Horror and Survival in Darkwood Early Access
by Julie Morley
Acid Wizard Studio launched their IndieGogo campaign for Darkwood in May, raising roughly $57K for their project. The small studio already had some of the game completed at launch but needed extra funds to cover bills, living costs, miscellaneous administrative costs, and support for Mac and Linux exporting. The team promised Darkwood would be on Steam Early Access by July, and they certainly delivered; releasing the game on July 24th.
Darkwood is a top-down horror survival game (adding a hint of psychological play in there) with RPG and Rogue-like elements. In Darkwood, the main concentration is the balance of exploration and survival. You play a random survivor in Europe towards the end of the 20th century. There are no signs of your origin, identity, or even what’s exactly going on – it’s a completely blank slate. But something is afoot in the dark woods surrounding your hide out; the people crawling about have been affected by something and altered into monster-like, rabid beings.
In Darkwood, players explore the depths of the woods surrounding the hideout, seeking various resources, communicating with the strange folk residing in the area unaffected by the poisons, and averting any wild dogs or mutants lurking in the shadows. It’s a wild ride of suspense, panic, and frequent -oh so frequent- death.
First off, I want to say Darkwood proved to be cult-worthy and a prominent member of the horror survival genre, possibly capable of redefining it. Part of the horror and suspense aspect of Darkwood’s gameplay relies purely on atmosphere and letting the player give themselves goose bumps.
Only certain parts of the woods are decently lit, with the majority of the map is covered with blackened foliage that requires plenty of torches and flashlights to see into. Waves of rain and (especially) fog are constantly sweeping through the area. Additionally, the woods are typically silent, leaving only the sounds of your character’s breathing, heartbeat, and the steps they take. Being unsure if something would hop out and demand your haul your butt as far as humanly possible in this environment will set anyone up for the heebie jeebies – and Darkwood successfully pulled it off and then some.
Players have a limited amount of time to do this and when the night comes, they have to rush back to the home base to drink from the well. Somehow, the water from the well helps the player survive. Unfortunately, players need to block out any possibility of a creature offering a not-so-friendly visit as well. If you last through the night, you’re good. If you die, you lose all your recently obtained skills, but your inventory is okay. You start another day.
Darkwood is not exactly punishing but definitely refrains from holding the player’s hand. It takes hours to get into the swing of things and figure your way around the map (which a “you are here” marker would be quite handy on). The difficulty, though, is part of Darkwood’s charm.
Though only it its Alpha stage, everything Darkwood is impressive and engaging, so far. Even though Acid Wizard Studios is planning to add in significantly more locations, story content, and loot, they truly could leave Darkwood as is and the reception would be positive. With that in mind, I’m thoroughly excited to see what the future has in store for Darkwood later on this year.
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[author image=”http://cliqist.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/julie.jpg” ]Julie Morley is a freelance writer and comic artist from Spring, Texas. She attended the Academy of Art University for two years, studying Animation and Illustration. Whilst here, she learned about writing comic scripts, storyboards, and general storytelling. Since leaving college, she has been working on personal comic projects, stories, and illustrations. She aspires to release a self published comic within two years. For the majority of her life, she has been playing console games, typically being third-person shooters and sandboxes. Her favorite game of existence is Dark Cloud II (Dark Chronicle) and her favorite Indie game is Gone Home.[/author]