Best First-Person PC Adventure: Dracula 3: The Path of the Dragon
At first glance, The Path of the Dragon seems to be just another solitary experience with a heavy reliance on puzzles. It doesn’t take long to realize, however, that this well-researched, riveting blend of historical fact, science, esoteric mystery and myth is one of the better, deeper games of its type. As Father Arno Moriani, a Catholic priest, players are sent to a small Transylvanian village to investigate the beatification of a doctor who devoted her life to helping her fellow countrymen, even during the World War I bombing that devastated the town. Haunted by his own nightmares, Arno soon finds himself entangled in a widespread conspiracy involving the Vatican, the mysterious Thule Society, and the epitome of the vampire mythos, Dracula himself.
Although numbered Dracula 3, this game bears no connection at all to Resurrection and The Last Sanctuary, its so-called predecessors. The depiction of Bram Stoker’s most famous creation here is both original and enticing, and everything in this adventure exudes atmosphere: the beautifully rendered locations are eerie and menacing, the musical score engrossing and suspenseful, the sound effects believably effective, and the cinematography swathes the player with its dense shadows, dim lights and cold colors suddenly ignited by sparkling flashes of vivid red. The plot unfolds slowly but steadily, with unexpected twists and moments of pure tension: occult lore, forgotten myths and secret conspiracy have been elegantly used by the designers to weave a brilliant story spanning almost five centuries.
Arno himself displays a convincing personality, struggling between faith and skepticism, loyalty to his priesthood and carnal urges, sacred love for God and human desires: his internal torment leads the game to a powerful ending that will leave you craving more. Such characterization of the playable protagonist is unusual in first-person adventures, and one of the key reasons for its broader appeal that sets it apart from its contemporaries.
Runners-Up: Penumbra: Black Plague, Nancy Drew: The Phantom of Venice
Readers’ Choice: Dracula 3: The Path of the Dragon
Obviously you see what we see in The Path of the Dragon, but then we all have an up-close view from its first-person perspective. With the Dracula franchise in the hands of Kheops for the first time, the "series" took a substantial leap forward, and its refreshing approach to the vampire theme was able to fend off challenges from Penumbra: Black Plague and Nikopol: Secrets of the Immortals.
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