by Johnathan Irwin
reviewed on PC
Another Woe Filled Manor
Is it just me, or does every horror game that mentions the setting directly in the title result in something absolutely awful? I'm wearing my frustration on my sleeve at the moment, because truth be told I've just played a game that makes Kraven Manor look like a saint among horror titles. Welcome to Haunted House: Cryptic Graves. Welcome to my hell of broken hopes and dreams, and the thought of clawing my eyes out not from fear but as an excuse to quit playing.
A Not So Promising Start
The game opens on an ominous pathway leading to the estate of one Zachary Graves, a mysterious man with a rather cryptic past. See where I'm going with that? Cryptic Graves is a play on the name of the deceased character of the same name. I was hoping for a good story. However, what I was met with was acting so wooden that Ron Jeremy would be considered Shakespearean in comparison. Believe me when I say I wish it were an exaggeration, but the voice acting is that bad. As I walked down the path, I noticed that my character was constantly leaning her head to the side. I made sure I wasn't accidentally leaning or anything, no, that's just how she walks evidently.
The game looks pretty good, don't get me wrong, but looks are not everything. I was treated to quite a bit of eye candy in the rather slow opening moments but the feeling of fear I felt encroaching was not of the horror variety. It was that feeling that this was going to be another horror title with great potential that would ultimately be squandered.
All Downhill From There
What started as a bad first impression would soon evolve into something much worse. The game may have been salvageable in both setting and length, however, this game is simply not ready to be played. The one saving grace, the setting itself, is thrown away as a tattered rag due to general performance issues, and the most annoying audio of all time. I don't know who decided that this was ready for release, but by pushing this out the door quickly they've more than certainly doomed this game. What's wrong with it? Name it, and it's probably an issue. For now, let's go over the worst offenses.
First and foremost, the performance of the game is abysmal. It's broken plain and simple. Constant stuttering is ever prominent on all graphics settings, which at this point I'm convinced that somehow the game isn't changing anything at all when I lower the threshold: it all looks exactly the same. Once you're in the manor and out of the large area of the entrance, you'd think it would aid in fixing the constant stuttering. It became worse. A lot worse. I looked around to see if this was an isolated incident, because I did not want to push a game under due to something that could've been a problem on my end. I was surprised to find that pretty much everyone who has actually taken the time to play this has the same thing to say about the performance issues. During my time playing the game, I saw that it received updates twice; neither of which did anything noticeable to fix these technical issues.
Other glaring issues could not be blamed on poor performance, falling on poor design choices instead. Music, or lack thereof, can help set a mood or break it entirely depending on the execution. In Cryptic Graves the music was both repetitive and loud. I mean, to the point it nearly drowns out all other sources of audio in some instances. To that end I should be thankful, as it spared me having to actually listen to the voice acting when it decided to show up on rare occasions. There was nothing foreboding about the soundtrack, nothing that lead to any emotion other than successfully annoying me. I know what you're thinking, just go into the options and turn the music down. I would've, if it were an option.
The gameplay itself, when it wasn't hidden by the stuttering issues, is awkward at best. If it's not the constant head-tilt angle of the camera, it's the haphazard alchemy. If it's not that, it's the poorly constructed cat and mouse chases with invisible enemies who aren't terrifying, they're just annoying. Rather than inciting actual fear, they poke you twice as your character gasps and then the screen goes black. Reload the game, rinse and repeat.
Bury It Six Feet Under Concrete
What happened here? I'm beyond confused. Usually every single game, even the worst of the worst, has a redeeming quality to it. But in the case of Haunted House: Cryptic Graves, there is not a single one. There could be one in the appearance, but it's wasted due to the fact that playing the game is the equivalent to watching a stuttering slideshow. So again I ask, no, I beg for an answer. What happened here? Maybe future patches could fix the performance, if it continues to get any support. Considering the two patches I saw, I'm not optimistic. With the current state of the game, this title shouldn't even be available through Early Access let alone considered a full release as it currently is. Do yourself a favor, avoid this title at all costs.
The entirety of the game is either broken or poorly designed, music is repetitive and far too loud.