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Sun 28th Aug 2005
By David Whyld - See all my reviews
Following a lengthy and somewhat clumsy introduction in which the player becomes accused of murdering a girl called Jenny O’Brien and has to flee from his accusers, The Curse of DragonShrine starts properly once the player arrives at an abandoned castle. Or seemingly abandoned at any rate.
I have to admit that the introduction to The Curse of DragonShrine didn’t impress me a whole lot. It seemed very rushed, as if the writer had tried to cram several pages worth of text into a far smaller space (to prevent the player having to read an overly lengthy introduction?) and the people accusing the player of murdering Jenny O’Brien came across more as rather dense country bumpkins than anything else. Fortunately, things pick up a little as the game moves to the castle where the aforementioned curse comes to the fore.
The castle itself is large and contains quite a fair number of locations. Unfortunately, the majority are empty of more than the most basic of descriptions and while a large number of locations makes finding the items you need to progress more difficult, it’s also a tad disappointing being able to wander around this many locations with so little to do in them. A few NPCs - of which the game seriously lacks - could have been added to these empty rooms for some much needed depth.
The main aim behind the game is to find the body of Jenny O’Brien (yes, she is dead after all) and bring her back to life by use of several potions which, quite conveniently as it happens, are lying scattered around the castle in easy to find places. Actually, the ’easy to find’ bit is probably a bit misleading as you actually need to find several different potions and combine then into a fourth potion in order to get anywhere. I remember finding this especially frustrating as I never found any reference to more than one potion being needed and expecting the player to realise that three potions had to be combined in a cauldron and then stirred with a spoon to produce a fourth potion struck me as a particularly cumbersome puzzle, and not one people are likely to figure out. Of course, I suppose clues could have been scattered around the game but, if so, they weren’t scattered anywhere that I looked.
A few awkward instances arose. I came across a ghost who couldn’t be referred to as "ghost" but instead "a ghost" which struck me as a strange way of handling things. Another problem with the ghost occurred when she followed me and I was faced with the likes of "The ghost of a young woman hovers nearby; now and then parts of her disappear through the wall. A ghost hovers in from the west." popping up on screen, telling me that the ghost was hovering nearby even before she had hovered in from the west! There was also an unusual occurrence in that a door which I was previously unable to open suddenly opened at a later point in the game without me doing anything to open it. A quick peek at the hints informed me that this is supposed to happen but didn’t bother with explaining just why the door had mysteriously opened.
A villain known as Master Dracon is referred to from time to time during the game but I never met him at any point which was a bit of a disappointment because there is very little character interaction possible in The Curse of DragonShrine. In the end, his death (told in a few lines in the epilogue) is clumsily handled. Despite a few references to him throughout the game as possessing great powers and even endeavouring to achieve immortality and rule over a world of dragons, he is killed by a few local yokels. Hardly a decent ending for the villain of the piece. Although in all honesty Master Dracon isn’t much of a villain anyway. Too little time is spent on making him into a believable character and the fact that he and the player never meet doesn’t help matters.
All in all, The Curse of DragonShrine was a playable game which felt like it had been written in a great hurry. Not good, not bad, but somewhere in between.
5 out of 10