Alex Cleary awakes to find himself in a Dark Wood.
Darkwood is a top-down survival horror game by indie developer Acid Wizard Studio, and even in its alpha version the game looks beautifully grim and fearsome.
Dim the lights, put on your headphones and immerse yourself in the atmospherically eerie world of Darkwood.
As soon as you are dropped into Darkwood’s world, you immediately start to sense the sinister and otherworldly presence of the game. The attention to detail of the music and sound effects used is impressive as they elevate the overall dark and spooky ambience of the game. At one point during my first session, I left my character standing in the middle of the woods as I got distracted by someone in the real world, when all of a sudden I could hear footsteps through my headphones. My first thought was that this was probably just some randomly triggered sound loop, when unexpectedly a creature jumped out of the dark woods and mauled me to death, making me jump high enough I could have broken a Brick Block faster than Mario himself.
Dark and light, unlike the promises made for Dark Souls 2, play a major role in the overall design of the game and are used as a clever mechanism that becomes a crucial part of your journey the deeper you delve into this unforgiving world. The protagonist/player has a very limited field of vision that can be expanded with various items that emit light. These will expand your visibility but will ultimately prevent you from seeing what is going on behind your back or what monstrosity might lie ahead in the dense and dark woods (pun intended!).
This clever mechanic works out favorably for the game’s survival horror genre and adds a sense of urgency and cautiousness to the decisions the player will have to make whenever they decide to leave their safe zone. The top-down player’s perspective offers a unique experience and a breath of fresh air to a genre that hasn’t seen much love in recent times in terms of game releases. One might find their eyes playing tricks on them whilst they constantly run through bonelike and bare tree branches and thick fog, while crows jumping out on you can create a couple of good scares on their own.
Survival in the game is heavily based on a craft system, where supplies and item recipes are gathered in order to create weapons, edibles and light sources that will aid you on your journey.
Darkwood’s combat system is simple and practical, however if you are to survive in this world a little bit of strategic vigilance – such as setting the right kind of trap – will help more than head on combat.
As far as the story goes, information is scarce and more is revealed to you as you progress and interact with the peculiar inhabitants of Darkwood. However the video game in its current alpha stage has certain drawbacks. Darkwood suffers from some truly horrifyingly lengthy loading screens and the lack of a dedicated save option can cripple your overall progress. At times the game seems overly hard and I would imagine this is deliberate. What would be so terrifying about trying to survive in a world where everything is as weak as splashing Magikarps? Nevertheless I feel some balancing might be required for the early stages of the game at least.
Overall Darkwood is a unique entry in the survival horror video game genre and even though it suffers from a few bugs and errors this is to be expected in its alpha version. I am truly excited to see what Acid Wizard Studio can deliver in the final and official release of the game.