Andrew Spencer Studios‘ 1994 release, Ecstatica, is a masterpiece of survival horror.
Ecstatica is as unforgiving as it is surprising. Turning the wrong corner will often result in death – at least until you can gain a foothold in the game.
From the atmospheric opening, to unlocking the mysteries of the village you have inadvertently wandered into, Ecstatica is a tense and scary experience. Learning how to run and fight helps, and – at the start of the game – Ecstatica gives you reprieves from what you think are death. For example: early on you’re captured by a werewolf and beaten up. The scene cuts and you awake hanging from the ceiling. The werewolf beats you some more, then leaves the room. You presume you’re dead at this point, but no – if you wiggle the joypad you can break free and escape! Limping and bloodied you are then given a second chance to survive. It’s like the game is toying with you…
Later on, Ecstatica becomes more complex; more dark, and more ‘poetic’. Hypnotic, female, goat-legged spirits try their best to kill you. Miniature people try to beat you up and carry you away. A huge Minotaur patrols a nearby castle’s gardens. A hysterical priest is hiding in the bell tower. A local monastery seems the only place of any safety… And what is this underground cavern? The whole story feels like a Ray Harryhausen/Hammer Films cross-pollinated nightmare.
Playing Ecstatica is a bit like playing a Resident Evil game, but rather than using polygons, Ecstatica uses ‘spheroids’ to make the characters – including yourself (you can play as either a man or a woman) – and all the monsters. And pre-rendered ‘bumpy’ 3D Studio-style renders to make all the backgrounds. It gives the game a very unique look.
What makes Ecstatica so good is the attention to detail overall. Finding places to hide is a brilliant way of avoiding certain monsters. You can wear armour and use two different items – one in each hand. There’s magic and transformation. The scale of the story starts off small, then becomes quite grand… Ecstatica is full of surprises.
Unfortunately Ecstatica isn’t currently available to buy anywhere legally, at the time of writing. This game – and its excellent sequel – would make great re-releases on GOG.com. Someone out there please make it so. Ecstatica is a great game that should be played; not forgotten!
Here’s another set of grabs: Ecstatica, PC [Part 2]
More: Ecstatica on Wikipedia