Daughter of Serpents.png

Added to the lair: 2/2/19

Note: Includes original game + remake (The Scroll)

Genre: Point-And-Click Adventure / 1st person

Developer: Eldritch Games

Year: 1992 / 1995

Platform: DOS

Emulator: DOSBox ECE

Wikipedia: Daughter of Serpents

Daughter of Serpents

Some things are better left dead and buried

I'm a Lovecraft junkie. When it comes to horror, Lovecraft has always been my author of choice. However, given the idiosyncrasies of his writings, they don't typically translate well to film or games. Lovecraft would provide the reader with just enough detail to form something of a mental silhouette for the horrific monstrosities he wrote about, and then let the imagination fill in the rest of the gaps. It's a wonderful technique, especially for the more imaginatively inclined, but it poses an obvious problem - how do you transition the indescribable into the concrete in a way that's actually satisfactory; in a way that adequately matches our mind's most terrifying concoctions? The answer, as time has shown, is that you very rarely do. In nearly all cases it leads to disappointment because whatever is presented, no matter how creative, probably doesn't measure up.

 

This is why, in my estimation, the most successful implementations of "Lovecraftian horror" are ones that make no attempt to directly convert page to film/game, but rather make use of stylistic similarities and storytelling techniques that present a similar atmosphere if not a direct adaptation - games like Amnesia and Sunless Sea most assuredly have Lovecraft in their DNA even if a shoggoth never makes an appearance. Daughter of Serpents takes the same approach. Is it as good as either of those games? No. Is it still worth your time? Yes, it is.

 

In this case though, admittedly, the statement that it's "worth your time" isn't exactly noteworthy because it's a very short game; less than 2 hours even, if you're even slightly competent at adventure games. It does have multiple endings, so that extends it a bit, but not much. That's not the end of the world though, because what's here is pretty good.

The artwork is quite nice, even though much of it is stills with some slight animation. The music is serviceable but not really memorable. The main draw here is the story, which I won't say much about given the brevity of the game, but suffice it to say that it does a good job of gradually shifting things from the mundane to the bizarre - moreso in Daughter of Serpents than in the 1995 talkie remake The Scroll (also included) I would say, which truncates things a bit.

On the topic of the remake, the voice acting is actually very good, and is single greatest asset in that version. There's some additional bits of animation here and there or locations that are slightly different, but by and large things are pretty similar. In Daughter of Serpents you can actually create your own character or choose from some pre-made characters, who have different stats in something resembling faux-RPG elements. In The Scroll, you just choose from one of two pre-defined characters, which have different stories - I actually think The Scroll is better in that regard. Normally I'm not one to prefer a "dumbed down" experience, but in the case of The Scroll it's really more streamlining than anything else, and I think it's a net positive; as far as character selection anyway. I'm not as much a fan of some of the story elements being truncated (or removed entirely), which I can only assume was for the purpose of cutting down on voice lines that would need to be recorded. Something that Lovecraft always did very well was gradually nudging you from a state of normalcy to one of surreal, abject horror, and I felt like this was accomplished relatively well in the early parts of Daughter of Serpents but that it felt extremely rushed in The Scroll. I think both versions are still worth checking out though - probably The Scroll first.

Daughter of Serpents is an interesting, often overlooked adventure game that, while flawed, is worth a look.