Ecstatica (PC) review
"Ecstatica is a survival horror game that few have played and many have missed out upon. Unlike most games of the genre which tend to start off slowly and allow the horror to slowly creep up on you with chilling awe it kind of throws you in the middle of it with horrid creatures roaming around after the seemingly innocent young traveller who has no idea what his or her (you can pick the sex of the character) fate is. He arrives at the small village of Tirich in hope of picking up some water for..."
Ecstatica is a survival horror game that few have played and many have missed out upon. Unlike most games of the genre which tend to start off slowly and allow the horror to slowly creep up on you with chilling awe it kind of throws you in the middle of it with horrid creatures roaming around after the seemingly innocent young traveller who has no idea what his or her (you can pick the sex of the character) fate is. He arrives at the small village of Tirich in hope of picking up some water for his travels but it clearly could be the greatest mistake of his life.
It seems that a young witch was messing around with something that she really shouldn’t have touched. After summoning a demon out of curiosity it possesses her without hesitation and locks her underneath the village, putting her in a coma. Her dreams are somewhat disturbing, releasing an array of demons on the village of Tirich leaving you to figure out how to sort things out.
When I said the horror starts quickly I wasn’t lying. It seems that something isn’t right as you come into the village, even though very loud, tinny and jolly music plays in the background. You walk into a shop to gather some supplies when you see a horrible hairy creature violently beating the life out of the shopkeeper who likes with cuts covering his body as he cries for you to save him. The creature, a werewolf kills him with a punch to the face and turns its attention to you.
Thus begins the roller coaster experience as you run through the abandoned streets of the village pursued by a monstrous werewolf, who is immortal at this stage, not only is he hard as hell but no matter how many times you clock him he just won’t die. If you to get a few punches in then he’ll shove off but not before beating you to pulp first.
That’s not all you will encounter in this mysterious predicament. A variety of monsters, who are all way stronger than you will appear from all parts of the village. The werewolf is the most common and he’ll be waiting for you if you take a wrong turn or if you get lost. Without warning the hairy immortal bastard will appear from nowhere and kill you instantly. When you think you’re on a roll he’ll jump down from a roof of one the houses and trash you. He may also pounce and you and knock you unconscious, when this happens he will drag you to a hut, hang you upside down and use you as punch bag, a tad unfair but he does spare your life if he does this.
Of course you’ll meet other beasts such as the Minotaur, who is slower than the wolf but just as hard, although he is mortal so I guess that’s pretty good. The other enemies are not that hard to defeat, one of them is a talking table that attacks you when you pick up the knife lying on it. With a swift punch you’ll knock him back and when it’s dazed you can leap in and give it another smack. You’ll find that a lot of bad guys will last five minutes if you use this technique. You’ll also find small dragons, miniature goblins, skeletons and a giant spider, who has a spine chilling scream that is possibly one of the freakiest things in the game. Finally though, the easiest and most comical enemy is a giant bear who has definitely had too much to drink and sits down burping and farting at you. That’s a classic!
You’ll have to interact with those in the village who have survived the onslaught of monsters and grimace at those who haven’t. You can help a few by taking an old drunk to a shop where he will ramble on about the horror that has descended on the village. Another one is a girl who moans about losing her teddy bear, don’t complain about her though she’s probably got more survival instinct than your character as she K.O’s the seemingly invincible werewolf with her slingshot. On the other hand you may find a few people who weren’t so lucky. A man covered from head to toe with scars crawls towards you pleading for your help and a woman lies in a room soaked in blood with a five foot pole impaled through her, possibly something that you’d rather not interact with.
You can collect a variety of items and weapons on your quest but there is one problem: you can only carry two things at once and there is no other way to increase your inventory. Thus, making a hard game into an even harder one. In one hand it is absolutely essential that you carry a weapon, which are the usual stuff such as swords and maces as when you let your guard down then you will probably by ambushed by the wolf.
With a weapon handy you’ll be able to fend off a few enemies for a while but all of the swords, rats and teddy bears (yes, you can use any item as weaponry) but nothing compares to the God of weapons., the magic fire stick which you have to construct yourself at one of the stages of the game by collecting certain artefacts and amalgamating them into one, with a little bit of dark magic and few bits and pieces you’ll create the ultimate device (baha, I’d like to see that werewolf jump me now!)
One of the great things about Ecstatica is that you can play it over and still find new situations and characters. It depends on where you go first but certain situations will see you turned into a frog by a dictating wizard, getting cured by a horny witch who is gagging for it (“oh my handsome froggy!”) and a group of monks hidden in a monastery who, like most holy men here, will call you a demon and you’ll have to prove your Christianity to allow them to accept you and you will also receive knighthood from the Lady of the Lake which will help you succeed later on. Of course none of these scenarios have real impact on the overall final scenario where you face the Devil himself and make a choice where you can pick between destroying the Devil or having your lust satisfied forever, by being thrown in a room with a lot of half-naked girls feeling themselves up.
After playing the game you’ll realise that the graphics are incredibly dated although back in 1994 they were probably amazing. Now though they look horribly blurry and the “high technology” graphics system looks as primitive as a monkey scratching his ass. For a survival horror it seems a bit bright and cartoon like while a serious theme is being portrayed it gets a bit hard to grasp with the bright and silly graphics. The sprites are very blocky and are pretty stiff, think of Mario 64 only choppier. For a face a character has two black lines on his face, which was pretty disappointing considering the lovely artwork on the CD case. The graphics don’t hinder the gameplay, no matter how poor they may be they don’t tarnish the horror and excitement that the game harnesses.
When all of these factors come as one you are left with a blood-curdling survival horror with plenty of re-playability and a lot of alternate scenarios and characters to discover, not to mention monsters. It is a gripping experience and also very challenging, although too challenging on occasion to play. When you have figured out what to do and eventually finish the game you could easily sit and play through it again although it has to be one of the hardest and eeriest games I have played in years. What drags it down is the insane difficulty, mainly because at first you will be clueless about how to progress and you’ll then be defeated by one of those impossible enemies but when you get your teeth into it, you’ll be scared out of your wits and begging for more.
Too bad the sequel stunk!
Community review by goldenvortex (July 13, 2004)
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