Dance of Death: Du Lac & Fey is one of those titles I’d heard a bit about and was sort of interested in based on concept alone. It’s a point and click narrative adventure following Lancelot Du Lac and Morgana Le Fay, meaning that the developers opted for focusing their efforts on generating a compelling story rather than exciting gameplay. That’s fine: or at least it would be fine, but playing Du Lac & Fey is such an atrocious experience that no amount of intrigue could save it.
Being a point and click, character movement in this 3D space is carried out through the tried and tested method of clicking. The first problem the game has is that its interactables don’t present themselves until the protagonist is sitting right on top of them. Now in theory this means that the player needs to use their wit to decide where to go, who to talk to, and what to investigate, which is a great idea for a murder mystery. In practice, this can mean facechecking every NPC, vaguely out of place object and space of empty floor the character decides they’re able to navigate to. There was one point when Fey suggested turning on a lantern, which I went to do; how was I supposed to know that I actually needed to turn on the other lantern on the other side of the room?
Interviewing people is a somewhat easier game that I’ve taken to call “spot the 3D ones” - I’ll get to that in a bit. Being set in London means that every room is filled with countless NPCs, all standing motionless while they watch you do laps around City Center. The people you can and need to talk to will show an interact button when you’re close enough most of the time, but I spent ages looking for a certain NPC that could push forward the plot only to find out later on that I wasn’t approaching him from the correct direction for the game to register. Direction, by the by, is a pretty touchy topic here considering neither protagonist has any sense of it; I can’t recount the number of times I asked Du Lac to walk from one side of a room to another only to watch him do a couple of revolutions for good luck. I definitely remember losing him at one point when he wandered off screen in the opposite direction to where I had clicked. I’m no developer, so maybe it’s really hard to reign in a player character’s free will and I just don’t know: what I do know is that not being able to control the person you are controlling is the most frustrating experience for a player.
The game has a lot of problems visually as well, but once I noticed why everything looked as hideous as it did, I was very amused. The characters that are 3D have a certain lifelessness to them reminiscent of old edutainment titles, specifically the ones I had on the PC which probably don’t work with Windows 10. If you need a good parallel for why Du Lac & Fey is so off-putting, go ahead and read the interview with the developer of Baldi’s Basics. I think I would be able to forgive the game if conversations did the Witcher thing and zoomed in on every exchange rather than some of them, because most of the time the player and the interviewee will stand stock still, nothing happening on screen. They probably don’t even blink, but I can’t tell because the camera is pulled so far back from the interaction that facial animations could be considered a waste of time. But it’s the background cast that break the illusion for me because most of them are just 2D sprites, and I swear to God the old woman with the flowers isn’t even animated. What baffles me is that you’ll have some 2D characters stood further in the foreground than the interactable 3D characters on top of the fact that some of the 3D characters have literally nothing to say. I’m not sure if there’s a method to this absolute madness, but I’m finding it ridiculously funny and not in an “aha, you get bonus points” kind of way.
So if I haven’t scared you off yet, you’ll be pleased to know that I do actually have some positive feedback. The audio design is superb, and in a narrative focused experience that’s a really good thing to excel at. The voice actors evidently know their craft and do a great job of bringing the player into this world. The visuals are made so much more bearable by the soundscape and dialogue that I can forget for a minute I’m looking at two uncannily smooth claymation rejects attempt to simulate a conversation. The premise is also pretty unique, blending elements of Arthurian fiction into a historically accurate representation of Jack the Ripper’s London. I don’t know enough about the case to support or deny the claim to authenticity, but as a story it has great potential for intrigue. I say potential because I’m throwing in the towel; playing Du Lac & Fey is a painful ordeal to put it bluntly and it seems to stem from problems in how the game was actually envisioned rather than any bugs, for a change. I probably won’t see the end of this one and I can’t in good conscience recommend you pay the £25 they’re asking for. Considering how experienced the development team claims to be, I can’t even begin to fathom what exactly went wrong here.
Dance of Death: Du Lac & Fey (Reviewed on Steam)
The game is average, with an even mix of positives and negatives.
As a story it’s fine, but as a game I expect so much more than what’s on offer. Perhaps if the developers had invested in making an audiobook rather than a full-on videogame, they would have produced a better product.