Veil Of Darkness (PC)
Veil of Darkness is one of these hard to forget classic games. A difficult horror adventure-action-RPG game where the player is the unwilling protagonist of a prophecy. It’s a game from the early 90’s that feels like the early 80’s: zombies, vampires, werewolves, curses, mystery…
This is technically an adventure game built with a early action-RPG engine. It may be barely considered an action-RPG as there is real-time combat with various melee and throwing weapons, inventory management (weight, carriable containers), buffs and status ailments. But it lacks playable character development and it’s played like an adventure game as it relies entirely on item combination/usage and conversations to progress. No puzzle minigames either.
There is something special about this game and I think it’s the atmosphere. The player gets instantly immersed on the game. The gameplay is also fine.
- Neat adventure gameplay:
- It’s conversation driven: many conversation topics/choices are hidden. The player can introduce free text to find out those choices, like it would on a text-based adventure game.
- The item usage is realistic and usually intuitive, better than other pure adventure games.
- Hardcore adventure: no babysitting the player, you’re on your own.
- There is realtime combat with varied weapons and each monster has got its own immunities/weakness. It’s intuitive, particularly if you already played RPGs or D&D.
- The atmosphere is great. It feels oppressive, like in a Lovecraft novel. Feels like being locked in a hostile place.
- The game isn’t 100% lineal, because the prophecy is divided on verses and there is some freedom to advance few of them. It’s a very cool quest log.
- The strange NPCs are mysterious and interesting, particularly on the early to middle game. The story is good and not just a Dracula clone (even if there is a obvious inspiration, probably for marketing).
- The intro is long and its first scene, outside the mansion, is absolutely great. A must see even if you don’t want to play. It reminds me home some old 80’s horror films start.
- The soundtrack is also nice, albeit short. The Intro track or Natalya theme are very good. Kirill’s House is just unforgettable.
- The game offers to log&print conversations, which is good to have (you may otherwise forget clues). Of course it would better to just have an ingame conversation log, but it’s an old game.
- There are various mazes, but in particular most players will remember a hedge maze.
- This game was released along multiple Bram Stocker’s Dracula titles for many consoles and computers. There is no “Dracula” name here but this is far better than the other official IP titles.
- Mixing genres adds variety but it comes at a cost:
- The lack of playable character development (no exp, armor, skill, etc) may be a big letdown for those looking for more pure RPG experiences.
- No jump-scares may let you down if you just want horror adventure.
- The lack of puzzle minigames may be also a letdown for other adventure players, even if the game still is interesting on item-puzzle solving.
- The combat is also a bit simplified (just melee/throwing, immunities and hit/miss) and there is no reward for winning. Bow-like ranged weapons, spell casting, skills and rewards would be nice to have, like on a modern RPG.
- Some music tracks are a bit too high-pitched, like The Farmhouse, The Village or The Crash Site.
- Dungeons are a bit long and confusing.
- The sprites are good but the animations are just too simple.
- The game interface isn’t too bad but it could be slightly better.
- Dragging to show all the inventory or pressing SHIFT minus/plus is a bit uncomfortable. Other hotkeys are ok.
- Item handling is a bit unintuitive. You must put containers (bags, chests) on right hand to see content, but if there is a one you can’t see other item description on pick up with mouse pointer.
- Having real time is good but there is no time pause during inventory manipulation. It’s a problem with those status ailments.
Why to play?
If you like adventure games and particularly horror adventure games, but you can play other stuff than pure “point&click”.
If you don’t care about playing an RPG-like without stuff like PC experience and skills.
If you like vampire stories or being stuck in a place out of time.
If you prefer games that feel more like interactive novels but with actual gameplay.
You don’t care this game isn’t technically as advanced as, let’s say, Ultima 7 or Gabriel Knight. Both are from same year but better.
The game introduction I mentioned.
How to acquire
This may be considered abandoned software as there is no way of buying it legally. I’m unsure there are copyright owners, but what’s sure is they aren’t making profit neither enforcing it, so you may download this game from internet.
Also remember to download the manual, the game lacks a tutorial so you may need to read the manual to find out about how to use stuff like containers. The manual story introduction is a mini-novel per se.
You may try with voting for Veil at gog Community wishlist. If Diablo 1 got released on gog, well, who knows.
Version / Platform
I’m reviewing the only release of this game, which was for PC (MS-DOS).
Luckily, the game is easily playable with any DosBOX setup, so just download newest DosBOX and the game, mount the game directory and play it by running veil.
There is no future for this franchise, even if the developer Event Horizon still exists (as DreamForge). Veil of Darkness was a great game but it’s very aged and the adventure genre isn’t very popular, only few selected titles are really worth to be remastered.
Games like Veil of Darkness
- Still life. Still life is a classic point&click adventure that has got a unsettling atmosphere too.
- Ultima VIII. U8 Pagan is pure real-time action RPG that has got an oppressive atmosphere and hostile world. Here you trade vampires for zombies/ghouls but you still have the oppressive world, strange priests and many weird NPCs.
- Vampire The Masquerade. if you just prefer vampire stories, this is an interesting RPG that goes more deeply in the vampire lore.
- Gabriel Knight: Sins of The Fathers. A very good voodoo themed point&click. Less horror and more humor but totally worth it.
- Bram Stocker’s Dracula (PC 1993). The PC release of Bram Stocker’s Dracula was a FPS (like Doom and Wolf3D). I wouldn’t recommend it today, unless you’re a FPS fan, but it was a bit scary for early teenagers on the 90’s so it’s also worth to mention.
Veil of Darkness is an interesting game. It’s more than a vampire tale but a strange journey. The game atmosphere is surprisingly unsettling and the game doesn’t babysit the player. You’re really on our own here.
Maybe the game art has aged a bit and there is some heterodox video game genre mix, but if you don’t mind that, I’m confident this game may be worth your time.