Developed in cooperation between Salix Games and Tea Clipper Games, Dance of Death: Du Lac & Fey is a crime mystery Point & Click game with great emphasis on storyline and narrative. The background? A unique mix between fantasy and horror, right under Jack the Ripper’s wave of murders in 1888.
Dance of Death: Du Lac & Fey is not just a game, as I personally see it as real proof of love and dedication for art, that kept going, even when things seemed unprosperous. Their KickStarter campaign was canceled, and only half the goal was reached, putting the project in distress. Eventually, the developers ran out of time and money, as they so humbly stated to the community in a letter. It hurts, for me, in particular, since the story is Oscar-worthy, to say the least. Unfortunately, visuals and gameplay mechanics suffer, yet, the game delivers an outstanding experience.
The story focuses on Lancelot Du Lac and Morgana Le Fey, and yes, both characters from the Arthurian works. Thousands of years have passed since their adventures in Camelot, and Du Lac is still very much the altruist and respectable Knight. As for Morgana Le Fey, she was cursed by Merlin, something she tries to remedy at all costs. With such vision in mind, they travel to London, believing to be the wizard’s location.
After arriving, news of a bizarre murder takes everyone by surprise, and doesn’t take long for the second one to happen. Without any plans, Du Lac and Fey become immediately involved, in a series of visceral murders that will conduct them to meet new characters, many whom, come from a different place in time.
Directed by Jessica Saunders, Dance of Death: Du Lac & Fey is a work of art when it comes to its writing, and it’s no surprise. Rebecca Haigh is a young and promising writer in ascension, that perfectly nailed the dialogue’s setting and the era. The narrative director, Philip Huxley (Batman: Arkham Knight & Killzone: Shadow Fall) make the world come to life with an astonishing story development.
The writing and dialogues are accurate, with that very specific English, one you only hear in the movies. Class, debauchery and poverty, it all comes together, in a gruesome equation. Life is far from easy, and players can realize that and more. The characters deal with strong issues such as prostitution, discrimination, health issues and even hunger. There’s clearly a lot of thought behind the script, and in a way, the characters come to life, through their words that are spoken with the most sincere emotions.
Dance of Death: Du Lac & Fey offers choices to the narrative, that may please or leave characters sad, sometimes furious even. Yet, the result is always the same. There are no multiple endings and the quests remain the same. Choices may change characters' reactions, but pretty much lead to the same result.
In the perfect world, we would have the most amazing gameplay for this sweet game, but we don’t. It’s still very much playable, and I haven’t encountered any bug, crash, or anything that stopped me from enjoying this adventure. Players move the protagonist across different areas to reach a specific location. The most interesting feature is the ability to switch characters and gather different clues. Le Fey for instance, can reach unique areas and communicate with animals. A couple of mini-games are also included, such as a potion creating mechanic that was significantly improved in the latest update, and a fight mechanic that is simple but pretty cool.
It’s a classic, but slow paced Point & Click game, that may be slightly too slow for the likes of everyone. Characters feel heavy to move, and although the idea is to simulate reality, such as walking, unfortunately the controls are not fluid. It’s possible to increase the pace by double clicking with the mouse, and thankfully, half way through the end, the game becomes aware of it, and fast-travel players to the next scene.
Originally, and based on some footage through the KickStarter page, we can see there were bigger plans for the game, with a much wider campaign and location setting. Unfortunately costs had to be reduced, but we still have amazing interaction with objects despite the short amount. Players have a journal and diary, which adds further consistency to the world.
The art direction plays an important role, one depicting the times lived in the 19th century, with poverty and difficulties looming at every corner. The visuals are split into two categories, the 3D and 2D. The main characters are rendered entirely in 3D, as well as important locations and interiors. Secondary characters and backgrounds are 2D, with a very beautiful hand drawn style that totally fits in its universe.
Characters expressions look well done, kind of basic, but very accepted. One can see they were manually done, without using any motion-capture equipment. Lip sync is accurate which is really good, and flow perfectly with the voices. Their design is not pretentious and aim at a specific style, that ends up being quite charming. Of course, this is not a Triple-A title, but they really tried their best.
With superb voice-acting, music also plays a delicate matter in the game. Violins, and cellos echo through the grey skies and flutes unveil the player’s steps on the dark corners of London. Music is subliminal but very beautiful, with dedicated musicians and orchestrated events. The OST is available for free, which is remarkably now a days.
A thrilling tale of fantasy that entwines real-life events, in an atmospheric view over the Thames, a river that may wash away tears, but does not forget the lives of the women's murder during that particular era. Even with all the struggles, Dance of Death is one of my favorite games of 2019, and one I’ll cherish endlessly.
A game dedicated to Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly. May no other generation witness such gruesome reality.