Dracula 3: The Path of the Dragon is yet another point-and-click adventure inspired by Bram Stoker’s Dracula. We seem to get one of these adventures every year. In fact, there have been so many Dracula adventures that I’m not even sure which ones this entry is supposed to be a sequel to. Perhaps it’s supposed to follow Dracula: Resurrection (2000) and Dracula: The Last Sanctuary (2001), but those games were released by a different developer and a different publisher, and they don’t have anything to do with the characters from this game. So why call this game Dracula 3? I have no idea; it’s just one odd decision among many in a game that is little fun to play.
In Dracula 3 you control a Catholic priest named Arno Moriani. You’re sent to Transylvania to investigate whether a local doctor should be canonized, but once you get there you discover that there’s a vampire in the area, and that Bram Stoker’s novel was based on actual fact. You also learn about the Path of the Dragon, which is the process under which people become vampires, and you decide to follow the Path so that you can confront Count Dracula and kill him.
As Dracula premises go, Dracula 3’s is pretty much par for the course. You discover a vampire and you decide to kill it. But what makes Dracula 3 unique is how obscure and convoluted it is. As I was playing through the game, I had little idea about what was going on or what I was supposed to be doing, or if I was moving along the Path or not, or even what the Path was. Worse, when I got to the end of the game, I met a character who kindly explained everything, and I could see that the storyline was clever and well thought out -- and if only I had understood it while I was playing it, I might have enjoyed it. But I didn’t, and so I didn’t.
The puzzles also have problems, and for the same reasons. They’re obscure and convoluted, too. There are mini-games you can play that aren’t related to anything, there are over 50 documents to pick up and compare and contrast and figure out which puzzles they’re giving clues to, there are puzzles that seem oddly impossible to solve (like when you’re expected to do a word find puzzle with mystery Latin words), and puzzles that might have been possible if only you had been given a hint on how they were supposed to be approached (like when the game expects you to trace a symbol without telling you that the interface supports tracing). Heck, there’s even a maze to slog through, which is pretty much the lowest of the low as far as adventure game puzzles go. I don’t mind when puzzles are tough, but Dracula 3 went well past that into the realm of “punishing,” and it’s probably not an adventure you’re going to complete without frequent references to a walkthrough.
In the past, Kheops Studio has been one of my favorite adventure game developers. Their Return to Mysterious Island was one of the best games of 2005, and their more recent titles, like Destination Treasure Island (2007) and Cleopatra: Riddle of the Tomb (2008), were solid if unspectacular. But Dracula 3, their latest release, is a dog from start to finish. Almost nothing about the game is fun or enjoyable -- the puzzles are a chore, the storyline is presented badly, and even the ending is annoying -- and so I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody, unless, for some reason, you like being lost and confused.