Today I am writing to talk to you about a videogame called Haunting Ground, or Demento if you happened to pick up a copy in Japan.
The game was published by Capcom in 2005 for the PlayStation 2.
The story starts with Fiona, an 18-year-old girl, waking up in a castle dungeon, having recently suffered a car accident with her father, who doesn’t survive. She doesn’t remember much and finds her cage to be unlocked. Fiona has to explore the castle with the aid of Hewi, a German Shepard.
Through exploration and unravelling the mystery of the castle, Fiona learns that she carried an alchemic element called Azoth. Riccardo, the master of the castle, wants that element.
She learns, from a ‘friend’ Lorenzo, that she needs a staff in order to escape the castle, but before she can retrieve this, she encounters the groundskeeper who wants to make her one of his dolls. After defeating the groundskeeper, they meet a maid, this maid is very disturbing, being envious of Fiona’s ability to touch, taste, feel pleasure and have children. Fortunately, she is defeated and impaired by the glass from a celling window.
Finally, Fiona locates Riccardo, who has up until now been hidden beneath a hood but when he reveals his face it is that of her dead father. Riccardo reveals that Fiona’s father and himself are clones and that he orchestrated the car accident to kill Fiona’s father as he was not happy that he had left and had a life outside the castle. Riccardo intends to use Fiona, in particular, her womb and the element Azoth to grant himself eternal life. They fight and Hewie knocks Riccardo off the roof.
It is now that Fiona’s supposed friend, Lorenzen reveals himself to be the true final villain. He is a shapeshifter of sorts as well as being the person who created the two clones. He created clones in order to try and create Azoth so he could be immortal. It turns out Fiona’s dad also had Azoth but he left the castle before it could be used. Lorenzo pursues Fiona but she kills him. However, despite being killed he pops up again, in a much younger form. Fiona and Hewie kill him again, with lava this time and the castle crumbles.
But Lorenzo is still not done, he returns as a flaming skeleton and chases Fiona as she heads for the exit. He does die this time however and Fiona and Hewie escape the castle.
My thoughts – General
Haunting Ground is remarkably similar to Capcom’s other series, Clock Tower and has been heralded as a spiritual successor to it.
The game received mixed reviews upon release.
My thoughts – Characters
Like with many games the characters are a little underdeveloped. Fiona is reasonably well-conceived but she does suffer from this. She is there to serve a purpose, that being allowing the player to experience the setting and events through her. But Fiona is not a silent protagonist and does get some development.
Character motivations are a mix in this game. Fiona’s motivation to get the hell out of the castle is a good motivation, easily relatable and understandable. The villains have a typical villain motivation of wanting eternal life.
My thoughts – Plot
The plot in this game is fun, the twists and turns at the end are a lot of fun to navigate even if they are a bit out there.
The only aspect of the plot I had some issue with was the obsession with Fiona’s ability to have children and the suggested rape that at least three of the villains wanted to force upon her. But I cannot deny that it did add to the feelings of threat and vulnerability.
The plot certainly had a lot of suspense, especially towards the end and in the final fight. It was a little predictable in places but that didn’t detract from the fun.
The plot tapped into a lot of fears, from the classic horror fear inspired by the setting and plot set up, to the monsters and supernatural entities that you couldn’t always fight.
The atmosphere was well maintained throughout the story, employing the use of psychological fears, and gross-out horror with the physical/sexual threats against Fiona. The stakes were clear throughout, with survival being the main one as well as uncovering the mystery of the castle and the motivations of Riccardo.
My thoughts – Gameplay
The gameplay involves exploration and evading enemies with the occasional fight. If you’ve received a letter from me before, you may already know that when it comes to horror games, I am a big fan of disempowerment as a means of creating tension. I honestly do not understand how a game can be considered a horror title if your main protagonist is capable of fighting off enemies easily. Unless, of course, it’s a more psychological horror. It’s hard to feel afraid when your enemies aren’t threatening. So, the gameplay in this game really worked for me. Especially when Fiona will panic, and you lose control of her as she flees.
I also especially liked the inclusion of Hewie, he’s not just a cute doggo he is intrinsic to the gameplay with you being able to give him clear instructions on how to behave. He is a good boy.
Overall, the game is good at making you feel vulnerable, be it through gameplay or by its slightly voyeuristic feel. You, as Fiona, are almost always under threat.