is most definitely one to avoid."
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