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Clive Barkerís Undying is a survival horror game that has a deeply gothic look and feel
to it, and while Iím not that familiar with Barkerís work apart the book ëThe hellbound
heartí and film adaptation ëHellrasierí, I am very familiar with the works of H P Lovecraft,
who is in fact my favourite horror writer and someone who greatly inspired Barkerís
Starting the game youíll find yourself in a huge gothic mansion, a mansion that has
a lot of locked doors, some of which you must find the keys for which often requires backtracking
and because of that you might be thinking: this game is going to be a lot like ëResident
However there are a number of things that make this game unique. First off throughout
the game you dual wield a weapon in your left hand and magic in your right. As you progress
you will be given access to more weapons and magical abilities, which you can quickly switch
between using either a hotkey or a radial menu. Your magic recharges automatically.
Magic can be used in combat, and one ability in particular will allow you to see in the
dark, ghostly apparitions of corpses, and things from the past. It will even reveal
the truth behind certain things.
Youíre magical abilities and what they do can be looked up in the journal along with
any scrolls you find, the writing in these scrolls is usually pretty good delivering
the kind of creepy sometimes cryptic messages you would expect to find in a horror game.
And fortunately you do not need to study these scrolls in order to find out what to do next
as there is also the option to check your objectives. Between this and the logical way
the levels are laid out and the fact that the puzzles are usually easily solved through
a little bit of backtracking or using magic, you will rarely find yourself lost or stuck.
Which is a refreshing change from other survival horror games, because as much as I love games
like Silent Hill and Resident Evil, they will often burden you with abstract puzzles which
personally I have no luck solving without a strategy guide.
Even though the starting area in this game, the mansion, is huge. It wonít be long before
you find yourself exploring the grounds around it using a boat. Youíll also find yourself
doing things like using a magical ability to cross between barriers that block you off,
and my personal favourite: exploring other realms which presumably are in between dimensions..
or something like that.
These other realms or whatever they are supposed to be, are by far the richest in atmosphere
in this game. The sound and art design here although perhaps heavily clichÈí is very
rich and enticing. The deep rumbles of otherworldly thunder, and the red hellish sky and broken,
loosely connected, sometimes mystical gothic architecture is a lot of fun to navigate.
Even if it does require the occasional bit of basic plat forming which tends not to work
all too well in first person games, although itís not too infuriating here.
The sound design in the game overall is good, there is always a foreboding atmosphere created
by the whistling of wind, the howling of monsters as they attack, the heavy sound your footsteps
make when indoors, and a variety of ambient noises that change depending on different
areas your in throughout the game. One very weak point in the sound design is the noise
human-like enemies make, usually in the form of laughter, which is horrendously cheesy.
Early enemies in the game will be demons and cthulu-ish serpent creatures, later though
youíll encounter skeletons, humans from the past who will attack you with pistols, demonic
birds and a variety of other gothic monsters and demons.
The combat itself is probably the weakest part of the game, but not because itís bad
In fact it can be quite creative. For instance combining offensive weapons with defensive
magic, such as the ability to raise enemies from the dead after youíve killed them and
recruit them as your own ally, is an interesting idea. The problem lies simply in how frequent
enemy encounters are, especially when all you really want to do is find more interesting
scrolls to read that can help you learn more about the lore of this game. Or visit more
otherworld locations instead of being attacked every 2 minutes.
Throughout the game there is a fairly decent variety in locations, from the manor to the
There is even one point in the game where you have to travel back in time to an ancient
monastery so you can locate a key. I found This level in particular quite amusing because
all I did was basically going around slaughtering the entire monastery with my pistol, shotgun,
Molotov cocktails and various magical attacks.
Visually the game has aged fairly well considering itís over a dozen years old, the unreal engine
provides surprisingly detailed enemies, and the lighting, and shadowing effect give off
just the right atmosphere. Where the game does suffer is the outdoor areas, whilst not
that bad they are a lot weaker and more dull looking than the interiors, not to mention
the sound design is usually more lacklustre when outdoors.