Clive Barker's Undying begins on the coast of Ireland in 1923. You play the role of Patrick Galloway, a World War I veteran who has a reputation for knowledge and experience about the occult. He has arrived at the estate of an old friend, Jeremiah Covenant, who has sent him a letter asking for his help. You are tasked with investigating the mysterious forces that threaten Jeremiah and the history of his dead siblings by exploring the family's expansive estate and sometimes into the realms beyond. Undying's most notable gameplay feature is dual-wielding. Patrick is able to hold a traditional projectile-based firearm in his left hand while slinging magical spells with his right. A system that surprisingly, didn't catch on much, and was only used much later in BioShock 2.
Left: DreamWork's original protagonist design. Right: Clive Barker's redesign.
Horror writer and director, Clive Barker, best known as creator of the “Hellraiser” film franchise, was brought in by the developer to consult on the story and characters. DreamWorks Interactive had invested some time into the game's development before Clive Barker's involvement. The game was originally slated to be part of a Steven Spielberg project.
Once Clive Barker was attached to the project his first and most notable change was with the games lead protagonist. DreamWorks' original lead character design was named Count Magnus Wolfram, who was bald, tattooed, possessed superhuman strength, and was heavily stylized in a “comic book hero” type fashion according to Barker. This original character design struck Barker as hard to relate to. Barker supposedly turned to the design team and said 'How many of you know a count?'. He then created the more realistic protagonist, Patrick Galloway. Barker's goal was to create an approachable lead role that players could easily assume. The character model for Magnus Wolfram was used in the game, however, as a shaman in the opening cutscene, the previous owner of the Gel'ziabar Stone. Patrick would later refer to him in passing as 'the shaman whose life I took', a reference to the way he replaced Wolfram as the protagonist.
Clive Barker viewed the project as a whole as taking heavy influence from H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe. The trans-dimensional unspeakable horrors fell to Lovecraft while the inner-machinations of the haunted family estate fell into “ The Fall of the House of Usher” -territory according to Barker.
Warning: This section contains spoilers.
In October of 1923, a man named Patrick Galloway arrives in Ireland by ship. Galloway, by his own account, is a man steeped in occult knowledge and is often hired to investigate matters relating to superstitions and other phenomena. Patrick's friend, Jeremiah Covenant, has sent him a letter asking for his assistance in some unexplained matter. Patrick feels indebted to Covenant for saving his life during World War I.
Upon entering the Covenant estate, Patrick discovers Jeremiah to be living semi-comfortably but he is in a sickly state. Jeremiah says his condition is thanks to an old war wound. He explains to Patrick that some recent phenomena has spooked most of his staff and they have fled from the manor, sometimes stealing things along the way. All of the Covenant siblings have disappeared for some time now and Jeremiah thinks that his staff all fear some sort of 'Covenant curse'.
The estate quickly becomes under attack by some strange dog-like creatures, Howlers, which Patrick discovers to be led by Lizbeth Covenant, the youngest of the Covenants, who died years ago, now apparently raised from the dead as a feral, Howler-like creature. He fights his way throughout the manor trying to save Covenant's staff from slaughter whenever he is able. Once Patrick returns to Jeremiah after the Howler attacks, Jeremiah recants a tale from boyhood where he took his siblings to a strange pillar of standing rocks. The rocks had some occultist insignia carved into them and Jeremiah had noticed the same symbols in one of his father's old tomes. It is unclear as to the age of the children but all of them seemed to have participated in reading the book before the pillar of insignia stones. Jeremiah tells Patrick that he fears this reading might have cursed his family and he does not know if the curse will end with his death or even extend beyond it. He warns Patrick that some of his remaining servants have noticed Lizbeth walking the estate grounds.
Patrick goes to Lizbeth's former quarters and speaks with a maid that tells Patrick that she tended to Lizbeth in her dying hours as she passed away from “wasting sickness”. Patrick is told she was buried in the family mausoleum with the Covenant children's mother. It seems that she is not entirely dead but has some corporeal form. Patrick is forced to combat Lizbeth who tries to shred him with her demon-like claws. The only way that Patrick can permanently slay Lizbeth is by decapitation so he uses his scythe to lop off her head. Even as she is disembodied, Lizbeth still speaks and she tells Patrick that Jeremiah betrayed all of the other siblings. Patrick burns Lizbeth's head in a lantern's fire and casts it off a cliff.
The character design in Undying went pretty smooth. Brian Horton (the lead artist of Undying) together with Jonathan Gregerson and Jeff Haynie (Brian’s two right hands) Designed all the monsters of the game except the final boss which is designed by animator, Rion Vernon. In one month they had designed almost the entire cast of the game, and at a meeting with the producers and designers, they decided that 70% of what they had done was Bulls Eye and the remaining 30% was addressed in the following week.
After the character design was completed they approached Clive Barker and he insisted that they should have a sketch session at his house. He helped with all kinds of small tweaks on the story and the locations, but the most important thing, that he recommended the team, was to get rid of the main character. Brian Horton said:
The story centered on the fallacies of mankind and how evil manifests and corrupts the human spirit. We needed our hero to have human qualities to empathize with him... So from the ashes of Magnus Wolfram, Patrick Galloway is formed, a human character that is by no means a superhero, but by fate, the only person that can save the world.
|Patrick Galloway||Patrick is the main protagonist in Undying. He is a veteran of World War 1, and served along side his friend, Jeremiah Covenant, who saved Patrick's life during the War. Patrick visits Jeremiah's estate at Jeremiah's behest to repay the his life debt to Jeremiah and uncover the secrets of the estate and Jeremiah's twisted siblings.|
|Jeremiah Covenant||Patrick's war buddy and best friend. Jeremiah requests Patrick's presence at his estate in hopes that Patrick will be able to dispel the terrible curse that has plagued Jeremiah's family for ages. This curse has warped him and his siblings, and Jeremiah is the last one left alive.|
|Aaron Covenant||Aaron is the twin brother of Bethany and is considered to be the artist of the Covenant family. His ghost now haunts the family mansion, but it is his rotting body that Patrick must do battle with.|
|Bethany Covanant||Bethany is Aaron's twin sister. She is fascinated by horticulture, the occult, and dark magic. She is fought in a pocket universe of her own creation, a decaying world known as 'Eternal Autumn'.|
|Lizbeth Covenant||The youngest of the Covenants. Has an affinity for books and succumbed to a disease that wasted her beauty and mind. She is depicted as a vampiress in a shredded gown, always in the consort of "howlers".|
|Ambrose Covenant||The black sheep of the Covenant family. Has a predilection for weapons, especially axes, and a simmering temper. Voiced by Clive Barker himself.|
A shard of some unearthly green rock. When Patrick wields it near a place that has a hidden image or message the stone will glow. It also has weak but useful firing function. When 'fired' the stone emits a pulse that will knock back any incoming enemies a short distance, though it doesn't actually harm them, sadly. If used very often, there is a chance that the Stone will summon a Gel'ziabar Hound, an incredibly powerful and dangerous enemy who can make short work of Patrick if he's not careful. On the positive side, while Patrick has the Gel'ziabar Stone selected, it will add a level of power to any spells he casts, going so far as to push a fully upgraded level five spell to the otherwise unreachable level six.
Your trusty six-shooter. Very accurate, though doesn't pack much of a punch. Patrick will eventually find silver bullets which inflict special damage.
Your average double-barrelled shotgun. Great at close range. Patrick can choose whether to fire one or both barrels at a time. Phosphorus shells can eventually be located that set Patrick's enemies on fire.
A mana-consuming melee weapon with a dark enchantment on it, the Scythe is devastating to most enemies, hacking human foes to pieces with little trouble. Its secondary fire mode is 'Frenzy' which steals health from enemies but causes a 'recharge' period where it can't be swung. The Scythe also has a function in the story; because of the dark spell cast upon it, it is the only weapon capable of truly defeating the cursed Covenant siblings, and even then only through decapitation.
This cannon has the head of an orange dragon. It twists and turns as if animate and alive, snorting icy spurts from its nostrils and mouth. Its primary function is to fire an icy blast of freezing magic at your foes. It can be charged up for more damage. Handily, it doesn't use any kind of ammo. Certain enemies are extremely vulnerable to the cold, but most are merely slowed down.
The spear gun functions as a sniper rifle with a very small clip-size, but it doesn't take very many shots to kill with this powerful device.
Essentially a rocket launcher, this weapon shoots a fiery phoenix that flies towards enemies. It primarily functions as a boss slayer. The phoenix can be guided manually by the player to its destination.
...because even demons need a little taste of urban mayhem.
Although technically classified as an item, used for blasting through obstructions, there's nothing stopping you from throwing a few spare sticks at your enemies to blow them to bits.
When Patrick casts this spell he is able to view ghostly images of past events and also hidden messages. For instance, when Patrick first arrives outside the estate he hears a ghostly voice say "Look" near a lamp post. If the player casts Scrye you will be able to view the ghostly image of a man hanging from the lamppost on a noose for a short while. The Gel'ziabar Stone will glow if the player is near a location that has something to be revealed by Scrye.
When you need a stream of magic missiles, you're looking for Ectoplasm. It's the standard magic attack spell. Not terribly accurate at range.
It eliminates certain magic barriers and can remove a few curses cast upon Patrick.
This spell resurrects the corpse of an enemy to fight for you for a short duration. The mana cost is pricey but sometimes you need a Hell hound to give you a hand, erm, paw. It can also be cast on certain human enemies to force them to commit suicide, much to their own horror.
Run faster, jump higher. We can build a better Occultist.
A magical barrier that gives you near invulnerability from the front only.
Patrick summons a series of skulls from the ground which can be flung a long distance for powerful explosive damage.
Zap them, Patrick. Zap it good. If cast while the spear gun is out, it charges the spear into a lightning rod, causing whatever it hits to be struck with a powerful lightning bolt.
Clive Barker's Undying was well-received critically. It received an aggregate score of 84.5% according to GameRankings.com based upon 38 reviews.
Long-time Gamespot reviewer, Greg Kasavin, rated the game as 9.1. He cited that the characters and enemies that you encounter are animated "fluidly" with "lifelike movements". While the voice acting may be "forced", Kasavin goes on to say that the overall sound design excellently serves all aspects of the game: exploration, horror, and combat.
"Undying has superb graphics, truly impressive sound effects, and fast-paced, enjoyable action sequences. The entire game is very atmospheric, and a lot of fun to play."
Whereas GameRevolution rated the game as C , stating that the game's linearity hurts its atmosphere because the numerous unexplained locked doors that halt your progress only serve to remind you that you're playing a game. The reviewer also cites weak AI, formulaic gameplay, and, despite the fact that it is a survival horror game and not an action shooter, the lack of multiplayer.
Despite a strong critical reception, the PC sales for Undying were very poor. Brady Bell, the game's producer, said:
"And your suspicions are correct, the Undying franchise is dead. Reviews and player support were awesome, but the sales sucked. I and the whole PC team are heartbroken, but we're moving on. No choice."
A PS2 version of Undying was planned, but cancelled, and any further entries into the series were also. If there had been a multiplayer patch in the works, this addition was also halted.