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About the Story
The Hound of Shadow is an Interactive Fiction game created by Eldritch Games, and marketed by Electronic Arts, in 1989. It was released in versions compatible with the Amiga, Atari ST, and DOS operating systems. The game itself is loosely based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft, and is thus firmly grounded in the genre of horror. The game is set in London during the 1920s, and incorporates a number of historical elements, such as the character of Elizabeth Bathory.
I gave up on this game many times
Ultimately, as far as text-RPG go, it is average. It does not compare to classics like Zork, or the many modern MUD-based RPGs still being run today. The only appeal would be to Lovecraft fans, and its value is as a curiosity for being the first Lovecraft-based computer game, and not the actual gameplay itself.
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Good Old Days
A masterpiece of interactive fiction
The game lives from its rich and moody writing. The descriptions of what's happening and the actions are very detailed and the 'sources' (books) you consult later in the game are written in a believable and fitting way. Only the room descriptions are lacking sometimes, especially concerning the game mechanics (missing directions).
The good writing is perfectly supported by the great graphics. For the important settings, there are full-screen pictures which really catch the whole athmosphere of the game with their perfect colouring and excellent style!
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The Hound Of Shadow is a large and very verbose adventure which will undoubtably hold a player's attention for a considerable time. Compared with some other traditional adventures, the gameplay does not come to a shuddering halt because a particular puzzle hasn't been solved - in the Hound Of Shadow, you are able to approach puzzles at a more collected pace. If you miss a hint to perform an action, your companion may well suggest the action to take - just as might happen in real life. With the atmospheric text and high quality spot graphics, the Hound Of Shadow has perhaps been rightly described as a standard by which future ST RPGs must be judged. A tall order maybe, but either way, it's gripping stuff!
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The first half of the manual for The Hound of Shadow which I found online is about a rather complex-looking character-creating process, where you can choose your character's main occupation (occult researcher, anthropologist, ...) and also distribute points over different skills (fencing, climbing, linguistics,...)
In the DOS version I downloaded from IFDB there was no sign of this process. I was dumped in medias res as Edward the anthropologist. Now, this didn't matter to me all that much, I just accepted the character as it was like I would in another adventure.
Starting to play The Hound of Shadow took some getting used to. It is certainly no text-adventure as I know it. There were no object puzzles or locked door puzzles. Rather than searching the map for treasure while overcoming obstacles, you are here to solve a mystery. Actually, the game is not so much an adventure-game as it is a guided semi-interactive horror story.
Following the clues from the story and the nudges from your friend John, you have to talk to the right people and ask the right questions, look up important topics in the British Museum library and write letters to people who might help you. The limited or guided interactivity helps with the immersion in the story. If you read/play the game on these terms, it's a very good story with a suspenseful, slowly unfolding Lovecraftian horror plot.
Unfortunately, the game does not deliver on one of its promises in the manual. It prides itself on a sophisticated natural language conversation system. No need to ASK or TELL JOHN ABOUT xxx, nor SAY TO JOHN, xxx. The game should understand simple statements and questions in plain English. It does not. It seems that its conversation system works by keyword recognition, meaning that over half of what I typed was not understood and a big number of questions got irrelevant responses. ASK/TELL would have been better. Menu-based conversations would have been even better.
The game recognizes a very welcome GO TO-command, and you can WAIT UNTIL NOON if you have an appointment with someone. This helps with the flow of the story.
In the endgame there is an actual IF-puzzle to solve, and a rather good one at that ((Spoiler - click to show)making a homunculus). (I later learned that there are 2 possible endgames. I did not play the other one.)
As an immersive guided horror story, The Hound of Shadow is well worth reading. I do suggest relying heavily on a walkthrough, or at least have the manual with the list of necessary verbs nearby. The top notch writing and slow opening-up of the plot do not go well with search-the-word frustration.
The raw material is definitely there for a great game/story, but it takes some effort on the reader's part to get to it.