Sentimental Sunday: Investigating the Metaphysical in Clive Barker’s Undying
The best horror games in the genre don’t rely on any one element to keep you engaged and interested. Instead it’s a combination of discrete factors that prove to keep your heart and mind racing, fearful of the shadows before you despite it being merely a video game. The true outliers that really amaze will have stories and perhaps even dialogue written by professionals that are able to craft stories in ways that excite and scare on both the more obvious, deeper and more subtle levels. Clive Barker's Undying is precisely one of those outliers.
Exploring the supernatural and unnatural should always be as fun as it is in Clive Barker’s Undying.
Undying is just one of those outliers, with a plot that’s better than most current horror movies and games with action that’s sufficient, if a bit simple at times. But overall it’s a game worth playing, and definitely worth playing again.
You’re invited to go see an old friend, but find him sick in bed and surrounded by supernatural occurrences due to a family curse. You might have thought you were brought in to help ease him into the other side, but no, your job is to explore the strange incidents that have plagued his estate.
In the beginning while roaming through the mansion itself it almost reminds me of an adult version of Luigi's Mansion, with blood, guts, gore and tremendous amounts of ghastly violence. But it's not gratuitous either. though it's using the Unreal Engine 1, the graphics could portray more violence, but instead of scaring you with conspicuous violence and fluttering organs, you’re instead greeted with more indirect and eerie elements that tend to give you the chills. If you listen to the dialogue, of which there is plenty of it, then it’s possible to become a bit taken aback by the wonderfully unnerving things happening around the mansion.
Surprisingly, the graphics are still acceptable today, with just enough detail and particle effects that are just good enough to be pleasant to the eye. The Mana spells that you have access to are all very well done within the confines of the technology available. Like many games of this era on GOG it utilizes nGlide wrapper to provide an intermediary between the classic Glide environment and modern DirectX. Mostly it works well, and the prototypical feel of Glide is even maintained. Even though I played in 1600x900, I later learned that nGlide allows for the use of even larger resolutions, up to 4K.
Even being made in 2001 the controls still work well. The mouse input, while using an older API, is smooth and works without issue. I met no issues with playability, graphics or anything else whatsoever.
But you know what, who cares about the graphics. The story is so deep and full of mysticism and fantastic details that really activate the imagination. One of my favorite inclusions is the simplistic design of the mana, or magic, that you can use. All of the spells are simple in design but purposeful and very effective. I found myself falling back to using the ectoplasm spell after running out of ammo. Or just to keep enemies at bay. It's eaasy to switch between the different spells and their animations are all pretty neat to boot.
There are some issues, however, that plague this great game. The action is a bit pedantic and rather dull. Enemies aren't very challenging, even on the hardest setting. But that's okay in a story focused game. Also, the replay value isn't really there. If you haven't played it, then you'll be pleasantly surprised by a very engaging game, but if you've played it recently, then it won't excite nearly as much. One play through and it's worth is over. You can find almost everything in one play through.
Clive Barker's Undying is truly a shining example of what a good story can do for a game. If that's what you enjoy in a game, then it's quite possible that you'll still be wowed by a game that continues to impress. The story alone is worth the play through, it's an example of what visual story-telling can be if done right.
This is one game that is still better than some more modern games. It's playable, fun and worth it. GOG thankfully has revived it, so you can enjoy it on modern PC's. Care to be thrilled?