Myths of the World: Black Rose

I have a strong dislike for vampires, or at least what modern media has turned them into, but can Eipix turn me around on the subject matter? No. Did they try? Yup. I still haven’t changed my mind, though.

So yeah, been a while since I wrote. Would you believe me if I said I spent the majority of the last two months or whatever just… doing other stuff? I actually got caught up in another game for more than a week and then I got sick and… well, the point is, I’ve either been busy or had nothing to write about. And I did promise you I’d never force myself to write so… keeping my word by being lazy, go me?

And I honestly haven’t been playing any HOPA during that time. I was going to review Royal Detective 2: Queen of Shadows but, again, I took too long to review the game so I decided, in the spirit of fairness to not review a game I didn’t wholly remember.

Eipix, on the other hand, is not as lucky as Elephant Games, I’ve always got the time to review their games! For better or worse, I suppose.

Myths of the World: Black Rose
(2014, Eipix Entertainment)

You are a vampire hunter. And you hunt vampires. The job title is also the job description. Handy. But while on the hunt for a vampire by the name of Benjamin (did I read that right? Not Count Benjamin? I’ll take Lord Ben? No, just Benjamin?) you’re dragged into a story as old as time itself: one of unrequited love. And vampires. Unrequited vampire love.

If it sounds like I don’t take the story seriously, it’s because I don’t. And there’s a couple of reasons for that and while some of them are my own, personal demons to deal with, others merely showcase a giant issue with the setup of Myths of the World. And I’ll get to both sides of my complaint eventually but I’ll start with my personal preferences.

I don’t like vampires. I like the concept of them, what they represent (the elite sucking the life out of the working class) and as monsters they can be quite compelling due to their various powers. However, in the last… twenty years or so I’ve found that vampires have become less and less interesting and more importantly, far less scary. And I never quite understood the romance. Yes, there’s always been a sexual aspect to vampires but not a romantic one, losing yourself to a vampire was a last act of pleasure, not love.

But I digress, we can discuss the analysis and imagery of vampires at a later date, my point is that I grew up with vampires being scary and frightening, not misunderstood creatures that deserve your love.

And for a while it seemed like Black Rose was going to be more up my alley. The intro video shows a young girl being attacked by a vampire and the screen telling you to play with the sound on for the best experience had a menacing bat hanging upside down with a piano tune playing in the background. And then when you started the game came the loading screen, an absolutely beautiful moonlit background with a swarm of bats flying out.

Fantastic.

So I was in high spirits when the game began but it quickly displayed its true colors and that I was in for just another Eipix game about love and stuff. Yeah, I’m not immune to it and I’m not blaming Eipix for jumping on the “Vampires are sexy lovers” thing that has been oh so popular as of late (at least until BDSM took its place) but for whatever reason, vampires and love just thumb a more cynical string in me.

Sure enough, it takes not half an hour before the vampire we’re hunting turns out to be misunderstood and really a good guy. All my hopes of hunting down a nest of vampires and slaying them went straight out the steamboat porthole. In fact, you don’t stake, burn or behead a single vampire throughout the entire game. Okay, you do set one aflame by exposing him to sunlight… but that was in the Bonus Chapter, for god’s sake. And I was referring to actually setting on fire, like at a stake… and cutting their heads off.

I know, I know, that’s rather dark but there was a time when HOPA wouldn’t shy away so much from that.

All of this is coming off more than just a little “old, cranky man” so let’s just leave it at “I don’t like vampires”.

So, before going down on some more negativity, let’s talk about a few aspects that I liked. The graphics were nice, of course, but this is an Eipix game so that’s pretty much a given. It pleased me to no end to see them play around a lot with color as well. Purple was definitely the primary color here but greens and red and blues made a healthy appearance as well. In a strange twist of sort, the main game featured purple as its prime color whereas the bonus chapter leaned a lot more heavily towards green.

However, I was a bit disappointed that the game didn’t capitalize more on its Mississippi setting as it pretty quickly settles into pretty standard fare for HOPA in terms of locations. It’s not until the bonus chapter, when you venture beyond the mansion, that you get a proper taste of what vampire hunting in Louisiana could be. Going into the game and starting off on a steamboat, I half expected at some point to battle a big alligator or similar but sadly that dream goes unfulfilled.

My only complaint, which is becoming pretty standard Eipix complaints at this point, is that I didn’t always like the animation on the characters, either coming off as looking weird and stilted or just… plain wrong. Weird angles on the neck and faces that seemed oddly two-dimensional compared to the body. I don’t know why it is that Eipix struggles so with this and in the grand picture of things it’s a minor thing, perhaps, but it bugs me none the less.

Beyond that the graphics were crisp and clear and colorful and even featured some pretty nifty 3D at times. There’s an especially cool shot of an arrow that shows that Eipix could do so much more but choose not to?

The puzzles also looked pretty neat, especially some of the abilities you use during the game and there was a pretty good selection of puzzles even though the majority of them were on the easy side. Sadly, this seems to be a trend with Eipix so I’m not surprised at this revelation but there were a handful of puzzles that I REALLY enjoyed.

At first glance there wasn’t really all that much to them but Eipix managed to add a few simple twist to some of the classics that completely changed their nature and made you think in new ways. Like the above pictured puzzle which looks like a typical puzzle where you have to turn over all tiles except when flipping one, you flip all the adjacent ones as well. Except here not all tiles had to be turned over. A bigger and recurring puzzle like this would go a long way to appease my puzzling sensibilities (read that as you wish).

Despite the few good puzzles that I did enjoy, I still say Eipix (and the industry in general) need to implement a difficulty setting for puzzles but… well, I’ve suggested that for a while now and no-one really seems to be listening.

However, one area where I cannot fault Eipix in this time, and in fairness rarely do, is the hidden object scenes which are just as great as the ones in Of Fiends and Fairies. Huge variety in the types hidden object scenes, ranging from simple lists to riddles and silhouettes and often in the same scene as well, meaning that you were challenged in multiple ways in the same scene which is brilliant. Sure, sometimes you just want a basic list scene but the variety really did a lot to spice things up nicely.

And they look great too, at least for the most part. They used plenty of color and it was mostly here that they played around with the color, yellow being particularly frequent for some reason. Some scenes were a bit… drab perhaps, a bit too forgettable. And there were a few times where the riddles or pictograms or what have you were a bit needlessly vague and it felt like it could relate to any number of objects on the screen. And it could’ve done with a bit more interactivity as that was lacking.

But overall these are minor complaints and the beautiful art coupled with the sheer diversity in different styles of hidden object scenes made them a highlight of the game.

One thing that I did dislike, however, was that one of the collectibles, the most common one that you find in each location, was sometimes hidden and you had to interact with the environment to find it. And it wasn’t a spot that you could easily see and interact with, oftentimes you had to drag the cursor all over the screen to find out that one last bit of interactivity that revealed the dark rose. I’m annoyed already at how many collectibles there are in HOPA today, don’t make it even more tedious to find them, please.

And with all the positives “out of the way”, let’s talk about why I don’t think Myths of the World work so well as a series. To me they’re simply too unconnected, all they share is a bit of opening narration and that each entry is based on a myth, though I’d argue most of the entries aren’t really based on myths but rather legends or superstition. Tonally they’re all over the place and even thematically they’re not too similar.

As such the series feels very disjointed and more problematically I don’t know what the rules are. Now, a good anthology series would weigh that up with good actors and writing but unfortunately I don’t think the series delivers that, at least not consistently. Especially not acting which was just… I don’t even know what the person who voiced the player character was doing. Ongoing series typically feature the same character on different adventures, meaning that if you’ve played the previous entries, then we’re already invested in the character, we already know them so we care what happens to them.

But here it’s difficult to summon even an iota of genuine worry for the character since I just met them and I don’t know the rules. It’s not really a major spoiler that the main character gets turned into a vampire, it’s basically spoiled in the trailer, but… what’s so bad about that? I don’t know if my character thinks this is worse than death and I definitely don’t know if this… “corrupts” in any way. We meet three vampires throughout the game and one is a good guy, one is pure evil and the third can best described as misguided. So clearly it’s not as clear cut as “vampires are evil, hunters are good”.

Again, I don’t care that she’s turned into a vampire. And yet it’s the driving force behind the majority of the plot, getting the cure, so it’s very difficult to get motivated. I mean, to me, after playing the game, I could just as easily make an argument that it’s the vampire hunters that are the true villains, hunting down what could just be innocent vampires. Just because you drink blood doesn’t mean you kill… or does it? I DON’T KNOW!

There is a good start when Black Rose, the main antagonist, is described as a figure in the shadow of forest, akin to a boogeyman, a story told to children to make them behave. And that’s cool, that was all the motivation I needed to get started but that angle is dropped so fast for one of a scorned lover. And did she turn the whole village into vampires or just some and what happened to them? There’s a story in there about a couple of brothers that are turned into vampires except for one whom they hide away in the town hall and… did they all die? Did they get the last brother? Was the last brother the mayor? That was never stated.

Unfortunately the parts that I did like, the little slivers of an old school vampire story, only undermines the game further as it breaks the narrative which ultimately lead to me not caring.

And this has been a recurring issue throughout Myths of the World. They just don’t give me a reason to “invest”. And there are plenty of ways to combat these issues in an anthology series. Obviously good writing, acting and directing can save just about anything but there are other tricks that one can utilize as well. For instance, just having a narrator that tells each story to you instantly alleviates a lot of the issues as it then becomes a story you listen to, that’s your investment. Tales of the Crypt, as an example, used this to great effect as the narrator helped you get invested. Or having a character or two that appears in every story as a sort of link between them, like Mad Head GamesRite of Passage seem to be doing.

Most infuriating of all is that Myths of the World already has such a tool but doesn’t use it. Every game starts with a narrator and a book of myths of some sort opening to reveal the title of the game. And it’s a good voice too, one I could easily listen to chime in every now and again to explain the story going on. And most importantly, open and close with him, making it feel like it’s all connected. Even if the story isn’t that good, you still feel like it’s all connected and that you’re better off from hearing it.

Perhaps what annoys me most of all about Eipix is that I can see the hints of a truly great studio underneath, the studio that I fell in love with back in the day, but they seem almost adamant not to budge from the current, cushy position as industry leaders. They have a lot of really big franchises to their names and they could do so much more with them. Granted, I am two years (more, actually) behind so they might actually have done… more? Maybe… but somehow I just don’t think so.

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