The setting for any horror game is crucial. If the setting doesn’t align quite right with the backstory or atmosphere, then you’re trying to build a house on shifting sand and it has no hold over the audience. Darkwood wastes no time building itself up to be something terrifying with a cut-scene that looks like it was taken straight from The Walking Dead.
With a mixture of gritty noir and tense undertones, Darkwood defines itself as something of a gem among the Steam Early Access titles. It uses a top-down perspective that really places the players on edge right from the start then starts to crank up the fear through the music, audio effects and lighting.
For the most of the game, you have to survive the creatures trapped in the forest and, more importantly, the night. Without questioning who or where you are, your only goal is to somehow make it through this hellish wooded landscape. Of course, the sheer amount of clues and notes you see referencing some sort of apocalyptic event that has turned the world into the way it is, is staggering.
Concerning the survival end of the game, the player is given access to a neat crafting system which is something that the gaming community is probably used to by now. For example, rags and alcohol slapped together from a backpack equals a first aid kit capable of healing damage taken, the same rules apply for items like a torch.
RPG elements are folded in by way of a ‘drug’ that the player injects in order to increase your own fortitude, giving powers that are wholly necessary in order to keep the player living through the days that pass. Bigger pockets, less aggressive wildlife, better rafting skills, they all come with a tier unlock as you inject more into your veins.
Darkwood is a brilliant addition to the survival horror genre and is likely one of the best indie productions out there at the moment, as it neglects to rely on simple scares or loud noises to grip the players into a real sense of hopelessness and terror, bettered by its smooth art style and intuitive mechanics.
Don’t get lost in the woods now.
Platform(s): PC, Mac, Linux
Genres: RPG, Adventure, Roguelike, Survival Horror
Release date: 07/24/2014
Publisher: Acid Wizard Studio
Developer: Acid Wizard Studio