Good Old ReviewsNosferatu: Wrath of Malachi - Decent Diamond, Lots of RoughGood Old Reviews - RSS 2.0
Original Release: 2003, Platform: PC, Developer: Idol FX, Publisher: iGames Publishing, Image Source: GOG
Nosferatu: Wrath of Malachi is one of the most interesting horror games I've played in some time. Not necessarily because it's good, mind you. In fact, when I look at the long list of games my various Escapist cohorts and I have reviewed over the past few years, Wrath of Malachi is perhaps one of the most imperfect. The thing is, for all it does wrong, I still found myself (mostly) enjoying the heck out of it.
Much of this has to do with its expert use of atmosphere. While it never quite reaches the level of horror masterworks like Resident Evil 2, it still does a great job of establishing a mood that's deeply and thoroughly spooky. The environments are shadowy and gothic, while the music, played out against a backdrop of gusting winds and booming thunderclaps, works well at putting you on edge even when there's technically nothing to fear. The game, like the best horror movies, uses the basic tools of sound and visuals to leave you feeling perpetually unsettled.
I also loved the premise. Taking place in 1912, the game centers on the Patterson's. A family of British aristocrats, they've gathered at Castle Malachi to attend the wedding of their eldest daughter to a mysterious Romanian count whose fortunes could revitalize the family's waning status. Not all is as it seems, however. When the player character, James Patterson, arrives, he finds the castle overrun with monsters and his family imprisoned or worse.
That might sound a bit cliche, but that's kind of the point. The story and setting are a deliberate homage to classic horror movies. The game even goes so far as to put a faux film grain filter over all of its visuals. Moreover, while the concept might not be all that original on the surface, it's used in the gameplay in some interesting ways. Most pointedly, where another game might have focused on conquering the evils of the castle, your primary objective in Wrath of Malachi is tracking down and rescuing your family.
It's a task that's easier said than done. Every time you start a new game, the locations of the Patterson clan are randomized. Every time you play, your family members will have completely new locations. Topping things off, the game includes no map to guide you and has a ticking clock that kills the Patterson's if you don't find them fast enough. And trust me when I say that you'll want to. Whenever you save one of your relatives, they'll reward you with an item that will help you as you delve deeper into Castle Malachi. If they die, your chances of getting their item goes with them, making the rest of your adventure that much harder.
Or at least it would, if the game were actually difficult. I played on Medium and, save for the earliest hours where I was still learning the game, I never really found Wrath of Malachi to be all that challenging. Some of that is due to many of the enemies being under-powered. Whether you're fighting a deranged villager, a leapy demon beast thing (should probably figure out what those are called) or a hellhound, many of your foes can be killed with a single blast from a musket or flintlock pistol. Even with all the odds stacked against you, it's not that hard to stay alive and save the day.