On May 15, 2024, we moved from the quaint Victorian countryside to the not-so-quaint London of 1888: whimsical botany and floral moseying made way for supernatural murders and bickering immortals.

Botany Manor was a lovely indie game that demonstrated how small-scale niche titles can present historical subject matter where mainstream audiences don’t necessarily look for it, and do so (mostly) both effectively and affectively.

Dance of Death: Du Lac & Fey demonstrated how a game can evidently be a product of great passion and skill, but still flop hard if it’s an unfinished product – and thus, near all care for historical detail that clearly went into the production risks getting snowed under. It felt like this game either did not go through a play-testing phase, or the results of said phase were not implemented.

The game boldly combines elements of Arthurian legend, folklore, and historical fact: you get to walk around Victorian London as Lancelot du Lac (yes) and his longtime companion Morgan le Fey (…who got turned into a dog by Merlin centuries ago, yes) and solve one of the most famous murder mysteries in English history: Jack the Ripper is stalking the streets of Whitechapel and it’s up to the titular characters to put a stop to the killings.

Pretty wild set-up if you ask me.

What’s not to love? Well… the controls are more of a horror than the actual murders, and the few-and-far-between gamic sections often feel more like a hastily implemented afterthought than an actual part of the game.

Yet, because of the Promise of the Premise^TM (I personally really like the setting and the elements of the game that do work), and because I feel it’s an interesting exercise to stream Dance of Death and pick apart what does shine through the smoking train wreck that is the overall game-play, I hope to return to it sometime. Co-host Corine has also expressed interest, provided that I’ll be the one grappling with the game’s janky controls.

So who knows? Mayhap we’ll get to talk to and about more immortal Arthurian characters, deeply awkward London policemen, and (fingers crossed) cockney seagulls.

Sophie Paauw is currently studying Archaeology (BA) at Leiden University, working as an intern at VALUE, and recently wrote a thesis on how we shape material, material(-ity) shapes the past and the past shapes us… and how D&D plays into that, chiefly. Amongst other things, Sophie is interested in the narrative aspect of archaeology, and fascinated by the way the past, present and future find each other in stories and legend (and games, be that classic TTRPGs like D&D or one of the many video games they stream over on the VALUE twitch channel).

Corine Gerritsen is doing a PhD in the Playful Timemachines project at Leiden University. She is occupied with distinguishing those elements that make up the past in video games. With a background in ancient history, it is unsurprising she plays too many games with ‘Rome’ in the title. She is terrible at platformer-games, but great at being (morally) terrible in Crusader Kings, she enjoys adventuring in Skyrim, Assassin’s Creed or The Whitcher, and loves building cute houses in games as Valheim or Enshrouded. When not playing with pixels, she enjoys going to book cafes, buy gothic novels and fantasy books, and test the absolute weight limit of her bookshelf.
Twitter: @CorineGerritse3