Although I like many older games, including this one, Realms of the Haunting was a superior pain in the butt to set up with an acceptable keyboard control system. There is supposedly a US patch that makes this easy, which I tried to download from the only available link, but it would only download in part. I don't know what kind of havey-cavey scheme they were pulling, but the premium cost money and I was not about to give them a cent. Also, instructions on various forums were not exactly clear, something about installing it in two locations. Finally, I gave up and tried re-mapping through the mappertxt. file. This is not an easy task as it is very different from other config files. Eventually, however, I managed to re-map some keys, but some can't be re-mapped, for instance strafe.
Once all the frustration was over, the game turned out to be very enjoyable. It has an interesting story that is quite well fleshed out and even throws in a twist ending. It begins with our hero, Adam Randall, receiving a package from his estranged and recently deceased father via a mysterious priest named Elias Camber. As well as a cryptic message, the parcel also contains some broken clay medallions. After some initial research that turns up no evidence of this so-called priest, Adam travels to an abandoned mansion in the Cornish village of Hellston to investigate his father's death. Once inside, he finds the door locked behind him and many others sealed by magic sigils. Proceeding to search for a way out, he observes that paintings on the walls show Camber in antiquated dress, which only serves to create more questions about Elias. Soon, Adam is drawn into supernatural events and finds himself battling demonic creatures. A ghostly visit from his father reveals that Adam is the "Chosen One" whose destiny is to stop the resurrection of Satan and thereby Armageddon. Upon doing so, his father's soul can also be released from torment. As he continues to investigate, he is joined by a psychic named Rebecca Trevisard, who assists him in his journey to solve this mystery.
At first the game is fairly linear, however as it progresses previously locked doors are now opened. The mansion is huge with many rooms, underground areas, outside grounds, caves and portals to other dimensions. There is no lack of content and the game is long with 20 chapters. There are also many types of demons to fight as well as some good guys who will assist you. Throughout, you can pick up clues and be faced with solving many puzzles. Although Rebecca is not seen in game, except in cut scenes, she is with you for much of the time and will offer advice.
These older games tend to be quite tough and this one is no exception for all that the enemies are quite predictable. There is actually no advantage to killing them unless necessary, so often your best bet is to run or find a safe place from which to kill them. Doorways are usually best as for the most part they can't come through them. You need to keep your distance as they can kill you in two or three hits. Although there are strafe keys, they are not re-bindable and are located in a very awkward place, so I learned to cope without them. Initially, I found myself running into walls or spinning in place while trying to escape, which often got me killed, but eventually I grew used to the controls.
The graphics are not bad according to the age of the game. Cut scenes are in full motion video played by real actors. Pick ups can be very hard to see as they sometimes blend in with the environments, especially transparent health vials. You need to look down a lot and explore the environment. Health is a little scarce till the end, so try to stretch it out.
The game is a mix of FPS and point and click mechanics. There are many weapons to discover throughout the game including some magic weapons, but they take an agonizingly long time to recharge, which is when they are most powerful. Often, they are not practical for a fight unless you can use them from a protected area. Weapons didn't bind to number keys as they were supposed to, so I had to use the inventory to access them, which is a bit unwieldy, but at least the game pauses while you change weapons or take health.
You can set the difficulty for puzzles and action. If you choose hard for puzzles, you must select the appropriate item to use from your inventory, but if you choose easy the correct item will be selected for you. Gameplay difficulty can be set separately.
The game is good, but it takes patience to get it set up, especially if you are not familiar with installing and editing game files. I persevered because I hate getting stymied by these problems, but it was certainly very frustrating due to my lack of knowledge about implementing some of these fixes. Others might find it a lot easier than I did. Regardless, in the end, I can honestly say that I very much enjoyed this game.