It's 1729, and there's been a murder on a colonial island on which pirates used to lure unfortunate ships to it's shores and raid them. There's talk of treasure, a curse, and of a dark history surrounding the family that enjoys power and privilege on Dead Reefs. The crown has sent Amadey Finvinerro, an investigator, to conduct an inquiry in the death of the Baron's son. But something far more sinister than murder is afoot, and it's up to Amadey Finvinerro to uncover the truth.
Released in 2007, Dead Reefs is the first third-person perspective offering from Canadian developer, Streko-Graphics and publisher The Adventure Company. The start of the game got me very excited. I love history and I was really looking forward to exploring the setting.
Right off the game is rather user-unfriendly. The developer chose to make the game keyboard control only. This is kind of hard to get the hang of, but once I did there were few problems using the controls. The only thing about the keyboard control was that it felt stiff and like a console-port, which detracts from the overall enjoyment.
The graphics are not bad. The colors are somber and washed out, to add to the atmosphere. The game is in real-time 3D and uses the Virtools engine. The problem is, You cannot change the settings. That was really annoying. Really, the models aren't much improved over what was available in games in 2002, but the textures are high quality and the overall effect is very polished. In this game, I don't think that real-time 3D added anything exciting. In other kinds of games, being able to walk around everywhere is more exciting, because things are spawning and trying to kill you. Even in some other adventure games, there's interaction between the NPCs going on which you can catch and that makes such freedom exciting. Gabriel Knight 3 is a good example of that type of design. In Dead Reefs, it just feels like a lot of walking around and trying doors that go nowhere. Not fun at all.
The game sounds pretty good. Only a couple of times did the sound effects feel repetitive. Music was sometimes comic in style which really clashed with everything in the game, because there was very little humor. There was an understatement here or there, but really no attempts to lighten the mood. Voice acting was above average. Which is all I really have to say about it.
Sometimes I didn't care for the puzzles.
I actually got pretty frustrated and used a walkthrough from Gameboomers. There are a good variety of puzzles represented in the game, but the inventory-based ones were rather illogical at times. The mechanical puzzles were enjoyable. Then there were a couple of mazes...*shudder*.
The gothic-style story has multiple endings. From what I've read about it, there are a number of dead ends but I didn't encounter any.
Overall, I am disappointed. I was so excited with the premise, and there's so much richness to draw upon from this era of history. Also, drawing upon Lovecraft, there is a wealth of emotion that could have be inspired, but feels faint. Sometimes the characters are interesting, but there's not really enough interaction with them, and there's a lot of walking around trying to figure out which door to use and listening to the same line of dialogue over and over again as they are all locked. This detracted from the story elements. I didn't have any fun. Oh well they can't all be classics. Your mileage may vary.