Written by: Cavan Scott (from a story by Crystal Frasier), Directed by John Ainsworth
In which a “necromantic pulse” causes hordes of zombies and other undead to stream from the Necropolis of Wati, eager to slay the living. Has the recent spate of explorations and excavations caused the dead to rise from their graves, or is some more sinister force behind this grisly catastrophe?
Listeners of Empty Graves may be forgiven for thinking at times that they’re listening to excerpts from a combat-heavy episode of The Walking Dead; the expanded running time seems to be taken up mostly by battle after battle with zombies and the occasional mummy. Not that this is a bad thing per se, but it does get a bit repetitious with moans and groans and hacks and slicings instead of visceral visuals.
After saving the day (and many innocent lives) during a zombie attack on an auction house, our heroes gain the respect and attention of the high priestess Septi (one of Wati’s civic leaders), who enlists their help in tracking down the cause of this mass reanimation. Accompanied by Qasin, a pompous but well-meaning psychopomp – a powerful magical being who guides the souls of the dead to their afterlives – they cross paths with the notorious Silver Chain (a gang that specialises in smuggling and trading human remains); rescue a kidnapped cleric; and re-enter the Necropolis (during daylight hours this time, having learned their lesson from their previous expedition).
Whereas The Half-Dead City made effective use of its expanded running time, the same cannot honestly be said of Empty Graves; its plot seems to consist largely of a series of side quests designed to keep the characters occupied until their climactic encounter with Nebta-Khufre, the necromancer responsible for the plague of undead. While there are occasional moments of character insight – Harsk’s distrust of Ezren’s fascination with magical items that could have darker uses; Valeros’s reasons for refusing magical healing for the wormpox he contracted in the Necropolis; and Merisiel’s hints at an unhappy relationship with her mother – the battles definitely take precedence. I hope future installments of Mummy’s Mask will address this imbalance.
Some plot threads end more abruptly that I was expecting, but upon further reflection, this makes sense, as the focus of the plot begins shifting to the bigger picture of the Forgotten Pharaoh himself and not simply the very powerful magical artefact he left behind…
Verdict: Disappointingly meandering at times, this installment delivers lots of action but lacks its predecessor’s strengths. 6/10