Dance of Death: Du Lac & Fey blends Arthurian legend with Victorian mystery

There was a time when we’d be lucky to see one good point and click adventure a year, but it’s only March and I’m already on my fourth.

Mage’s Initiation was a brilliant start, paying homage to the Sierra classics of old, Guard Duty is very good at channelling its inner-Discworld, and Heaven’s Vault is a stunning artistic tour de force that is going to blow people away later this year. Spoilt for choice.

Another one I’ve been really excited about is Dance of Death: Du Lac & Fey, a Victorian adventure that puts Sir Lancelot and Morgana Le Fey of Arthurian Legend together in a sort of high-fantasy Holmes and Watson detective mystery.

Visually, this might be the most ambitious of the four games with a mix of fully 3D animated models, pastel-painted backgrounds, and cut scenes of such high quality they could be the foundation of a fully animated feature.

It’s an ambition that stretches to the mechanics as well, because you can move between various characters through the game, each one offering something a bit different. Morgana, for instance, has been cursed (blessed?) with dog form, so that means she can talk to animals, but also her sense of smell is heightened, so she can pick up on unique, scent-based clues Du Lac cannot.

And it’s Morgana’s dog form which seems to drive much of the plot, at least that’s the impression I got from the few chapters I played. Morgana seems desperate to change back into her original form and her recent encounters with the supernatural have got her brainbox thinking about how she can do exactly that. Potentially through unseemly means.

Du Lac, meanwhile, is more interested in helping other people. In true chivalrous Lancelot fashion, he wants to solve all of the world’s problems, one dilema at a time. From street urchins, to down and out dock workers, he just wants to do the right thing. And with a murderer on the loose, it seems he’ll have plenty of opportunity to do just that.

While I’ve only seen a glimpse of the game, something tells me that conflict between the two is coming with Morgana’s obsession with self-preservation and Du Lac’s sefless nature. A fascinating dynamic.

Outside of story, the other real stand out for me is story delivery. I mean, it helps that one of the leads is a Welsh woman and that the game is rich in Welsh folklore – always a plus – but the way the lines are acted is to a high, professional standard. The writing is also top notch, and the character development seems, at least from my early glimpse, relatively strong.

Of course, my preview ended on a bit of a cliffhanger, so I’m keen to see how the story evolves and where it eventually ends up, but I have to be honest, it definitely wasn’t smooth sailing throughout. And with the game’s release date quickly approaching, I’m a little bit concerned.

Sadly, my preview had quite a few bugs. Admittedly, none were game-breaking or severe, but they quickly started to add up and became more varied and random as I moved on.

Issues you might expect from a point and click adventure cropped up, like lines of dialogue being skipped over, jerky scene transitions, and characters having odd pathing issues.

But this went one step further. Characters would randomly lose their shadows and they’d eventually reappear on other parts of the screen. I saw the gridlines of a 3D model in the reflection of one of the character’s glasses which was quite unusual.

But perhaps the weirdest of all was when the face of a character I’d just interacted with suddenly blew up and filled the right side of the screen during a fairly serious conversation. It was a real Assassin’s Creed: Unity moment as there were no eyes or mouth, just this terrifying half sculpted face that kept staring at me. Probably wanting to drink my blood.

Suffice it to say, I found it quite difficult to take the rest of the conversation seriously.

Now, keep in mind, this was an early preview build, and I first played the same section a year ago at Rezzed, so I’m sure Salix Games are several builds past this already and have already ironed out many bugs. But it definitely made me a little bit wary and sucked out some of the enjoyment I’d been having.

All in all, though, this is an intriguing, thoughtful, and interesting detective mystery that I’m very much looking forward to dive back into. Fortunately, I won’t have much longer to wait as Dance of Death: Du Lac & Fey will release April 5th.

Check back for our full review closer to the time!