Top positive review
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(Haunting) Grounds For Recommendation
on 30 April 2005
This is a title that has been intriguing me ever since I first got wind of it, and now that I've got my hands on a copy I can safely say it lives up to the hype. Haunting Ground is a disturbing, gothic masterpiece with gorgeous visuals, unnerving use of sound/music and a deeply engaging plotline.
Like the Clock Tower games, Fiona Belli (the protagonist) spends much of the game completely unarmed, reliant on sheer wits and her cainine companion Hewie to defend her against the dangers lurking inside the castle. The relationship dynamic between the two characters is very life-like indeed, as Fiona can issue a number of important commands to Hewie in two different modes, Normal and Battle. If Hewie ignores her or misbehaves, Fiona can scold him in order to teach him discipline. The dog does not follow you unfalteringly from the moment you meet with him, his trust must be gained over time, through praise and careful training, which adds an extra challenge to gameplay.
The 'Panic Mode' feature is also interesting. As Fiona does not have a 'health meter' or HUD as such, one must determine her condition by examining her physical state such as stance, movement and even visibility. Her stamina can be restored over time by getting her safely out of harm's way or using certain restoration items. Some artifacts can even be refined in an alchemy laboratory to create new ways for Fiona to defend herself, such as concoctions that temporarily stun her foes so she can escape et cetera.
Not only are the puzzles in the game thought-provoking, but avoiding detection from enemies requires a large amount of stealth and stategy. Fiona can hide in closets/under beds/under tables until the coast is clear, or she can duck into the shadows and wait. If she IS detected, she can also use elements of her surrounding environment to cease her enemies' pursuit for a time (or she can simply order Hewie to attack the on-coming foe to buy her time to avoid danger).
This title has been a most refreshing change of pace from the various disappointing action-based survival horror games released of late, but it certainly isn't for those expecting a frenzied, gun-toting gore fest.
With it's beautiful graphics, innovative gameplay features, slick control system and multiple endings, Haunting Ground's suspenseful, sinister atmosphere and delicate moments of terror will satisfy many horror-hungry gamers. A must-have addition to anyone's collection.