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Blast from the Past | Realms of the Haunting

Author:
David Brown
Category:
Features
Tags:
Blast From The Past, Features, Gremlin, PC games, Realms of the Haunting, Retro
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PC

Blast from the Past | Realms of the Haunting

One of the best games of all time came out in 1997 and it's a safe bet you've probably never heard of it. It was intensely atmospheric, had (for the time) good, hardware-intensive visuals and used FMV sequences to good effect. It also had Marvin the Paranoid Android in it.

It's name was Realms of the Haunting, a first-person point-and-click game set (initially) in an abandoned mansion house. Plot-wise, it's not too much on paper – you're the Chosen One, you've got to stop the end of the world. It's much more than just that simplistic summation, of course.

Blast from the Past | Realms of the Haunting

For a start, there were three forces of evil working towards a similar goal, while the forces of good also had their ulterior motives too. What it did very well was slowly unfold this world for you, not relying on big twist moments. Slow-burning, oppressively tense and decidedly intelligent, there was depth here that belied the initial set up.

Like most great adventures, the story kicks off in rural Cornwall (Say what? - Ed) with a guy whose visions of his father in perpetual torment have lead him, after receiving a mysterious parcel, to visit the aforementioned mansion, although our hero Adam Randall doesn't discover this for a while, naturally.

Blast from the Past | Realms of the Haunting

Our protagonist's quest takes him far beyond the mansion and into, as the game's name suggests, many other realms where evil forces lurk and clues yearn to be found. In his way are the likes of Claude Florentine, an ancient mystic with intriguing motives, and Belial, a source of supreme evil and a generally un-nice chap.

You're not alone, though. Raven-haired temptress Rebecca Trevisard kind of tags along to help you solve the mystery, and there are 'good' spirits too that seek to restore the correct balance in the universe.

Blast from the Past | Realms of the Haunting

The core of the game is spent viewing things from an old school first person view, so you have to use the Page Up and Page Down keys to look around, rather than there being the usual free-look option. This makes playing it now feel relatively strange, but you do get used to it.

It's also one tough bastard of a game, with very little ammunition and health to go around, but loads of enemies (some respawning) to deal with. The levels are quite mazy and not necessarily easy to navigate but we're talking a 14-year-old game here. Things were different back then. There's a reason this game provided more than 40 hours of content.

The story is told via the medium of full-motion video cut-scenes, which usually meant woeful acting and an excuse to have a large production budget and hundreds of CDs to store the footage. Realms was one of those FMV games that actually decided to include a game along with the video, just like Gabriel Knight: The Beast Within and Under a Killing Moon.

Blast from the Past | Realms of the Haunting

It was also a game that built up a great atmosphere. As it was tough, you were always scared of coming across any enemies, and there was always a sense of claustrophobia and danger that modern games – perhaps because of the more free-flowing controls – never quite seem to evoke (except perhaps the Penumbra and Amnesia games).

The question now is whether it's worth playing nowadays. Now it looks pretty ugly, as do most games that pioneered the 3D approach in the late 90s. The controls and the level design are a little fiddly, but if you can get past these more old fashioned elements, there's a wonderfully rich and deep story and world to explore. You'll probably want to use this walkthrough to help you along, though.

As probably the best game you've never played, certainly from the late 90s, Realms does deserve at least a look, with the knowledge of its control and design flaws in mind. Luckily, it can be purchased for only a miserly handful of dollars over on Good Old Games.

Add a comment3 comments
Jonathan Lester  Apr. 28, 2011 at 13:46

ROTH is brilliant, good shout Dave.

David Brown  Apr. 28, 2011 at 15:47

'tis a great game, certainly, though it's suffered more than I'd have liked from the ravages of time.

Chris Lord  Apr. 28, 2011 at 15:59

Good call, this game scared the crap out of me when I was younger... Perhaps best left in the past, but a fond memory nonetheless :)

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