I’ve finally been playing Clive Barker’s Undying. If I sound strangely enthusiastic, that’s because Undying is one of those games I’ve seen as a kid but never got to play for various reasons. The main reason being that I simply didn’t have a computer capable of running it back in the day, and since the planned PS2 version was canceled I simply missed out.
And, well…I kinda forgot about the game once I had a PC powerful enough.
But all that is in the past now, because thanks to GOG I now finally own Undying and thanks to the fact that the game is 16 years old I can even play it. Which is what I did. And I have some thoughts on it.
First of all I need to mention that the game is still scary. It manages to create an atmosphere of dread without relying on darkness, flashlights or the like. I was honestly surprised how tense I felt while playing it despite the aged graphics and sometimes wonky animations. The audio design plays a big part here, as does the writing. That last part I mean literally: Jonathan (the player character) jots down notes on every item, character and situation you encounter and you’ll keep finding books and other documents throughout the game that flesh out the lore and help draw you into this strange world.
One thing that I’m a bit unsure about is the combat. It starts off promising: Your default weapon is a six-shooter that takes quite a bit to reload, so you’ll have to be quite careful during combat. This creates that classic survival horror tension like say, in Resident Evil where one wrong move can land you in hot, bloody water. This is exacerbated by the fact that the first enemies you face are so-called Howlers, munted monkey-frog things that are really hard to hit and usually take more than one bullet to go down. So each enemy encounter is tense and can easily lead to death. This I like.
What I don’t like however is how many enemy encounters the game throws at you. I’m reminded of the original Thief, where the developers apparently didn’t think they’d get away with a game entirely about stealth, so they sprinkled in zombies and mutants for you to fight. Undying doesn’t so much sprinkle as upend an entire bucket. Time and time again you’ll be ambushed by piles of slavering monstrosities, turning the game more into Doom by way of The Shining than the survival horror game it purports to be in the opening minutes. So far it’s not exactly a deal-breaker, but the more action the game throws at me the more disappointed I am.
Anyway, I’m not exactly far into the game so things can still change in many ways. I’m mainly just glad to finally get to play it.
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