If Ever there was a Theme Park ride, that was turned into a Comedy Ghost Film, then that role belongs Solely, to Disney's - the Haunted Mansion:
As I have rode the Haunted Mansion ride (in Magic Kingdom) many times, I felt that this Fantasy Film, had a steep milestone to live up to (or is that a steep Gravestone to live up to?) ... For starters, it is hard to have a Haunted Mansion, just by itself. You need a storyline, and this film's storyline, of a love triangle (with a twist), really fits the Raven's bill! The film starts properly (for me), at the Iron Gates of the Haunted Mansion - which are of course, padlocked. Yet with some Ghostly magic, do the Mansion's Gate's then open ... And it is here, that I raised an eyebrow - as would I have been brave enough to enter? Probably not! Fortunately, such concerns are not faced, by the adventurer's of this film: the Evers Family :) And through those Iron Gates? Well ... First and foremost, I love this film's Fantasy Location - the Haunted Mansion itself :) There's Haunted Hallways, and Ghostly Stairs - with Spooky Curtains, and Guardian Knights. There's Spectral Ballrooms, and Darkened Bedrooms - with Glowing Candles, and Spying Portraits. There's Mothballed Libraries, and Marbled Studies - with Secret Passages, and Gothic Fireplaces. For this Haunted Mansion's, all Shroud in Dark - with Shimmering Cobwebs, and Scurrying Spiders, to Sleepless Tombs, and Spectral Carriages! For this Haunted Mansion's, all Cast in Light - with Flickering Candles, and Fiery Chandeliers, to Maleficent Green, and Whispered Balls! And of this Mansion, do I feel - no finer home, for Ghostly Haunts :) And it is here that I found, the next part of this Ghostly Tale, that I quite like ... As the Mansion itself, plays right into the variety of Ghosts, that are found within it's Haunted Halls :) There's Apparitions (both Touch and Wraith). There's Ghostly Balls (both Soul and Guide). There's Musical Instruments (both Sound and Chase). There's Replay Memories (both Masquerade Ball - and Locked in Time). There's Hitch Hiking Ghosts (both Speak and Hide). There's Suits of Armour (both Haunt and Axe). There's Spectral Horses (both Cart and Gallop). For in this Haunted Mansion - there's always My Way, You Know! Yet in all of this, did I find - three particular Ghosts, that are my favourites. First: is Ramsley (the Butler). For his Fantasy Character (being both straight faced and straight backed), helps guide the film, and is fundamental to it's storyline. Added to this, is the fact that Ramsley, made me jump three times: i) when he appears from the Knight's Corridor (in flashes of lightening) - would you hold your ground? ii) when he appears right behind Mr Evers (making him jump). iii) when he appears right behind Mrs Evers (making her jump). In all three, does Ramsley appear - to be Lending a Hand ... Second: is Madame Leota (the Gypsy Tarot Reader). Who for me, provides much of the comedy - whilst also guiding the Fate of both Mr and Mrs Evers (in a more helpful way). Madame Leota, is also responsible for some of the best footage, that's found within this film (in both terms of plot, and special effects). And of this best footage, do I have a favourite scene ... It's where Mr Evers first meets Madame Leota - and is soon being flown around the room: with Dancing Trumpets, Drums, Harps and Tarot Cards! Which eventually leads to, Mr Evers being chased down a corridor, by a whole ensemble - of Musical Instruments :) Third: is the Ghost Ball (which appears to Mr Ever's son and daughter). I liked the fact, that the Ghost Ball, is really a Will-o'-the-wisps - that has an honourable Quest, for the two children to undertake (even if it would have scared me, in reality!). I also enjoyed the humour, that surrounds the Ghost Ball - where the sister would follow it (being Brave), whilst her brother would not (shaking like a leaf). Even so ... There was one part of this film, that I found a little scary (especially the first time I watched it). It's where Mr Evers, undertakes the main Quest of the film (once he arrives at the Mansion), and goes down into the Mansion's Crypt. I was surprised by the Walking Dead (that he encounters down there), and felt that it would take a very brave person indeed, to Willingly Dive, Under the Water! Mind you, I now suspect that Ramsley, was solely responsible/behind this (in a bid to prevent Mr Evers, from completing his Quest). Although, if you don't like Spiders - then you'll probably be squinting, right after the Walking Dead scene, as well :) Overall: I feel that this is a lively Ghost Film, which brings the Haunted Mansion to Life - in a way that captures the fun side - of the original Haunted Mansion ride :) Yet at the same time, do I feel that the film, also contains an important message, about the need to maintain - a work life balance :) It took Mr Evers (as played by Eddie Murphy), several interactions with Ghosts - to fully realise/remember this ... Added to this, is the fact that several sub-plots of the film, are about Facing Your Fears, together with: You Try, You Fail, You Try, You Fail, You Try, You Fail - But You Only Truly Fail, When You Stop Trying! And you get a Fantasy Film, that has much more on the Inside of the Mansion, than on the Outside :) Finally ... I just loved the comedy scene in the Library/Study - as we all want a large Painting of Ourselves, hanging above the Mantelpiece - don't we? And if you should decide to join us ...
In Kingdom's Ethereal, White be Haze. In Tangled Ribbon, Wind be Touch. Born of Water and of Air - this Dragon's Spirit, Ninjas of thy Monk to be:
Dancing through this Water's Verse, Temples of the Spire so High. Skating through this Ocean's Realm, Churches of the Light so Bright. Weaving through this Sea's Domain, Chapels of the Stance so Right. Darting through this Element's Empire, Ninjas of the Rain so Proud. Guiding through this Cyclone's Wind, Shoguns of the Rule so Wise. Fighting through this Heaven's Day, Abbots of the Monk so Scribe ... Temple here, Temple there - one Church here, one Church there! Ninja here, Ninja there - Abbot say, Abbot do! For in Heaven's Lore, there was a Place - donned in Shroud, donned in Guard. This Heaven's Realm, called Monastery. This Heaven's Arms, called Swiftspear. The Shimmer of a Blanket Sea. The Sparkle of a Tungsten Blade. The Tonal of a Falling Wall. The Twinkle of a Pointed Gaze. The Shading of a Rising Spray. The Glimmer of a Shearing Edge ... For in Shogun's Lore, there was a Place - born of Dragon, born of Ninja. This Dragon's Realm, called Monastery. This Ninjas Arms, called Swiftspear. The Obelisks of a Element Wise. The Patters of a Silent Feet. The Monoliths of a Dragon King. The Assassins of a Samurai Way. The Pillars of a Eastern Dragon. The Warriors of a Human Monk ... Shogun here, Shogun there - one Spear here, one Spear there! Ninja here, Ninja there - one Foot here, one Foot there! Running through this Temples Maze, Knowing of thy Paths to Take. Skipping through this Churches Fog, Certain of thy Turns to Make. Sprinting through this Water's Edge, Splashes of thy Toes to Beat. Jumping through this Airy Cloud, Vapours of thy Swift to Dodge. Skimming through this Temples Lore, Pleasing of thy Craft to Rule. Honing through this Churches Art, Dreaming of thy War to Make ... War-cry here, War-cry there - Dancing here, Dancing there! Fighting here, Fighting there - Sculpting here, Sculpting there! For in Monastery Swiftspear, there was an Army - born of Human, and of Monk. This Humans Realm, called Eastern Way. This Monks Penance, called Scribe of Art. The Writings of the Empire Verb. The Teachings of the Kingdom Pure. The Drawings of the Realm in Shape. The Learnings of the Wise to Power. The Letters of the Artist's Form. The Knowings of the Spear to Battle ... Ninja here, Ninja there - one Strike here, one Strike there! Shogun here, Shogun there - one Wound here, one Wound there! Victory here, Victory there! As in Monastery Swiftspear, there came a Monk: donned in Ninja, donned in Shogun, donned in Samurai ... The Guardian of this Fortress Monastery: swathed in Mist, swathed in Robe, swathed in Rune, schooled in Lore, schooled in Arms, schooled in Question ... Who be you that comes to Sea, this Temple Realm - of Monastery Swiftspear?
It's been quite some time since I last walked the Lands of Lore and the Thrones of Chaos. Yet, all of that changed this week (with the help of DOSBox 0.72 and a hunt for my old 3.5 inch floppy discs!). I donned the boots of Conrad, and headed off for a trip down memory lane - to assist King Richard:
To be honest, I had expected the game to seem somewhat dated. The graphics are not in the same league as today's games, the 3d world is essentially tile based (where you move around using cursor keys), and ... You know what, I just don't give a dam! The storyline is amazing!! I found myself thinking about Quests and Adventures that seem as real now, as they did back then. Within the Draracle Caves, I was soon asking myself a question: what was the gift that the Draracle wanted? With some head scratching, I knew it when I saw it - a golden knife with red jewels in it. Then did the Draracle give me some riddles for an Elixir - that will save King Richard (albeit much later in the game). Still, I'm getting ahead of myself ... I love the fact that everything seems to fall into place in this game. When your Quest starts, you receive a Magic Atlas (which you need - as it's easy to get lost within the mazes of each location/level). Then do you receive a Compass (which you use with your Magic Atlas). Then do your receive a Spell Book (which holds your various magical spells - such as Spark, Heal, Freeze, Fireball and Lightening). Then do you receive a Lantern (when you first visit the Caves - which with enough Oil, helps Lighten the Dark). Your an adventurer (either Ak'Shel, Kieran, Micheal or Conrad) who has companions along the way (such as Timothy, Baccata and Lora). Prepare to have both your combat and magical skills tested - whilst at the same time, having a really good work out for your memory! It's easy to forget where you are in the mazes of these Lands ... Now, even though this game is (at least) two decades old - it does one thing that many modern games don't seem to do: it has the ability to make you laugh! For me, this always occurs in two places: the pits you find in various Mines and the sink holes (in the Gorkha Swamp). In both cases, it always goes something like this for me: fwd, fwd, left, left, fwd, fwd, left, AUGH! I've fallen down a hole! AUGH! Laugh, Laugh, Laugh. Then just for fun, I do it again! (Not quite so funny now!). Laugh, Laugh. As I say, this game's storyline pulls you in - especially when you feel like you've achieved something. It's great fun when you fix the Water Pump within the Urbish Mines (so that's what the lumps of coal and the gear/cog are for!). Although, the Urbish Mines themselves is a place that I've always found testing (both the getting lost, and those Avian Worms!). There's plenty of other challenges to - such as Scotia's Barrier(s)! These caused me nothing but grief a few years back, but this time - I remembered Vaelan's Cube! This game has more monsters/mythical creatures than you can shake a stick at. Some of my favourites are: Bandits, Cave Dwellers, Gimlets, Gorkha, Giant Lizards, Orcs and Great Orcs - as once you have some decent weapons (such as Great Swords and Great Axes), then these tend to die fairly easily in hand-to-hand combat. Some of my least favourite monsters/mythical creatures are: the Larkhon (a big worm - throw your sword at it), Magic Mirrors (walking jelly fish - they don't like Lightening), Rocklings (made of rock - dam, you blunted my sword!) and Wraiths (run, no really - run!). Overall: this is an amazing adventure/role playing game whose storyline seems to have stood the test of time. I'm amazed that it's challenges seem just as hard now, as they did back in the day (when I first got those 3.5 inch floppy discs home!). This may not be a game that you want to play full-screen now, but it can certainly play/run perfectly well in a window on your desktop (even perhaps whilst your doing other things!). One question I found myself asking was: where am I? I seem to be lost in these Urbish Mines! Let alone being lost in the White Tower ... Finally: it's been sometime since I've seen Scotia, but I do remember Dawn - was that a Cuckoo? Tip: for DOSBox 0.72, I used mount c c: (slash) OLDGAMES (slash) westwood (slash) lands, c:, lands. If you don't fancy that, then there's a newer version (see relevant link below).
This is by far the best Sword and Sorcery fantasy novel that I have ever read:
I was hooked from the first page! Prince Rupert has been sent upon a Quest: to slay a Dragon and rescue a Princess. But being Prince Rupert, the Quest does not go according to plan - and it is instead, just the start of his Adventures! I especially like the fact that the novel is packed full of Quests - both main Quests (such as the Quest to find the High Warlock) and sub Quests (such as the Quest to find out what has happened in Coppertown). Prince Rupert is not your typical Prince - he is a Second Son (in line to the Throne), and was regarded as a good-for-nothing (by most of Castle Society). I like the fact that Prince Rupert has numerous challenges to overcome, and in doing so, proves them all wrong! Even so, it's his Quest for the Dragon that changes his Character the most, as he has to pass through the Darkwood - which hones his fighting skills (by improving them the hard way), and earns him new friends (with which he returns to Forest Castle). My favourite main Quest has to be the Quest to find the High Warlock - as I like the fact that Prince Rupert takes command of an entire Troop of Guards, together with the Kings Champion, and leads them into the Darkwood. It is hear that the Champion starts to gain some respect for the Prince Rupert (instead of just seeing him as a threat to the Throne). I laughed when they first met the High Warlock - as he is somewhat anti-social, has some-what lost touch with the world (not having been outside his Dark Tower for years), and puts a Dead Rat in every barrel of Wine that he brews! He is also the most powerful Sorcerer that the Forest Land has ever known - and is perhaps, the only hope of throwing back the advance of the Darkwood (a Magical place that's full of Demons and the Night). Both the High Warlock, and the Dragon, provide much of the comedy (for me) - especially when it comes to what the Dragon wants to eat (mountains of food first, then will talk). My favourite minor Quest has to be when the Princess Julia (a friend of Prince Rupert's) goes on an expedition (within Forest Castle) to find the Old Armoury (which happens to be in the missing South Wing). How can a Castle Wing go missing you ask? Well, Forest Castle is somewhat unique: with Ancient Spells and Wards cast within it's walls - it's larger on the inside (than it is on the outside), and as such, most of the Castle rooms/halls change places everyday! I was excited when the Princess Julia (eventually) stands before the Doors to the Old Armoury - especially when you learn/remember that it's also where the most Powerful Swords ever made by Man are kept (the three Infernal Devices) - the three Broadswords, Rockbreaker, Flarebright and Wolfsbane. The storyline manages to merge Battlefield Drama with Castle Politics and Intrigue. There's a Plot to Overthrow the King, and appoint a new one (although not who you would expect). There's also several Traitors (one who I had expected all along), and another (who I didn't see until the very end). My favourite Warrior has to be the Kings Champion. The Tale goes to great lengths to build him into a Hero out of Legend (which indeed he is): towering above the heads of mortal men, covered from head-to-toe in the Armour of a Knight, swinging his Axe effortlessly (against a never ending Tide of Foes), placing the Might of Steel above all others - defiantly against the use of Magic (although there's a twist towards the end!). I also approve of the use of Magic within this Tale - with it's first use being when the Dragon casts a Spell, so that Prince Rupert may make the Rainbow Run: a light appears before him (like a Will-o'-the-wisp) that leads him to his Destiny (or at least - part of it). I also liked the idea of the High Warlocks Teleportation Spell - although as we learn, he is not the only Sorcerer that's capable of such magic. I also enjoyed reading the parts where the High Warlock flies high above the heads of his Foes - casting Bale-fire, denying entrance to the Foes of Forest Castle. Another favourite Fantasy Character (of mine) is Breeze - Prince Rupert's Unicorn. He is also Prince Rupert's friend - who grumbles when he is fed grass (wanting barley only), who fights by his side (saying that the Prince won't last long without him) and who jokes from time to time (especially the part where Prince Rupert says: Were just going back into the Darkwood a little way - and Breeze replies: So I'll suppose we'll only be killed a little bit. Forget it!). Overall: this is an amazing Tale - which has kept me turning the pages, until many the early hours. I'm still amazed at how much the author (Simon R. Green) has managed to pack into just over four hundred and forty pages - whilst not seeming to rush the Tale (at all). If you like Adventure and Fantasy, mixed with Swords and Bale-fire, mixed with a Dragon and a Unicorn, mixed with Demons and a Demon Prince - then this is a Fantasy Book/Novel that you should definitely consider reading! It's also a book that I've reread several times over the past few years - five or six times now, as I enjoyed reading it so very much!
When it comes to a Computer Game that blends a Haunted House, with a Spooky Storyline and numerous Puzzles (to challenge your mind), then I'd be hard pressed to name one better than this:
Lady in White - She faded away from me ... I like the fact that this is a game that's played best in the evening, as this is when it spooks you the most. Lady in White - She faded towards me ... I like the graphics found within this game, especially the Twisting Staircase that leads to the first floor of the Mansion. Lady in White - She passed between two doors ... I like the contrast in difficulty between the Puzzles in this game: some are simple (such as the Word Games), whilst others may cause you to tear your hair out (such as the Chess Games). Lady in White - Just where do you lead me? To the Crypt, I see ... The first puzzle left me hungry for more: two Skulls, two Tombstones, the rest is just Icing. The second puzzle came with a phobia at hand: eight points in a Star, seven Spiders to move. The third puzzle with an Eye to the Sky: the rivers of Mars - what phrase do you Spell? Shy Gypsy Slyly Spryly Tryst By My Crypt. What logic is that? The Sky is Ruddy Your Fate is Bloody! What riddle is that? My first real challenge came with the Maze in the basement - as I kept getting lost. It was only the Twisting Staircase that revealed the turns to make - a room upstairs with a map to the Maze: take the fifth on the right, then straight on, then turn to the right, ... Yet before, a Puzzle with a Grate, a simple solution did it seem, yet on my next turn, did I forget! When I first played this game (twenty-or-so years ago), I found myself amused by the icons/cursors: a throbbing Brain in a Skull (there's a Puzzle to be solved), Chattering Teeth (there's a Spooky Scene to view, such as plates and cutlery, that dance by themselves) and a Skeletal Hand (which both shows you the way, and bars your way). When I last played this game (earlier this week), I found myself jumping-for-joy: as I'd finally nailed the Piano Puzzle! It's with my new found Love of Music (including the learning of my Piano Notes/Chords over the past couple of years), that allowed me to breeze through the puzzle: B, B-Sharp, E-Flat, F ... Speaking of Pianos, there's two Spooky Scenes to watch (via the Drama Icon): a Skeleton that plays the Piano by itself (I just love that one!) and two hands by themselves, that play the Piano (I'd just faint at that one!). What's the hardest Puzzle in the game? I hear you say ... Well, for me, there's two (at least in the early/middle stages): one is Chess based and the other is Frustration based! After conquering the first Chess game (where you have to place eight Queens on a Chess Board), I encountered Bishop Chess: swap the position of four Black/White Bishops. Seems simple enough ... Hours later though - whilst I'd found a way to swap the middle pieces (fairly easily), the corner pieces caused me grief (what planet is this Puzzle from?!?). After conquering that (with some Magic in the middle), I then found out just how a virus multiples! Yes Gentle Reader - it's the Microscope Puzzle! This Puzzle tested my patience twenty years ago. This Puzzle tested my patience last weekend. This Puzzle tested my patience this week! Now I have a headache and I feel like I've caught the flu! Anyway ... I think I shall Flip a Coin and Turn some Cards! Ah, that's better - both solved (even with some head scratching). Now, one of my favourite (graphical) locations has to be the Altar/Chapel: as the room is decorated with the Swords and Shields of many a Knight (in Shining Armour). The puzzle itself? Mind your step - as every third step should be on Purple. You did get this far didn't you? Still stuck on the first Chess Puzzle? Here's a hint (assuming each row/column is labelled A to H from bottom-left), stick a Queen in (row-column): AB, BD, CF, DH, EC, FA, shhhhh - quite, that would be telling! Now, I found myself shivering at several Spooky Scenes within this game: hands that push out from a painting, soup that shapes itself into a face, and a mirror that shows a Lady in Green more than she bargained for (when she wishes to be young again). I also found several comical/defying reality Secret Passages, which both helped to save travel time, and add to it: there's one from the Library (the Fireplace) and there's one in the Games Room (the Billiards Table), but perhaps the oddest - is the one that's located on the Shelf! What room scared you the most? The Children's Nursery/Doll Room, especially when the Dolls Shadows danced! What about the control system? It's quite simple - just point and click with the mouse, although you need to be careful when clicking in puzzles (as too far to the left/right/bottom and you abort/restart the puzzle!). I also like the out-of-game controls: as there's an Egyptian Sphinx, which allows you to save your game and view which rooms you've solved puzzles in (via a coloured map) - all rendered as though it's on some Ancient Egyptian Papyrus (that also features two Egyptian Pyramids). Overall: I'm quite a fan of the Mansion that Henry Stauf built - as both the Mansion, and the Games/Puzzles, have been entertaining for over twenty years. Yes, some of the graphics may seem a little dated (by today's standards), but they don't seem to affect the quality of game play (at all). I still enjoy playing the puzzles (they are a good workout for my mind), and I still have several puzzles to solve (can you guess which ones?). At the very least, I have several dates with the Microscope over the next month or so (I will solve it!). The game is something of a masterpiece - as the Music, Puzzles, Ghosts and Video all combine to convey a decent storyline. It's not a fast game, and if you don't like puzzles, then it won't be for you. But, if you do like puzzles ... You do don't you? Then what are you waiting for? Afraid that the game won't run under Windows 7/8.1 64-bit? Well - it can! I used DOSBox. For example: mount c c: (slash) OLDGAMES, mount d d: (slash) -t cdrom ioctl, d: (after install - c: then cd t7g), t7g. If you don't fancy that, then there's a newer version (see relevant link below). Just one question remains - do you have a date with the Microscope to?
When it comes to a Role Playing Game (RPG) that allows me to masquerade as a Vampire, I'd be hard-pressed to name one better than this:
I like the fact that this game starts with a twist - as it's a while before you become a Vampire! The games storyline sees you take control of the character Christof, a Medieval Holy Knight, whose been injured on the battlefield (by an enemy arrow). Almost mortally wounded, it's only with the caring of the Nun Anezka, that Christof eventually recovers. Yet in doing so, Christof falls for Anezka, and the games storyline gains an important sub-plot: a wound for which there is often no cure - the Power of Love! I like the fact that this game strives to contrast the differences between Christof as a Human, and Christof as a Vampire, yet at the same time - it also fights to highlight the similarities! Whilst Christof is still Human, you undertake a Quest within the Bonn Silver Mines - to rid them of whatever Evil lies within. It is hear that you learn the basics of control: left-click to attack an enemy, left-click plus hold to powerfully attack an enemy. It is here that I first appreciated the quality of the graphics: as various flames/torches light your way, whilst leaving the shadows to themselves. It is also here that you shall encounter your first challenges: Just how do I drain the water from the Crossing? Just how do I kill the War Ghoul? And just how do I kill the first Vampire Boss? The answer to all three is essentially the same: left-click, left-click, left-click! Yet, as Christof is a character of strong Faith, perhaps some Holy Water shall save the day? The games storyline then gains another important sub-plot: as Christof fights to retain his Soul. His Desire for Anezka places it in Peril, yet it is the attentions of a Vampire that truly tests his Character ... I was excited when Christof becomes a Vampire - as this is when the game comes truly alive! I'm also a fan of the Vampire Mythology that's found within this game. First: there is the fact that there are several races of Vampire (such as Cappadocian, Gangrel and Nosferatu - each with their own particular traits, skills and appearance). Second: there is the idea that Vampires have their own beliefs and traditions (Christof is recruited by the Philosophers of Caine - the Brujah, whose primary aim is the collection of Knowledge). Third: there is the concept of Vampire Lore (that the Brujah only take from Humans the Blood that they actually need - not a drop more). Fourth: there is the suggestion that not all Vampires are the same (that the Brujah actually see themselves as Guardians of Humanity, and as such, are less interested in the Blood Lust that's often associated with Creatures of the Night). I was impressed by the games use of animation and narration to highlight several of these ideas (especially the part where Christof views the Scrolling Tapestry). Playing as a Vampire is much more exciting than playing as a Human! There's plenty to learn (as a Vampire) - and you shall earn your Fangs (so to speak) at Petrin Hill Monastery. Lesson One: Looks can be Deceptive - as the Monastery looks all Quite and Peaceful, yet open that Wooden Door, and you shall soon have plenty of opponents to fight - as there's Vampires and Skeletons (usually armed with Swords and Arrows). Lesson Two: Vampires require Blood. When Christof (and his friend Wilhelm) become low on Blood, they shall start to Rampage (possibly even feeding off each other). To counteract this - you need to learn the Art of Feeding! There's plenty of Monks around the Monastery for you to feed on (and slaying an enemy this way does not affect your Humanity levels - which comes in handy). Lesson Three: Sometimes the ability to fight is not enough - you have to use your brain as well, together with switches and keys. Many an Evening did I fight Mercuio (the Vampire Boss of the Monastery), and many an Evening did both Christof and Wilhelm die (to his Green Gas). Yet it was, when searching around, did I find my first special weapon: a Femur (bone) that introduces Mercuio to the Grave! The games more than just about fighting though. One part I really like is managing the equipment that my Vampires wear. Once you've found enough Gold/Jewellery/Jewels, I like to equip my Vampires (via the Blacksmith) with: Studded Leather Armour, Gauntlets and a Light Helm - which helps improve their combat/defence capabilities. Another part I really like is the Character Advancement screen: with each Quest you complete, you earn Experience Points, which you spend to make your Vampires stronger. When I have enough points, I like to increase (in this order): Strength, Dexterity and Stamina (as I feel that these help to establish the central core of my Vampires abilities). When it comes to Spells and Magic, it's a must to upgrade Blood Healing (as it quickly heals your Vampires, usually for less blood), and in the case of Wilhelm, his Feral Claws (a favourite of mine - as he's often at the fore-front of an assault). I also like to equip each of my characters with: two Scrolls of Awaken (so that they may wake fallen comrades) and a Scroll of Walk the Abyss (so that a doorway can be opened between the current Quest and your safe haven - a great way to save travel time, which also allows you stock up on valuable supplies!). Overall: I have spent many an evening playing this game! I found that I became fully immersed in the storyline (especially with the twists regarding Faith, Love and Souls). Yes, there are some frustrations (such as when you accidentally tell Christof to feed off Wilhelm), but there's also a great amount of fun (such as when you destroy the rampaging Golem). I was stunned by the beauty of many scenes (especially those that reflect a decorated ceiling of a Castle/Palace unto the floor). The most draw-dropping part of the storyline (for me), was when the Time-line changed (as I wanted to remain in the Medieval), and felt totally lost (at first) running around in the Modern Age. Even so, this is still my favourite Vampire game to play!