In 2004, Exmortis took your hand and lead you deep into the woods. In 2006, the sequel, Exmortis 2, showed you mankind's darkest hour... a fate you may have had a hand in. Finally, in 2009, you're given a chance to take your revenge, provided you can live long enough to see it out. From horror maestro Ben Leffler and 3RDsense comes Exmortis 3, a ghoulish point-and-click adventure meant to be played with the lights turned out and the sound turned up.
Taking place where the previous game left off, the story has you playing Mr Hannay once more, a man with a bone to pick with the Exmortis and their ancient lord, Vlaew. He's a little more well-equipped this time around, finding himself able to wield strange new powers such as telekinesis and teleportation and a few others you'll discover. But watch your step. The path ahead is littered with traps and other dangers that could bring your quest to an untimely end. The game autosaves for you fairly frequently, but making use of the multiple save slots available from the options menu is advised.
Along with the time-honoured tradition of finding items and trying to combine them with other items (optional steps: consult walkthrough, call shenanigans on solution, throw tantrum), Exmortis 3 also features a fair amount of puzzles to solve. Some of them feel natural, such as re-wiring an electrical panel, but some of them are a little odd, such as playing a memory game with a traffic light. You heard me. If you get stuck, you can consult the full walkthrough located under the options in the menu, but doing so will penalize your final score slightly.
This is perhaps an odd thing to say about a game that features a bloody demon in a cowboy hat as its poster boy, but Exmortis 3 is very pretty. Lighting plays a big part, and not just in terms of providing darkened corners for unpleasantness to lurk in. Skies paint the landscape in tones of burnt copper and rusted rose, heavy clouds hanging overhead. You really do feel like you're in a ruined world, and the fleeting shadows and flickering lights of the lonely corridors will have you glancing over your shoulder.
Analysis: So it's been almost three years since the sequel, and you may be wondering how the game has held up, especially after its creator was picked up by Australian company 3RDsense. While the most obvious change is the addition of a price tag and a sleek new interface, but what else? The good news is, not much. Depending on whether or not you thought the originals were shining gems, the good news is also the bad news.
Some of Exmortis 3's problems aren't exactly exclusive to the title, but are rather familiar issues with the point-and-click game genre as a whole. You have situations that need to be resolved by The One Thing in a different location, when there are three objects in the room with you that would serve the same function. You may have to backtrack to meticulously hunt through scenes to find items that blend in a little too well with their surroundings.
The other good news is that the trademark Exmortis gore and spookiness are back in full force, despite being somewhat more subdued than previous titles. Well, if you consider "subdued" as translating to "less things jump out at you while the soundtrack goes screeeeeeeeee!" A lot of work has been put into establishing atmosphere that builds up and has you tensing at every fleeting shadow, every unopened door, not only with visuals, but with sound as well. Distant footsteps. The hushed whisper of the wind. The stealthy creak of a floorboard overhead.
I needed a refresher course on the story myself, but found the over-long backstory available from the main menu more confusing than helpful and wound up replaying the originals instead. Most conversations offer you the option to skip through them, and a lot of the reading is optional, but shouldn't the story serve to enhance the gameplay rather than feel like it's been awkwardly spoon-fed to the player? The game absolutely shines when it lets up on the text-heavy scenes. A little less big ancient demons and prophecies, and a little more creepy little girls in dark hallways, please.
While there's no denying Exmortis 3 looks good, sounds good, and has had a lot of love put into it, is a pretty package enough bang for your buck? If you're expecting a lengthy epic in return for your cash, you may be disappointed. While still considerably lengthier than the first two installments, Exmortis 3 still may take only a few hours to play for veterans of the genre. A very polished few hours, to be sure, but whether or not you find it worth the cost depends on how much you value quality over quantity, and whether or not the limited replayability is a potential killer.
In the end, fans of the series will find a lot to like about this third installment, and little to be disappointed by. I encourage you to give the first two games a try if you've never played the series before, and then try the demo for this latest before you make your decision. Exmortis 3 is a worthy successor despite its flaws, and may just wind up making you think twice about dismissing the things that go bump in the night.
Be sure to play the free Flash demo. Just click "Play Online Demo" on the right side of the screen!