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Have You Played... Realms of the Haunting?

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Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Realms of the Haunting [Steam / GOG] should be better known. It’s one of my favourite horror games ever to sell about four copies and be forgotten. Hurrah for digital second chances.

It’s not really a surprise that ROTH floundered at launch. The 3D engine was Doom level tech in 1996, its name is ridiculous, the box was terrible, and if you want to pick holes in the game, it doesn’t take long. My favourite is that none of the enemies are able to walk through doors. Terrifying.

But I still love it in all its campy glory, and I love what it achieved. It starts as your stock haunted house mystery and then becomes a dimension spanning epic about the apocalypse, always going the extra mile. That house for instance. It’s huge, with maps sprawling and almost never having visible loads (they’re there, but well disguised). It’s full of character, with the ability to use the mouse pointer to examine things, and a partner during most of the game – Rebecca – who Adam can talk to for more information about all the weird stuff. (Not including why she never appears in mirrors.)

In short, it’s a game that went all out to be the best it could be, at least until the plot pretty much tacitly admits “Yeah, we’re out of money” and resorts to mazes. There’s a lot of mazes. They all suck. But looking back, it’s never those that spring to mind. It’s the letters to the villain carved with hate on his own walls, the awesome performance from David “Pickle From Knightmare” Learner as the demon Belial, with gloves of human skin and a delightfully withering turn of phrase.

All of this gives the game such a wonderful texture – a real feel of being caught up in a whole universe of magic and monsters and a thousand dark machinations. Heck, I could easily talk for a good 47 minutes on it. In fact, I have. Right here, in fact. (Also available in two halves) It’s kinda snarky, but don’t mistake that for a lack of genuine fondness. Poor Realms of the Haunting. You deserved so much better than you got, and I would totally have bought your sequel.

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Richard Cobbett

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