Publisher: The Adventure Company
Developer: CokeM International
Release Date: 6/24/2002
"Dracula: The Last Sanctuary" is a stylized take on the horror genre that falls short of delivering an experience worthy of its namesake. It’s like Myst without the genuinely thought-provoking atmospheres, basically. This game is the sequel to the 2000 PC release Dracula Resurrection, so it doesn’t have much to live up to, it’s less-than-stellar showing is, at the least, expected. Comparatively, The Last Sanctuary boasts superior visuals and a slightly longer quest, but in the end it’s still your run-of-the-mill point-and-click adventure game that suffers from shallow puzzles and long loading times.
Fans of Bram Stoker’s Dracula may find the story of The Last Sanctuary familiar, you play as Jonathan Harker and your expedition revolves around attempting to save your fiancée. In the story you have just barely escaped Dracula’s clutches with your soon-to-be wife and you deduct that only with Dracula’s demise will you be able to live in peace. The game is enjoyable in parts but consists almost entirely of combining the right items in the correct location and waiting for the screen to change between it’s excruciating load-times. You start in London, Dracula’s new domain, where you’ll attempt to find clues and signs that are pertinent to his location. But your adventure won’t be unabated; in fact you’ll need to contend with werewolves who oppose your every step to progress. Each beastie will be easily disposed of using clever refractions of light, which destroys them upon contact. This is where the basis of the game’s puzzle lie; figuring out how to destroy these monsters. Though it should be pointed out that light, traditionally, does little to destroy werewolves in popular literature, but rather simply reverts their physical form back to human shape.
The method of navigation throughout the game is much like that of games such as Myst, though instead of static images you will get a Quicktime VR-esque panoramic view of your surroundings in the game. You place your cursor upon an action-inducing area and perform the required set of actions to progress. For example, hitting X while your cursor is targeted at the door of the mansion will prompt you to use the mansion key to enter. Unfortunately, the level of thought that went into the game’s inventory-based puzzles is small, you don’t get a description of the items you hold and it is only until you require the item do you even realize what it’s purpose is. Moving the cursor atop the item in your inventory yields little clarification and only shows an ambiguous picture of it in the middle of your inventory window. Suffice to say this adds an unneeded layer of difficulty to the game’s mechanics and serves only to display the game’s lack of intuition.
Some of the puzzles in the game border on unnecessarily frustrating and require you to interact with objects and enemies that are easily overlooked. Some of them are about killing off werewolves but most are all about finding how to get past locked doors. The puzzles often repeat and change only their dynamics slightly, yet fans of tedious riddles may find the game’s offerings entertaining, if not short-lived.
Sound-wise the game is adequate, voice-acting is appropriate but entirely unimpressive. Background music is nearly non-existent, save for atmospheric sound-effects including the rustling of wind and various outdoor life. The lack of music helps to keep the game feeling organic and raw, which is perhaps what the developers were going for, but they hardly succeeded in giving the game a spooky atmosphere. Graphically The Last Sanctuary is fairly impressive for the PSX and is especially aesthetically pleasing during its pre-rendered cut-scenes.
While "Dracula: The Last Sanctuary" does little to live up to the popularity of Bram Stoker’s original story it does prove to be enjoyable for a short time. Graphically the game is up to par with the best of the aging-system’s current offerings and the progression of its plot is satisfying enough. This game is most certainly worth checking out but its small amount of lasting appeal and warmed-over puzzles ultimately relegate this game to rental-only status.