I apologise in advance to those of you that have a nostalgic place for Mortville Manor in their hearts, for what I’m about to say might not align with the evocative memories you have for it. Mortville Manor is an exceptionally poorly executed adventure game, and was possibly more frustrating than any other game I’ve ever played through to completion. I can safely say that I wouldn’t have dedicated the eleven and a half hours it took to complete the game if it weren’t for the purposes of this blog, and probably would have stopped after around three. There were certain parts of Uninvited that annoyed the crap out of me, but at least in that game I had some idea about what was going on and what actually happened in the end. The same can’t be said for Mortville Manor, and I’ve astoundingly ended the game with more unanswered questions than answered ones. Now it could very well be that all of this is merely the result of a poor translation from French to English, or that my intelligence level just wasn’t up to the genius behind the game, but I can only describe and rate the game based on my own experience. Here’s a rundown of how I floundered my way to the finish line...
There were times where I felt like using one of these while playing Mortville Manor
When I last left you guys, I’d found the third parchment and figured my next destination should be the chapel. Well, I spent a good half an hour in that chapel, and couldn’t find anything of interest whatsoever. I thought I might have been onto something when I read “bring the sun to his knees” and assumed something would happen if I waited until night time, but no, nothing happened. Feeling more disgruntled than ever, particularly after Daubeur predicted I’d finish the game before my next post, I determinedly explored the rest of the house again, hoping to find something that would trigger a eureka moment. While doing this, I came across a room I’d never seen before! How could that happen I hear you ask?! Well, let me tell you. At the end of the landing in the manor (see below) are stairs going down and stairs going up. From this point, you can click the Move menu and then Choice on Screen, and then click where you'd like to go. If you click on one of the doors, you are positioned in front of that door, where you can knock, open the door, listen or talk to whoever is standing next to you. Now, during my very first session with the game, I clicked Choice on Screen and then clicked the stairs going down. The game popped up with a big green message saying “Then use the MOV menu”, which caused me to think that the stairs led to one of the other options in the Move menu, such as the kitchen, or the cellar, and that in all likelihood, the stairs going up would result in the same message. Wrong!
What's behind door number 9?
Going up the stairs took me to the attic, where I found a photo of a young woman, along with a bunch of other seemingly useless stuff. What this achieved however, is that it opened up new dialogue options in the conversation tree, which caused me to spend the next period of time trying to catch all eight suspects to ask them about the girl and their relationship to her. It turned out that Murielle was the lady companion (whatever that means) of Julia and that she’d disappeared under strange circumstances over a year ago. Unfortunately, the excitement of finding this new room and having something to do dissipated and I was once again left without a clue. Deciding to focus my attention on the two areas I’d been so curious about previously, being the well and the cellar, I headed back to the well, this time with the rope I uncovered in the attic. Imagine my surprise when I attached that rope to the well and selected Move – In the Weel (yes, the game spells well “weel” throughout) and was confronted with a loading screen instead of the response “Too deep!” Now imagine my utter disdain when that loading screen was followed by the screen below:
So let’s get this straight. The rope I’d previously attached to the well was too short!? The game didn’t give me a message to tell me this information, such as “This rope is too short. You might want to try a different one.” No, it just said “Too deep”, making me wonder what else I might need to do to use the rope. Attaching a different rope, which looks absolutely identical to the other one, suddenly allows me to climb to the bottom of the well, only for someone to cut the rope, trapping me there. The game doesn’t even allow me to at least see what’s down there before reloading, it just ends. There were no hints as to how I might go about climbing down without being trapped there either, leaving me feeling more than a little cranky. I spent some time looking through the parchments and items I’d come across in the entire game up until now, but could see nothing that might help. Surely the well isn’t there as a red herring?! Well no actually...I later came back to the well, connected up exactly the same rope as before and entered...you know...for shits and giggles, only this time I wasn’t killed! Why I was able to enter this time and not the times I’d tried before, I have absolutely no idea.
This rope is apparently longer than the other identical looking rope
Apparently the whole reason to climb down the well is not to get to the bottom at all, but to read the “strange horoscope” on the wall halfway down. I thought for sure that I’d finally come across an explanation for the symbols found throughout the game and how to apply them to the cryptic parchments, so I was pretty excited about it to say the least. Thankfully I saved my game and took a screenshot too as if you hang around for long the water rises and kills you (don’t you hate it when the water in the well just rises all by itself!). I’ve stared at that screenshot for quite a while now and I’m not sure I’ve ever felt more stupid in my life. Was this game created by aliens and sent here to drive us humans insane, therefore making their inevitable invasion a much easier proposition? If I was going to have a guess, I believe music has something to do with the solution to the puzzle. The second parchment says “The key to the melody is within your grasp. It suffices to find the note that clashes” and when you enter the well, you hear three distinctly different tones. Maybe it’s merely suggesting that I find the missing tone (i.e. the missing piece of wall), which might be the symbol in the cellar? If anyone can explain what the whole well thing is about, I’d love to understand. Regardless, as strange as it might seem, I managed to finish the game while having no idea.
I get it now! Satan is angry because Poseidon stole his chick before the sun came up?
Deciding to expend no further energy on the well, I entered the cellar once more, determined to figure out what the symbols are all about. Immediately I noticed something that had escaped my attention previously. An almost imperceptible slot just above the symbol on the centre pillar! For the first time since starting Mortville Manor, I had a eureka moment worth getting excited about! I’d been carrying around the dagger for a while (I collected all the items I could that were present on the coat of arms) and tried placing it in the slot. The secret door opened and I eagerly went through to see what dark secrets were held within. However...I was suddenly confronted with a question! “Julia: Did she commit suicide? Was she murdered? Did she die by accident? Did she die of natural causes?” My investigation had led me to believe she died of natural causes, so I selected that answer, only to be faced with another question. “Where did the money come from for the restoration of the manor?” The answers to choose from were blackmail, honest work, inheritance, races, rents, hold-up and other. Fortunately I’d recorded every possible dialogue question and answer throughout the game and was able to look back over it. When I’d asked some of the manor residents about Leo’s Occupation, they’d answered “He’s a fanatic of history and gambler. A year ago he won a great deal of money”. I could see no mention of any restoration, but the gambler comment made “Races” the most likely answer. Obviously it was correct, as the test continued...
This question implies that this story is involving. I beg to differ!
In total I was asked to answer ten questions before I was able to proceed. Since completing the game, I’ve read elsewhere that this test was added to certain versions of the game after it became apparent that the game could be finished in a matter of minutes if you have a bit of luck (or follow a walkthrough), therefore making the entire plot completely redundant. If you get one answer wrong, the game tells you that you’re not ready to enter the secret passage and need to conduct further investigations in the manor. In my opinion, this is a lame attempt to correct what is an obvious defect in game design. It doesn’t help that some of the questions are really quite hard, and despite the fact I’d spent days investigating every nook and cranny and asking every possible question, I still had to guess the answer. Who did Murielle have an affair with? Where was that mentioned? If you’re going to test a player to make sure they understand the plot, you better make the plot understandable in the first place! Somehow I got through it unscathed, and found myself looking at a rather unattractive statue with a sword.
Hooray for disused traps! I can't wait to try them!
Noticing how similar the statue looked to the one in the chapel, I quickly brought up a screenshot to compare. They both carried a ball shaped item in their right hand, but the one in the chapel had a cross on top whereas the one in the passage didn’t. The gold ring I had in my inventory (also on the coat of arms) had a cross on the top, so I tried putting that in the slot on top of the ball. It fit perfectly...but nothing happened. I couldn’t see anything else to do, so I selected every action in the menu, including smell and eat (you never know with this game), and clicked on the ball and the ring. Turning the ring worked, and another passage opened up. This led me to the apparent climax of the mystery, discovering Murielle’s corpse lying on a chest. I spent quite a bit of time looking in the chest and trying to figure out what I was supposed to do before I searched her body and found a wooden object with a screw on it. I’d previously noticed a hole in the top of the cabinet in Murielle’s room, so I quickly headed straight up there to test my theory. It fit, but once again nothing happened. I eventually figured out that the wooden rod in the top draw of the cabinet needed to be slotted through the hole in the ball so it could be turned, revealing a secret drawer containing a notebook.
Even after death, Murielle rocked on to Iron Maiden and Slayer
I expected this notebook to make everything clear. It didn’t! It might not be as cryptic as the parchments I’d collected, but it didn’t answer anything other than the fact Murielle had followed the parchments herself and found her way into the crypt. The game quickly wraps itself up at this point in a most unsatisfying way. “You don’t know what implication Leo may have had in Murielle’s death. Was she dead outright? In any case, the family problems that you have uncovered in the course of your enquiries would explain Leo’s behaviour.” What behaviour? What family problems? I know Guy has been having an affair with Eva, Pat owes Guy money and has been forging accounts, Max is a bit of a drunk etc. etc., but what has any of that got to do with Leo and his apparent behaviour? The “revealing” talk with Leo goes part way to answering the above, as Leo describes how he and Murielle were searching the crypts when she was killed in an accident. Instead of reporting her death, he simply left her there, but not before taking her ring and the treasure he found. He then explains that Julia wanted me to investigate as she suspected Leo was involved in Murielle’s death, but that she made all the clues very difficult for me to decipher to protect her husband. So let me get this straight. Julia wanted me to find out whether Leo killed Murielle, but she scattered her own clues that led to her belief around so that I might not suspect Leo. Huh!? Oh, but none of this matters anyway, because Leo commits suicide shortly after I leave the manor after losing a bet at the races!
Was she dead outright? As opposed to what? Undead?
So...I’ve finished Mortville Manor, but it doesn’t feel like it. All the dialogue between me and the suspects allowed me to complete the test when entering the secret passageway, but otherwise played no role in completing the game. Most of the parchments still make absolutely no sense to me. Nothing happened in the kitchen, the bathroom, or the shower for the entire game, nor did I pick up any item from any of those rooms. I could now finish the game in about five minutes, without talking to anyone or accessing more than two rooms (all you need is the ring and the dagger). Why did Julia’s stepson Pat answer that she died of frostbite when everyone else said she died of pulmonary embolism? Why did I start the game with a pistol when it clearly plays no part in the game (wasting a valuable inventory slot at the same time)? If Leo isn't a murderer and merely hid Murielle's body to avoid attracting attention, who kept killing me throughout the game? Why does Guy answer “I took the picture and what’s more, it’s printed in reverse” when talking about the photo of Murielle in Julia’s room? Are these things just there to confuse the player and make them chase answers that simply aren’t relevant, or have I completely missed the point over and over again? One thing’s for sure! I’m really looking forward to playing a Sierra game after slogging through this mess. But first...I need to have a quick look at the game in French on the PC, so I can rate it properly for that platform. Then it’s case closed...for good!
Murielle may have left due to the financial success of the manor? Yes, that should be avoided at all costs!