Combat is presented in third-person. Clerval leads his squad of monsters around the battlefield and can have a decisive personal effect on the outcome. Other friendly units behave autonomously according to the tactics selected before the battle.
The play can zoom out to a map showing the whole battlefield, and can see where friendly officers are in trouble. The player will need to direct his squad to address problem areas in order to achieve victory.
Solo missions take place in a variety of locations: Highgate Cemetery, the Limehouse Docks in London, an isolated chateau, the Latin Quarter in Paris, the Versailles Palace.
Solo missions very often involve an element of stealth. Success in the mission typically unlocks later missions and/or provides help in battles, in the form of new technology, information or special items.
- Clerval must attend a dinner-dance at the Savoy and speak with Ada Lovelace. She can help in later levels by providing decoded information from the enemy.
- A rival officer in Clerval’s regiment challenges him to a duel. If Clerval wins, he will have a greater influence over troops in subsequent battles.
- Traitors drug Clerval and abduct Lady Lovelace to ransom her to the French. In the role of one of Clerval’s monsters, the player must get her back without panicking the citizens of Mayfair.
- Clerval goes alone to meet a spy in no man’s land. However, the rendezvous turns out to be a trap and he has to escape and evade his way back to safety.
Between levels, you get to repair or reconfigure your monsters in the laboratory. The lab is represented as a 3D environment that you can walk around. The lab is depicted as a gothic chamber with flickering tesla coils, bubbling fluids, and lightning flaring outside as rain beats on the shutters. In glass tanks around the lab float your monsters. A superimposed screen shows body parts in storage in your vats. Success in previous level provides you with new body parts and (more rarely) with new heads.
Body parts can be removed from monsters to the vats, or taken from the vats to attach to a monster. The heads define each monster. You can change any other body part, but each head remains suspended in its tank. Sometimes you won’t have enough spare parts in to field a whole team of fully-repaired monsters. The choice then is whether to go with a small team using all your best parts, or a larger group of half-made (and so weaker) monsters.
Each head is a named individual with his own history and, while they are this dormant state, you will sometimes hear them muttering as they dream of the life they had. The life story of each head develops over the course of several levels, as snatches of memory float to the surface. For a player who chooses to follow them, these life stories – some poignant, some brutal, some darkly funny – will each have as much depth as a good short story.
Sometimes you will acquire the head of an enemy or rival – or even a friend who features in the backstory. These heads may have special knowledge such as the layout of a chateau or a secret route behind enemy lines. Listening to their stories unlocks additional scenes in the backstory – which in turn may reveal unsettling things about Clerval’s own past.
Whenever you win new technology in a level, this is where it appears along with new options associated with it. For example, acquiring Moreau Hybrids allows you to attach bats’ wings or giant eel bodies to your heads, instead of human parts.
The cutscenes will be used to illuminate characterization and build the backstory, rather than to provide the player with superfluous mission briefings.
Many of these sequences will be flashbacks to Clerval’s past. Others show scenes whose significance will only become clear later. The cutscenes are presented in a style of “found drama”, in which the viewer is eavesdropping on secrets of great personal importance. Not everything is immediately explained. Some events seen may be subjective or open to various interpretations. This contrasts with the more common style of “staged drama” which resembles the storytelling grammar of a traditional movie.
Examples of this style can be seen in movies like Christopher Nolan’s Memento or Guy Maddin’s Careful. When successful, the effect is to intrigue and involve the viewer by presenting fragmentary scenes that can be gradually assembled into the complete story.
The player is free to skip the cutscenes. However, they should be a rewarding viewing experience in their own right. Even players who skip right through just playing the levels may later come back and watch the cutscenes like watching the extras on a DVD.
This innovative style will add to Frankenstein’s Legions as a groundbreaking, quality entertainment product unsurpassed by any previous videogame. It is especially appropriate to the lean-forward medium of games – where the plot-based, theatrical style of cinema-influenced cutscenes can often merely seem an unwelcome interruption.