I don't know about you, but I hear the words dark and wood as a game title, and already I feel a shiver. Enter Darkwood, an especially creepy top-down survival horror, from Acid Wizard Studios. While it has been available to purchase and play for a few weeks through steam, the game became a news story recently due to a rather interesting decision made by the development team in regards to piracy. To encourage more players to the game, it was added to a popular pirate site by the devs themselves, downloadable by anyone for free. All they asked in return was that if players did enjoy the game, they would buy it to support ongoing production. A true test of the generosity of humankind, and there has been a very positive response to this action, personally, I think it shows a lot of passion in your product.
Well that's a tree...
I love how upon starting this game, it lets you know straight away that it is 'challenging and unforgiving', so no whining when you inevitably fail and die horribly! Sadly I found the controller quite janky, and ended up switching quite quickly over to mouse and keyboard for this one, so I was a little jittery with my WASD, but fell into step soon after. Movement, interactions and item management is relatively simple to understand, but I felt the slight fight mechanic was a little temperamental, particularly the quick attack. To use it, the player needs to click the mouse wheel, which was a struggle for me as my mouse has a sensitive scroll, so I spent much more time relying on the charged attacks to not die. However as a survival game fighting is not really a priority, so this was easy to get around.
Cheeky peek through the keyhole?
Scary games are not often my thing, as I am a big chicken, but I found myself captivated by this one, curiosity well and truly picked. The story holds depth and mystery and actually dares to be a bit different to other games of the genre, instead choosing to draw the player into the world and lore, rather than relying on jump scares to terrify. From my experience, Darkwood was a lot more jarring and haunting in place of heart pounding, the kind of horror that lingers in the back of your mind and sends that deep shiver up your spine and sticks there. The narrative is often very vague, and where you may expect to see cut-scenes or lengthy dialogues to explain what is happening, there is a grander focus on venturing out into the wilderness and discovering snippets of the truth yourself, exploration being the driver for progression.
I should have used the bandage
As you probably guessed from the title, it is dark in this game, one of the key components being the field of vision. Even though it is played top down, the player can only see what the character model can use their 'field of view', so no peaking around trees or through bushes. You also cannot see behind them, so there will be a lot of swiveling to make sure nothing is sneaking up behind or following you. This makes for an amazingly intense atmosphere, and really keeps players on high alert, which of course leads to scaring yourself more than anything. Artistically beautiful, and although a lot of the pallet is muted for that especially dingy dreary feel, there is a lot of vivid detail like the pages of a graphic novel. Remember that disturbing comic you bought on a whim? This is the game version.
Everything is locked!
Despite my failing and lack of skill in all things horror and survival, I really enjoyed this game. It has held my intrigue enough that I can easily see myself revisiting it to hunt for more clues and secrets, even though I am awful at surviving the night. The intensity and threat of fear was not something I expected and was one hundred percent welcome, as I am often drawn into games that give a unique and thrilling experience. I would not describe this as a typical horror game by any stretch, not what has come to be expected from the genre anyway and is a definite refreshing take and change of pace. I understand why the developers had enough faith in Darkwood to offer it at no cost, because there really is something magical about this game that players need to witness to truly grasp and ultimately appreciate.
Do you feel brave enough to take on this eerie title? It is available on Steam to buy should you wish to support the game, and there is a link here to the official website for the game which has a link to the free version as well.
A spooky jaunt through a mysterious, overgrown forest, it's dangerous to go alone into the Darkwood!
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