An Intro Guide to Realms of the Haunting

This is a spoiler-free guide for people who wish to check out the game Realms of the Haunting, a first person shooter and adventure game hybrid developed by Gremlin Interactive and published by Interplay in 1996. This is not a walkthrough and is just meant as an intro to the game to help people get started playing it. Gremlin Interactive was a British software developer that had been around since the 80s. In the mid 90s they developed a 3D engine that they used for a first person adventure game called Normality and then used the engine to develop their FPS/adventure hybrid Realms of the Haunting. The game plays a bit like a 90s fps but also features inventory items and puzzles, mazes, and journals to read. The game reviewed very well at release but as far as I can tell, was not a huge commercial hit. You can read a good review of the game and its history here.

first person view of a player shooting a monster in an old house

Why Should I Play It?

If you’re someone who has an interest in both adventure games and first person shooters, I think it’s worth playing. While the game isn’t without its flaws (see review I linked to above), there still hasn’t been anything like it since then. Even with the massive retro FPS revival happening right now, I haven’t seen anyone developing a game that lists this as its inspiration even though I think the FPS/adventure combination is very novel. There’s also a lot of FMV in the game which I find very charming. You can listen to the Adventure Game Club talk about it here

How Do I Get Started?

It’s easy to get the game running on modern computers. The game runs pretty well on DOSBox if you already own it. If you don’t have the game, you can buy it on GOG or Steam. I strongly recommend the UK to US patch. The patch allows the user to change the difficulty and also the key bindings. This is really important because by default the controls for this game are pretty clunky and you may want to switch the keys to what every other FPS uses.

Tips for Playing Realms of the Haunting

There’s a couple things to keep in mind while playing the game that will help you avoid some headaches people can run into with this game, and to fully appreciate the game.

Save Often
You will want to save regularly. Encounters with enemies or traps can go poorly and may require reloading, especially since there are points in the game where the game isn’t generous with health pickups. As far as I know, there are no softlocks in this game that require you to restart the game because of something you missed or action you took.

Don’t Save on Moving Platforms
There are a couple parts in this game where you have to do some platform jumping. Due to the clunky controls, people will be tempted to save each time they make a successful jump. Do not do this! There is a bug in the game that will cause you to fall to your doom as soon as you load a save on a moving platform. Just save before and after each platform jumping segment and use multiple save files.

Conserve Ammo
Even though there’s technically no softlocks, the game can feel like it’s impossible to complete if you’re not careful about your ammo and health. Early on in the game, try to use your melee weapons when possible so you’ll have lots of ammo. Also consider redoing an enemy encounter if you lose a lot of health.

Read the Manual
When I played the game, I didn’t realize you could easily switch weapons using keybindings and I played the entire game switching weapons through the inventory screen. Don’t make the same mistake I did! This great review of the game at The Genesis Temple mentions that there’s also a patch floating around that gives the game WASD + mouse controls.

It’s Ok to Use Hints!
Adventure games can be tough and puzzles that make sense to one person may not be easy for someone else. If you’re feeling frustrated by being stuck on a puzzle too long and it’s becoming less fun, consider looking up a hint. I feel like the guide on UHS Hints is good at helping the player without giving too much away.

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