Ecstatica is one of the most unique and compelling action/adventures ever made, but also one of the most controversial due to its nonchalant depiction of violence and nudity. You are a lone traveler who stopped to pick up new supplies at Tirich, a small 10th century village, only to discover that a demon has been unleashed, and is going on a killing rampage. The local sorcerer's maid, Ecstatica, lies in a deep trance possessed by the demon. A few survivors give you some clues as to what has been happening and how to go about rescuing the maiden. You have a choice of playing as a male or female character, although the choice of female character is evidently an afterthought, since you will be referred to as a "he" throughout the game and chased by well-endowed women. |
Ecstatica uses a novel "ellipsoid" technology to animate charactes, which results in very realistic movements that are a step up from the polygonal characters of Alone in the Dark. One of the game's strongest points is the strong enemy AI. Monsters are surprisingly intelligent: they will seek you out, ambush you, and either try to subjugate or kill you. There are a few different weapons you can use, but you will die frequently because combat controls take some getting used to, and monsters are smart enough to gang up on you.
Although its emphasis in clearly on action, Ecstatica is at heart an adventure game in that there are puzzles you must solve in order to progress, even if they are physical ones such as figuring out a way to get to a door that is out of reach. In contrast to Alone in the Dark, you can only carry one inventory item at a time, so you will need to wander around the village, trying to find use for the item in hand before picking up another (you can drop it, though). What makes Ecstatica controversial is the depictions of some scenes that are sacrilegious, vulgar and violent. For instance, you will need to steal a holy relic from a church, and monks may die during the course of the game. Your male character will also take a few opportunities to pee, and witness scenes of tortures and full frontal nudity. However, since these characters are ellipsoids, their nudity should not offend anyone too much, although parental guidance is definitely advised if you want kids to see this game.
I thoroughly enjoyed Ecstatica while it lasts, but I can see why it's a mixed bag. As Tim Chown in an old Games Domain article describes a reviewer's dilemma: "Ecstatica is an unusual game, for sure. Whether it will appeal to you or not depends on how much you'll tolerate some of the poorer aspects of playability while you appreciate the finer points of the animations and the story line. It's a subjective opinion, and it's quite possible someone else will think nothing of the viewpoint and syncing problems. My heart wants me to recommend Ecstatica, but my head tells me not to." If you are not offended by the scenes I described, then by all means, try it out. The game is not a must-have by any means, but I was disappointed to see it end. Despite the short length, there are many delightful animations and novel gameplay elements in here to please fans of action adventures. Recommended, with some caveats.
Reviewed by: Underdogs