Nosferatu: Wrath of Malachi is a horror arena shooter made by IdolFX for the PC in 2003. Having arrived late to his sister's wedding to the son of a Transylvanian count, James Patterson finds his family locked away in castle Malachi, ready to be sacrificed by the count in order to strengthen his soon to be revived master, the titular Malachi.
The game has an unique structure to it. Instead of using a linear progression of semi-open levels, the game is divided into the three sections of the castle where only a few rooms are set. The rest are randomized, pulling from that section's selection of room types.
This means that every playthrough is slightly different. I feel like the idea has merit and deserves further exploration in other games.
Your goal is to save as many family members as possible, earning you upgrades and keeping Malachi from growing too strong. The game's clock runs in real time and a playthrough is only about 3 hours, unless you get lost a bunch of times.
Which is rather likely, as the exact same rooms are very likely to be reused. Some unique decorations would've helped make them distinct. The main part of the castle is especially bad. The rooms there are extra big and often contain multiple doors. I missed one of the family members there because of this, there was just too much ground to cover.
If you find them in time, you're tasked with escorting them back, which isn't as bad as it sounds. Save for one unfortunate date one family member had with the floor at the bottom of an elevator, getting them back to safety at the entrance was entirely acceptable.
There are a few shortcuts to find and when a room is cleared, the odd random extra enemy isn't much of a bother. Unless they respawn in a small closet that you cleared moments ago. That got me good. But I don't consider that a win on the game's part, nonsensical monster closets is cheating.
Nosferatu is Euro Jank of the truest kind. There are barely any frames of animation present and the whole thing feels like it was made out of cardboard. This obviously has an effect on gameplay, frantic and unfocused only begins to describe it.
It takes a while for the randomized rooms to make their appearance, which makes sense, you'd want the player to get a feel for the game before it truly begins. Sadly, what few tutorials you get are awful.
They're just a scant few pieces of text on screen that fade quickly and aren't placed where you can test out the mechanics. For example, the stake tutorial tells you that you can turn them into torches. An obscure thing in need of explanation, for certain, but man is it missplaced.
First of all, it isn't certain that you even have a stake at that point due to the randomized chests. Second of all, what you really need stakes for are vampires about to rise out of their coffin. And wouldn't you know it, there is such a vampire after that message. So they should've given you a stake and told you to use it on the vampire instead.
Being set in 1912, there isn't much to be done for armaments, but the game has some fun ideas. I'm annoyed that you have to kill an enemy in a side area for your first gun though, as the game is quite hard even when you're armed.
There are two flintlock guns, a pistol and a musket. They can kill almost every normal enemy with a single shot, but you have to use the reload button after every shot. The annoying secret is that James can carry multiple ones and you can swap between them without reloading by reselecting the gun.
There is also a revolver and a machine gun to be had and they're pretty ok, save for the fact that premature reloading wastes what bullets remain in the chamber.
The most interesting items are the cross and the chalice. The cross is used to banish shadow vampires, keep normal ones at bay and bless water. I never felt like keeping vampires away ever worked, but the other functions worked as advertised.
Blessed water can be scooped up in the chalice to be splashed at monsters to great effect. This gives you a nice but limited source of murder in case you need to venture somewhere new without a decent pile of ammo. I like it, but it's a tad too strong against some bosses.
Actually fighting is very messy. The game is relentless with enemies that spawn in the most evil of places.
It's difficult to judge what part of an enemy animation deals damage and many attacks feel impossible to dodge. The game is at its worst when you stumble upon a portal that'll drown you in enemies until you destroy it. Especially when don't have the revolver or the machine gun and have to run around in circles reloading as you try to shoot the portal.
Seeing as many of the monsters are nearly identical and that the game is ugly as sin even for 2003, I have come to the conclusion that the game had a miniscule budget. Impressive of me, I know.
It feels like a mod pack for a second-grade shooter given just enough time to excuse a commercial release. I reckon that the randomization was implemented to squeeze as much gameplay as possible out of the assets. And come the last part of the castle, the assortment of enemies has run dry. Reminds me of the Chalice Dungeons in Bloodborne. You know how much I love those.