I do like it when stories attempt to run as a mash-up or high-concept conception; you know, how those old monster movies combined Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, and a Wolf-man into one movie. Or when Freddie from Nightmare on Elm Street went up against Jason from Friday the 13th. It’s a big risk and sometimes, well mostly, it doesn’t pay off – many ingredients don’t always make a brilliant dish.
But what if you mixed the legends from King Arthurs’s court and placed them into Victorian England, before hunting down Jack the Ripper? That’s what you get with the point-and-click adventure Dance of Death: Du Lac & Fey.
The storytelling, narrative, and historical research in Dance of Death are of a very high standard and it’s been something that I have loved being immersed in. However, the gameplay mechanics, which I’ll talk about soon, certainly aren’t as satisfying as I would have liked.
The story puts you in Norway, in the presence of a character called Du Lac and his dog companion Fey: Fey can talk. After a demon fight, both characters follow a vision that leads them to Victorian London. You see, Du Lac is actually Lancelot, famous Knight of the Round table whilst Fey is Morgana de Fey, King Arthur’s half-sister and an evil sorceress. She got turned into a dog by Merlin the great wizard and both were given immortality. They have sort of developed a gruff friendship and hunt for Merlin to help rid the curse. But on the way, they find themselves in London, becoming involved in the Jack the Ripper nightmare.
The historical detail is brilliantly researched and implemented, set in the Shoreditch and Whitechapel areas of London of the time. This is also added to with some brilliant description in the documentation and detailed newspaper articles found on the quest. Little extra secrets are in place too, like Penny Dreadfuls who can be found along your travels. I think the creation of the fantasy world, alongside the real world of that period, works superbly.
I’ve been hugely impressed by the characters of Fey and Du Lac too; they have been created beautifully. There is a third character you take control of too; a sex worker named Mary who has special powers. I didn’t take to her as much and I’m not really sure why.
The gameplay mechanics work very much like a normal point-and-click adventure would. You move around a set number of scenes, interacting with people or items, working through icons to exit the scene in order to move to the next one. This is all good on paper, but the control of the person you are using feels a bit clunky; moving them in any direction can feel slow and hard to navigate. You can swap between characters so that Du Lac can talk to humans and Fey can chat away with the animals. The latter can also smell things that humans can’t. This is a nice touch and works well in the detective mode of the gameplay.
The detective mode I’m talking about sees you going into an area, examining everything to complete an objective. This might be one of the Jack the Ripper victims or the need to go scouring through paperwork to find the answers to your question. Like the movement, this can take a while to get used to, occasionally feeling ungainly and not as easy to work through as other games in this genre.
There are some other mechanics included too, like little mini-games in which you get to brew some medicine or potions, selecting the right items to ensure that the brew is not too acidic or alkaline. There is a timed bar game for some combat as well.
Graphically and Dance of Death: Du Lac & Fey does a good job with its locations. I live near a commercial street in London and seeing a pub called The Ten Bells that I drink in pop-up in Victorian times was a nice moment. The watercolor visuals of these locations are pleasing to the eye too, yet sometimes they feel desolate; never bursting with action. The details in the papers, documentation, and secrets are excellent. Also, a big mention should go to an illustrated cutscene showing the history of Arthur.
Soundscore wise it has a good soundtrack and the voice acting work is brilliant, with some stars of games showing off their talent.
I have loved the idea of Dance of Death: Du Lac & Fey; the storytelling and writing are surprising, engaging, and well-executed. However, I think the gameplay mechanics could do with some more work and it never feels as fluid or streamlined as other games in the genre. The backtracking between location objectives can also be a bit tedious at times, but I would love to see another adventure with Du Lac & Fey play out.
Dance of Death: Du Lac & Fey is on the Xbox Store
- Great concept
- Storytelling and writing
- Movement mechanics
- Feels a bit clunky
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Hidden Trap
- Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch
- Version reviewed - Xbox One on Xbox Series X
- Release date - 27 January 2023
- Launch price from - £12.49