Monday, 21 December 2020

Game 120: Veil of Darkness (1993) - Introduction

Written by Zenic Reverie

Why is it always vampires?

Judging by its cover I wouldn’t have given it a chance. I’m not really a fan of horror, and Veil of Darkness suggests it’ll fall in that vein (not my pun). That is, until I saw the SSI logo at the bottom. Knowing them most favorably from their gold box series; I’d probably overlook that it was merely published by them and given the back of the box a look. Of course, I’m ignoring the fact that in 1993 I’d have been deeply engrossed in my growing SNES library. 

Blood as a medium makes an oh so bold statement

The dissuasive note in that red circle would have been enough to set the box back down, but not today, not now. We have the promise of riddles to solve and dark secrets to uncover in this hybrid adventure-action-RPG experience that uses a “Real Time Visual point-and-click interface” (whatever that last part means; I suppose the mouse might have been a new feature for PC games of the era).

Taking notice of Event Horizon Software for the first time on the box (and first screen as I boot the game), I felt like I’ve heard that name before. In fact, I had from reading about their past games on CRPG Addict’s blog, and this one too, it so happens, is on his list though I wonder if it will pass muster as an RPG. Their past games were all RPG enough (DarkSpyre, Dusk of the Gods, and The Summoning), and future games by the team lean back heavily in that direction. So, it’s interesting to look deeper into why this game might lean more on the adventure side of gaming.


Event Horizon Software was founded by two ex-Paragon Software Corp. employees, Thomas J. Holmes and Christopher L. Straka, and James Namestka who doesn’t have any game credits prior that I can find. Holmes and Straka had previous experience working together on MegaTraveller 1: The Zhodani Conspiracy (a top-down RPG also covered by Chet) and Twilight’s Ransom (a text-based adventure that has yet to make it to the missed classic list). Maybe it’s their work on Twilight’s Ransom or a desire to tell a story of intrigue that leads them on the adventure path.

I'm not sure when or how Nikolae had time to pen this prophecy

With a prelude that takes up half the 64 pages of the manual, a story is definitely one thing the game is attempting to dress up. The writer, Scot Noel, gave the same treatment to the manual of their previous title. I’ll try to summarize:
Kairn, fifth of seven sons to the Lord of Csarda, Nikolae, loved a woman (Deanna) from a lesser family. While off to meet her one day (a book of poems in hand to teach her how to read), his father and brothers were already at her house—had slaughtered her family—killed her in front of Kairn, then fed her blood to him while he blacked out in grief. When he awoke, something within Kairn had changed, nay everything had changed.
Kairn regained consciousness at his family’s keep. He was drawn back to the library where he had seen a cursed book, the Agrippa. The old librarian Funar had been killed for betraying the lord’s wishes, aiding Kairn with the love poems. Taken by the curse, Kairn had visions of his brother Aleksander dying at the hands of a stranger in the night, one Kairn seemed to share a consciousness. In the morning, he attacked his father, and while easily could have killed him, decided to have him suffer as he hunted down the rest of this brothers over the coming years.
“Unconsciously, it began. One by one, sometimes centuries apart, Kairn would lure brave men into the valley. He challenged those few who might at last set him on the road to hell. But none, it seemed, proved ever more than diversions. From their agony he gleaned but the joy of brief and deadly games. . . .”
Another is chosen to play the game

The game begins with the main character (unnamed) flying a freight plane over some unidentified area of Romania. Far below, Kairn brings to him another adventurer. Bats fly into the engines and bring the plane down in a fiery crash. Before passing out, the main character stumbles away from the wreckage barely singed yet badly cut and bruised. Two shadowy figures arrive and carry the body back towards a small village.

I named the main character Engatz after waking up in the company of Deirdre, whose father was the one that carried me to the room where I woke. Deirdre’s father requested to speak to me as soon as I regained consciousness, though Deirdre wasn’t much help with where to find him.

Wouldn't it be easier if you showed me the way?

Following directions over an NPC gives me the impression that other characters don’t move, but I guess we’ll see if that holds up. Of course, enemies will probably move around the screen as combat is purported to have action instead of a turn-based experience. Before exiting the room, we must make a choice for combat. The game offers full, simplified, and easy combat options, which remain locked in for the remainder of the game. I’m leaning towards full, which the manual describes as requiring specific objects to overcome certain foes. Simplified removes the need, making the objects give additional bonuses. Easy seems to completely negate the challenge of combat completely, though it’s still included.

Which would you choose?

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There's a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no CAPs will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. As this is an introduction post, it's an opportunity for readers to bet 10 CAPs (only if they already have them) that I won't be able to solve a puzzle without putting in an official Request for Assistance: remember to use ROT13 for betting. If you get it right, you will be rewarded with 50 CAPs in return. It's also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Voters can predict whatever score they want, regardless of whether someone else has already chosen it. All correct (or nearest) votes will go into a draw.

36 comments:

  1. This is one of the best games ever created. The atmosphere and music is unique. A truly enjoyable horror game. The combats may take some points from the perfect score. I go with 90

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    1. Love it too. I have heavily reversed IDA databases for this one, one day I'll have some time and reimplement it !

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    2. You seriously think it's going to beat Monkey Island and Indiana Jones by eight points? I doubt it.

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    3. I voted 100 for Fate of atlantis =)

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    4. Well okay, but I mean, given the score they ended up with and the general devotion to both games that there is around here? Like, if you voted 100 for that and it wound up with 82, doesn't it sort of stand to reason that something you vote 90 for would end up with less than 82...?

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  2. For everyone who resents the way the Christmas creep intrudes on Hallowe'en, have we got something for you!

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  3. For people familiarized with the "Dungeons & Dragons" RPG, the setting of "Veil of Darkness" (a secluded region ruled by a Vampire Lord who has the power to decide who can enter his domain and prevent his vassals to leave it) is very similar to the "Ravenloft" campaign world for "DnD". Interestingly, shortly after "Veil of Darkness", Event Horizon Software will do two CRPGs for the "Ravenloft" setting: "Strahd's Possession" and "Stone Prophet".

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    1. That is very cool. I always thought AD&D and gothic horror made a really strange mix, but that setting has a small & dedicated fanbase. Living Death, a fan-run campaign within the RPGA ran for over a decade.

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    2. Is this the first appearance of Canageek in this blog after, i don't know, a lot of years?

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    3. About four I think. Dating, moving in with my partner, my partner moving back out and it becoming a long distance relationship, getting burned out on my PhD, reaxaminging my sexuality & gender, becoming poly, and finally starting to write my thesis all kinda stole a lot of the energy I was using to read and it became harder and harder to get the energy to try and catch up.

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  4. I'm going to go with 63, for no specific reason. I think it will have a good score, but it is quite different from a common graphic adventure, so I'm not sure with what games compare it to try to predict the score. I played it towards the mid-nineties and managed to complete it withouth any trouble, so I suppose the reviewer will find it quite easy. I wonder if the CRPGAddict will play it in the near future, because even although I think that "Veil of Darkness" can't be considered an RPG by any measure, I find it historically relevant from the CRPG history as some kind of "path not taken" by Event Horizon Games.

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  5. I am weary of these hybrids, but I hope the horror theme will keep the atmosphere and story relatively high. I will give it a 53.

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  6. I'll grab 85.

    The backstory to this doesn't make any sense. So, let me get this right. Main character is going to teach a girl he loves how to read. His family MURDERS her, feeds him HER BLOOD, and somehow HE is the one who gets damned? And somehow he goes from hunting them down and killing them, to hunting down and killing random people for fun? I feel like there are at *least* a few steps missing from this process.

    Also: Hi, I'm back. I was told Fatty Bear is coming up, which I said I wanted to be involved in wayyy back in the day. Sorry I've not been around much, I've found both Adventure Gamer and CRPG Addict harder to follow as my PhD wears on.

    That said, I still would love to be involved. I suspect I remember it way too well to write the article, since I probably have every puzzle memorized. Instead I was thinking of going a video Lets Play or possibly see how fast I can speedrun the game, would anyone be interested in these?

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    1. A VLP could be an interesting diversion here, but for best value it would require figuring out interesting commentary topics before recording, which may take more effort than anticipated...

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    2. Welcome back, Canageek! I hope you'll manage to find more time from your PhD for commenting. Indeed, Fatty Bear is coming up quite soon. I'll do the write-up, but any extra content would be much appreciated.

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    3. I was planning on talking about my memories from being a kid, I played that game a LOT as a kid, likely due to my Asperger's/Autism. The focus would be showing all the little tricks and hidden bits within it, and seeing how many I remember.

      Well, the PhD is almost done, I'm writing my thesis now. Which however, means I've also got the stress of job hunting. Currently I've got applications in at University of Guelph in Ontario, University of Kansas, and have an interview in the new year for a post-doc at University of Liverpool that I need to start studying for.

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    4. Woof, the speedrun looks tight. Record set one year ago at 3m 34s https://www.speedrun.com/fbear

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    5. Can I ask what program it is that's equally attractive in Guelph and in Kansas? (My husband from Kitchener suggests animal husbandry/veterinary science, heh.)

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    6. They are both looking for crystallographers, which is what I want to move into after my PhD. Basically, I determine the atomic structure of things by shining x-rays on it. I don't want to become a professor, and I really like the day to day work of science more then designing research projects, so becoming a service crystallographer seems like a good fit, but not many of them are hired each year, so I'm both applying to post-docs in related fields to boost my skills, and to service-crystallography-like jobs.

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  7. Gotta say I always ignored this one. Didn't find it interesting back when it was an abandonware staple, and my lack of interest was validated later when I saw an in-depth review of it. Not bad, just tedious in a way early '90s RPGs are that I don't like. 38
    That said, I would say full combat? It has a pretty good shot of being annoying, but it seems like some of the puzzles are tied to the combat system.

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    1. I played this about 10 years ago and it was better than expected. Nice atmosphere, but not overwhelmingly grim; medium length, didn't outstay its welcome. It's kind of an interactive pulp horror novelette.

      Definitely full combat for the best experience. It's not very hard even then.

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  8. Another game I’m not interested in... ugh. Been missing blog posts I’ve been looking forward to.
    I’ll guess a demonic 66.6, which rounded up is 67.

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  9. It looks decent but hybrids continue to worry me, especially after Legacy. Would be hard to be that bad so I am going with 58.

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  10. I'll guess 49 for no rhyme or reason.

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  11. About the combat modes, the game gives you access relatively soon to a place in which you can fully restore your Hit Points, making the combat trivial except for the need to use certain weapons to be able to damage certain enemies. You can play with Full Combat settings as the combat itself is never hard, but if you find it boring having to go ocasionally to the "healing place" to recover from damage (although the game is not short of healing items), you can opt for the Simplified mode. And if you don't like combat in an adventure game, opt for the Easy mode. You won't be missing anything special, and the puzzle-solving and item-searching aspects of the game are still very enjoyable.

    Also, I recommend you to make sure that the "Magnify" option of the Configuration Menu is activated. It makes the pickable items much bigger, and although this may seem like a cheat, having the "Magnify" option disabled will make very easy to overlook items.

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    1. Seconding the recommendation for Magnify, if the gameplay is like SSI/Event Horizon's The Summoning (which from the font, it looks like it is). That game had an item and a spell for magnifying items, but unless you wanted to make the game purposely harder I don't know why you'd bother. Much easier just to have Magnify on.

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    2. I would third Magnify, I remember there were a lot of coins and I can't remember if there was anything that blended into the ground.

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  12. I remember firing this game two or three times back in the day, but never played it for more than 20 minutes. Although I loved the graphics (I have a soft spot for isometric perspective) the RPG elements were a huge turn off for me. I guess I'm a graphic adventure purist. I'll go with a low 42

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  13. Looks like 60 is free so I'll say that.
    I never played this but I keep hearing good things.

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  14. I have a feeling somebody else is going to have to finish this game.

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