Written by Joe Pranevich
Welcome back to Dracula Unleashed! Last week, we continued the second day of Alexander’s renewed investigation into his brother’s death, but it did not go well. After listening to Holmwood lie to us, beating our head against a university that never seems to be open, watching Goldacre get drunk on the expensive booze, and eventually being killed in the street by a different “Bloofer Lady”, I am eager to move on. This game has a lot of plot to unpack, but I’m happy with it so far. We have enough characters (both new and created by Bram Stoker) that we can keep track of them, while still enough variety in the acting and direction that the scenes aren’t boring. It’s probably not among the best games ever played here, but I am enjoying it more than I expected to.
My strategy for this session will be to replay the second day, try harder to find scenes that I might have missed, and survive the night. It was only minutes after I stopped playing last time that I realized what I forgot to try at the university (and it was a dumb omission, too!), so that’s where I’ll start this week. It’s a credit to this game that I keep thinking about the characters and the “puzzles” after I put it down.
Different department, same university?
I realized shortly after closing out last time that I didn’t try going to the university with items “in hand”. I kept thinking that we’d go there to have an introductory scene with the professor and then use our objects, but that’s not the case. Who did Mr. Horner recommend? Or did we just go to the university front desk and ask who we should talk to? The game doesn’t say how we learned about Randall Briarcliffe, but that is who we are here to see.
I return to the university with the white cloth from Anisette's father “in hand”. While we know it's part of the Bloofer Lady's dress, Alexander doesn't know that yet. The professor looks at the cloth in a microscope and is at first impressed by its intricate rose stitching, but quickly exclaims in shock when he discovers that the cloth is over a hundred years old. We know this is important because the music becomes dark and ominous. He asks for the cloth to study it and Alexander agrees. He’ll says that he'll send a telegram as soon as he’s done. While Alexander is happy about this, I am less so. How do we know this guy? If he was recommended by Mr. Horner, could this all be an elaborate ruse for him to get his hands on it himself? Either way, Alexander hands it over and the scene ends.
As I was researching this post, I popped into Consulting Detective to compare the two “London Universities”. Unfortunately, there aren’t many good establishing shots in the Sherlock Holmes games to tell if they are intended to be the same place. Compared to the Consulting Detective games, Dracula Unleashed is beautiful: it runs at a higher resolution and has clearer videos. I didn’t realize the difference until playing them side-by-side.
It’s not chocolate!
With the approach worked out, I reenter the university with the gold coin that Goldacre was flipping in hand. We are treated to one of the few truly humorous scenes of the game as Briarcliffe first bites into the coin to check if it is chocolate. His joking aside, he reveals that it is a seemingly-contemporary coin from the Principality of Transylvania. It’s not even rare, just a clue that someone recently came back from a holiday on the continent. Alexander leaves satisfied, but I have questions.
How I interpret the situation will differ based on how well-researched I think this scene is. Let’s start from the top: there was no Principality of Transylvania in 1899. That political subdivision was absorbed into the Kingdom of Hungary (itself part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) in 1865. Briarcliffe could have been speaking colloquially, but he specifically identifies it as a Transylvanian coin. As far as I know, there were no “Transylvanian” coins after 1865 and it seems unlikely (but possible!) that they would be still in wide use thirty-four years later.
That leaves the question of how Goldacre ended up with it. My first thought is that it could be part of Dracula’s treasure from the novel. Despite being a vampire, he was also quite interested in investing in English real estate and that money must have come from somewhere and must have gone somewhere when he fled. But Goldacre wasn’t one of the protagonists from the original novel, so I don’t know how he in particular would have ended up with any of Dracula’s treasures. The idea that it is an older (but still plausibly contemporary) coin seems aligned with it coming from an immortal’s treasure horde. Alternatively, if we are to take Briarcliffe’s word that it is a common coin, then Goldacre has been potentially visiting Eastern Europe for unclear reasons. Could he (or something he brought back with him) be the cause of all of the recent suffering? I’m also left to consider that perhaps Transylvania still exists in this game’s 1899 and I really look too deeply into things. I’ll leave you to judge.
A (nearly?) identical telegram scene.
As I continue my re-exploration, I realize that I can send a second telegram to Father Janos. The scene looks nearly (or completely?) identical to the one the previous day, but we get a different telegram in our notes. This time, Alexander asks for clarity on why the priest mailed him the Bowie knife.
I am now waiting for three telegrams: Father Janos, Dr. van Helsing, and a return message from the university about the white cloth. To speed things along, I head home and just wait around the remainder of the day. That evening, Father Janos’s reply is that the knife belonged to my brother, Quincey, and I should “beware the vampire”. This is the game’s first time to tell Alexander about the plot, but he doesn’t seem to be completely buying the answer. We don’t get to think about it long, but I am killed a few minutes later, without ever receiving a reply from the university or van Helsing.
After this, all I can do is explore. My focus will be on the 10:00 AM funeral for Anisette’s father. A newspaper article this morning said that it would be at St. Joseph’s Cemetery at 10:00 AM. I need to find some way to be invited or to trigger the event. I’m Andrew Bowen’s future son-in-law… I should be invited to his funeral!
Such lovely Christmas decorations! We don’t get enough scenes that show off the darkly festive set design.
While stumbling through the morning, I get the idea to deliver the rose that Juliet gave me yesterday to Mina Harker. We already had a scene with her last week where she told us that Quincey was going to stay with his grandparents. We learned earlier that she loves roses and that they remind her of her departed friend Lucy (killed by Dracula in the novel) so bringing her one makes sense. Doing so changes the scene quite a bit. Before, when Alexander thanks Mina for the necklace that he gave Anisette, she remarks that it is a family heirloom in a way that seems to imply that she will shortly be ripping her husband a new one for giving away her stuff. This time, Alexander offers the rose as a thank you first. This softens Mina’s resolve and she asks to have a private conversation with us tomorrow, after Mr. Bowen’s funeral.
Tomorrow! The funeral is tomorrow!
All of my morning explorations were for nothing as there is no funeral to watch yet. Even so, we have the address and it’s not a complete loss. Does she plan to tell us about Quincey’s death after the funeral? Something else? I’ll have to wait and see. I try this same strategy of bringing a present to Arthur Holmwood’s home to see if he'll open up. He still lies to me about how Quincey died and nothing I do seems to be able to change that. Have I missed an item somewhere?
I found her! It doesn’t help.
My next break wasn’t so much as a break, but an anti-break: I wandered into the cemetery in the evening. Going during the day brings us to the scene with the teasing gravediggers, while going too late just shows Alexander frustrated at a locked gate. Going in the early evening takes us to a new scene where Alexander enters the cemetery and sits at a grave. While the stone is turned away from us, it may be his brother’s grave that we see briefly during the prologue. As he sits, he is approached from the shadows. It is another Woman in White! I have some trouble telling because of the makeup and the low-resolution filmography, but I believe that this is the same woman that would kill us a few hours later. Alexander is killed ahead of schedule and we have game over.
I replay this scene with just about every possible item. I am convinced that if I defeat the woman here, she cannot bother me later in the evening. This may still be true, but I am unable to find a way to do it. Am I missing an item? If so, there must be a scene that I am missing from earlier in the day. Even so, this implies at least that Quincey is also buried in St. Joseph’s, that the Woman in White may be spending her days hiding there, and that Andrew’s funeral tomorrow in that same cemetery may be more “interesting” than we hope.
Suspecting that there is a scene earlier that I missed, I take stock.
I suspect that at least seven scenes are essential:
- Visiting the Asylum in the morning to get Dr. van Helsing’s card.
- Buying the book at the Bookstore to get the University’s address.
- Seeing Goldacre at the Hades Club so that he gives us his Transylvanian coin.
- Stopping in at the Newsstand to get the address for St. Joseph’s Cemetery.
- Handing over the white cloth at the University so that we will get a telegram the next day.
- Sending a telegram at the Telegraph Office to both Dr. van Helsing and Father Janos so that we can get response telegrams, although only Father Janos’s reply arrives before I am killed and it doesn’t seem like it unlocks anything.
- Giving the rose to Mina at the Harker Residence so that she makes an appointment to speak with us after the funeral.
That leaves a few other scenes that are interesting but may not be required:
- Talking to Anisette and Juliet in the morning at Anisette’s home.
- Finding Goldacre drunk at the Hades Club in the evening.
- Listening to the Bloofer Lady song at the Saucy Jack.
- Being lied to at Holmwood’s home about Quincey’s death.
Reading over all of this, I realize that we are missing two characters. We have no new scenes with Mr. Stranzikowski, although we can still occasionally find him asleep in a chair at the Hades Club. We also haven’t seen Jonathan or visited his office, although that could be because he is taking Quincey to his grandmother’s.
Jonathan Harker prepares to reject yet another pro bono client.
Realizing that I had not seen any scenes at Harker’s office all day inspired me to try harder. As before, Alexander gets a brief scene as a man says that he isn’t in when we arrive throughout most of the day. I resolve to camp outside and go inside every hour until I find him. At noon, I trigger a new scene!
Alexander arrives to find Harker in his office. He apologizes for imposing on him and his family the day before, but Jonathan doesn’t seem to be in a mood for apologies, Alexander, or anything else. He says that “what’s done is done”, but he seems to have less patience even than yesterday. Alexander presses him to reveal what really happened to Quincey (he was stabbed instead of shot; I got that detail wrong last time), but he refuses. Harker tells us that Quincey’s death isn’t related to what is happening now and that we must just take comfort in our memories of our brother. He flashes even angrier and Alexander beats a hasty retreat.
Paul Hogan would be proud of this knife.
Forgive me as I stare out this window for a moment.
Feeling optimistic, I restore and try the scene over again with various objects. I nail it on the second try: if I bring in the knife, the tenor of the scene changes. When Harker dismissively tells us that we should be happy with our memories of Quincey, it’s Alexander that loses his temper. He slams the knife down on Harker’s desk. “Memories!? For God’s sake man, THIS is all I have left of him.”
This makes Jonathan stop short. He stares at the knife for a moment before picking it up. “There has never been a greater tragedy…” He is like a changed man now. He admits that he has been trying not to involve Alexander, but he instead says that it is too late: he is already involved. “It’s too late to stop what I’ve begun.” Jonathan asks Alexander to leave for now, but to join him at his house later in the evening. His face shows concern and resignation.
I don’t have the vocabulary to talk about cinematography and there is no way to impart how these scenes move in just a few screenshots. I will say however that this scene is one of the better ones, both in terms of the range brought on by the actors (who, while fine, are community theater actors from Minnesota…) as well as in the way the scene is shot. We even get a view looking in Jonathan’s office window from the street. I know FMV games get a lot of flack for their low quality and poor direction, but this one seems fine. It’s not high cinema, but I’ve spent a long time watching these little scenes now and I’m more drawn in than bored.
An important handshake!
I allow the rest of the day to play out as before and I do everything except visit the cemetery. That wraps up just in time to stop by the Harker residence in the evening. Instead of what I imagined as a revealing meeting alone with Jonathan and Mina is instead an impromptu meeting between Dr. Seward, Holmwood (but not his wife), both Harkers, and a new face. Jonathan introduces Alexander to his friend, Dr. Abraham van Helsing. No wonder he didn’t respond to my telegram! The doctor asks to see Quincey’s knife and he looks at it with a mix of awe and fear. Alexander presses the point: what really happened to his brother?
Van Helsing urges Alexander to sit down. He agrees to tell everything, but starts with a question, “What would you say if I told you that vampires exist?” Alexander thinks he is joking, but both Mina and Dr. Seward both assure him that it is true: Quincey died defeating a vampire.
From there, Dr. van Helsing narrates what seems to be the plot of Dracula as I remember it, but I’ll include it here just in case some of the details have changed:
Jonathan should have brought a whip.
Ten years ago, Jonathan Harker was sent to Transylvania on business, to the castle of Count Dracula, the “Lord of all the Nosferatu”. Jonathan mistakenly arranged for Dracula to come to London where he found and feasted on the young Lucy Westenra, the fiancée of Arthur Holmwood. They tried to save Lucy, but she died– only to rise again as a vampire. They had to defeat her so that she could rest “with the angels”, but then the group turned their sights on Dracula himself. While they searched and destroyed the caskets of earth that he needed to survive, Dracula was also making his move by attacking Mina and drinking her blood. At this, Jonathan holds his wife’s hand as she shrinks away from the memory.
Dracula was forced to flee back to his castle in Transylvania and the group of adventurers gave chase. It was essential: if they could stop him, they believed that Mina’s soul could be cleansed. When they reached Dracula, Quincey stabbed him in the chest with his knife, but the vampire still had allies. A group of Dracula’s “gypsy servants” attacked and killed Quincey. His last words were, “I have no regrets.” Alexander is sweating now and saying that this is impossible. Jonathan offers solace and proof: his old journal (presumably the very one that was used in the Dracula novel).
Can knives kill vampires? I thought you needed a stake.
Dr. van Helsing continues by saying that the story isn’t over: vampires are walking the street again. He starts talking about the recent murders, but Alexander jumps in and exclaims that he knows all about them. It was the Bloofer Lady! Van Helsing agrees and claims that there have been many such ladies, including Lucy for a time. They all start with the same symptoms: sleepwalking and nightmares. Alexander reveals that these are Juliet’s symptoms (good thing I went there this morning!) and Dr. van Helsing asks to be taken to examine her immediately.
As usual, there is a lot to unpack in this sequence, but my favorite part is the implication that Alexander will essentially be reading the plot of Dracula in Harker’s journal. I wonder if we’re going to end up finding the other parts of the book. Could Alexander be the “Bram Stoker” of this universe, perhaps by publishing the notebook in tribute to his departed brother?
What’s the prognosis, doctor?
I rush to Anisette’s home and we get a new scene! At Juliet’s sick-bed, Alexander introduces Anisette to Dr. van Helsing and Dr. Seward. Van Helsing takes Juliet’s pulse and looks over her, discovering a large wound on the side of her neck: a vampire’s bite. It’s not two pricks like in some vampire fiction, but a swollen ugly gash. Juliet senses that something is wrong, but Dr. van Helsing tells her only that he is leaving medicines in her room and around the house. Anisette volunteers to continue caring for Juliet who is suddenly sad that “Devlin” (Goldacre) hasn’t stopped by. Van Helsing distributes large rings of garlic around the house and commands Anisette not to open the windows under any circumstances.
Clearly sensing her own mortality now, Juliet asks Alexander to deliver a letter to Goldacre. She tells Alexander that she thinks she is going to die and she wants her message to reach him.
A real carriage drives down a cobblestone street.
Let’s walk and talk.
The scene ends, but instead of returning to the normal view outside Anisette’s home, we get the black “death screen” with no lit icons, the same as when we died earlier in the game. At first I assume that I made a mistake or missed something, but it’s not quite what it appears.
We are treated to an outdoor scene, including a carriage passing and pedestrians in the street. We hear the same carolers that seem to always be around when we’re about to die. Alexander leaves the house accompanied by both Drs. van Helsing and Seward. Walking down the street, Dr. van Helsing tells us that while Julia’s prognosis is bad, it’s not necessarily fatal. She will die if she is bitten again and we must do everything in our power to prevent that. Dr. Seward is less confident, reminding van Helsing that they were unable to save Lucy. He responds that this time they know what is going on. The pair of doctors will return to the asylum and urge Alexander to rest for the evening.
We don’t get that rest, at least not immediately. No sooner are they gone than Alexander is stalked by a Woman in White. She strangles him and we hear the “death” music, but it is a fakeout! Dr. van Helsing arrives just in time with a crucifix, driving the vampire away and saving Alexander’s life. This “Bloofer Lady” runs off into the dark London streets. Alexander thanks the doctor for saving his life, but van Helding is puzzled. He believes that the Woman was waiting for Alexander, stalking him in specific. If so, why?
Alexander is saved by the cross.
The “death scene” is completed and we return to the game as usual. It’s 10:10 PM. Given what we just experienced, I bet my impending death is now prevented, but it’s not yet midnight and there is still more to explore. Should I try to catch up with the doctors at the asylum? Or deliver the letter to Goldacre? Since this is when I would normally find him drunk at the Hades Club, we should go there. Perhaps delivering the letter will help? For the sake of completeness, I quickly race to the asylum to check there first, but it’s closed for the night. I restore my game and head back to the Hades Club.
You got mail!
Visiting the club with the letter reveals a much softer version of the drunken scene with Goldacre. Alexander approaches this time with pity and compassion, delivering the letter while Goldacre struggles to pour the expensive alcohol. Goldacre admits his own insecurities: Juliet loves him, though he cannot understand why. He just knows that he loves her back and would do anything for her, “even die”. Those are not the kinds of (foreshadowing?) promises you should make in a horror game! I’m not sure if this relationship should come off as creepy. I assumed that Goldacre was older than Alexander so that makes him at least a decade older than Juliet, but it’s tough to tell especially as Goldacre is a new character created for the game.
Goldacre then leaves us with a stunning confession: “It’s me that’s done this… I was in control, but now it’s all slipping from my grasp.” He holds up a key then drops it as he slumps into unconsciousness. Alexander scoops it up as the scene ends. The plot thickens! Is Goldacre responsible for Dracula’s return? Has he done something that caused Juliet to be bitten and now he regrets it? Is that why he traveled recently to Transylvania?
Alexander’s journal says that he “suspects that he knows what [the keys] are for”. I’m glad that he knows because I’m not sure. The only two places that might make sense would be Goldacre’s bookstore and the locked gate at the cemetery. I check the cemetery first, but the keys do not help. I take the keys to the bookstore instead.
Mr. Horner emerges from a hidden door.
With the keys “in hand”, Alexander spies in the window of the closed bookshop to observe Mr. Horner emerging from a hidden door in a bookcase. Alexander hides as Horner puts on his hat and locks up for the night, the hidden passage closed behind him. Once the coast is clear, Alexander uses the keys to unlock the door and sneak in. He has little difficulty finding a catch that opens the bookshelf and descends into the store’s secret room.
The passage leads to a storage room containing jars and jars of blood as well as a book written in “some kind of European language”. Alexander leaves with the book and does not explore the blood-filled backroom any further. Our journal entry for this incident includes the bizarre suggestion that we need to discover what Horner keeps in his doctor’s bag, although this hardly seems relevant to the scene. He also suggests that we need to find someone that can translate the book.
“The purpose of literature is to turn blood into ink.” ― T.S. Eliot
A little light reading.
One of the advantages of living in 2023 instead of 1993 is that we have easy access to just about everything. I can amuse and bemuse you with inflation calculators, accurate maps of London, and even the history of Transylvania. Of course, the first thing that I did when the book flashed on screen was to try to translate it. Unfortunately, most of the text is too small to be read, but the heading is easy enough: “Medalionul lui Akaar-ra”. This is Romanian and means “the medallion of Akaar-ra”. What is the medallion? Who is Akaar-ra? I have no idea. (“Ra” is the name of an Egyptian god, of course, but that hardly seems suitable for an Eastern European vampire.)
I try to check on Anisette and Juliet, but Mrs. Colpepper is acting as chaperone and won’t let me in at night. I return home instead, read Father Janos’s telegram again, and go to bed. Notably we do not get a new scene with the telegram and Alexander seems stunned at the mention of a vampire. Continuity is not perfect, but it’s been overall better than I might have expected. As last time, I dream of Quincey playing darts and stabbing himself in the stomach. I awake at 5:45 AM on the morning of December 30, 1899. I have two days left until we get to the prologue scene in the graveyard.
With two days done, this is where I’ll pause for this week. This is going to come out a bit late and I’ll miss the Wednesday slot, but it should be pretty close. With two gaming posts per day, I’m guessing that we have four posts until we win. Will that hold up? Is that too many posts for this game? I have no idea. I’m just excited that we’ve opened the floodgates and Alexander finally knows what is really going on. We’ll have two days to see how to translate that to action, starting at Mr. Bowen’s funeral tomorrow. I look forward (honestly!) to seeing how the plot unfolds.
Time played: 4 hr 05 min
Total time: 12 hr 35 min
Inventory: Father Janos’s card, “AHM” handkerchief, picture of Anisette, “London Museum Guide” book, Anisette’s prescription, “Tales of Evil” book, Jonathan Harker’s business card, blackjack, Bowie knife, Van Helsing’s card, book by Byron, gold coin, Goldacre’s keys, Harker’s journal, mysterious book