Game Curious Plus: Darkwood - Scary or Horrific?

Justin gets creeped out in another forest and its asking him to do some truly horrific acts just to survive. Is it worth it?

Previous Darkwood experience

  • Noticed it when it first went into Early Access as an interesting looking horror game.
  • Read a few reviews after the full release.

Initial Expectations, Hopes, Dreams, Fears

  • I was a little intimidated by the survival, crafting, and resource gathering aspects.
  • I thought it was going to be scary, but I wasn't sure in what way.
  • I didn't know how level randomization would come into play while balancing a horror atmosphere.
  • I wasn't sure if it would be fun to play or just brutal.

What actually happened

Hoo boy, that prologue messed with my head. I appreciate it a lot more now that I've had some distance from it. Nothing like starting a game by going through some trauma and a bit of a bait and switch.

I did not enjoy my initial hour with Darkwood. I felt like I was fighting the game on top of dealing with horror content that really struck some personal nerves. It was frustrating and tough to learn how to play amidst its claustrophobic atmosphere and the sense of urgency that creates.

Darkwood

Away from the perils of learning to play the game under duress, there were some truly harrowing moments that stuck out. As a horror game it succeeded in holding my attention but also filling me with dread about continuing to play. I did get absorbed enough that I cared about keeping my character alive even if I felt hopeless in having any means to control its survival. The scarcity of weapons and my ignorance of the dangers of the darkness had me on edge for the entire game session.

Once I caught my breath and my heartrate returned to normal, I admired Darkwood for successfully getting under my skin. That's not easy for a game to do, and I never really expected a top down game to be able to do that.

Will I keep playing?

In some regards I got exactly what I was looking for out of Darkwood, but that doesn't mean it's easy to play. The well executed horror atmosphere on top of time/resource management make the entire experience incredibly stressful. It's not a criticism, but a fact about the game and an impressive design achievement. I don't want to play any more Darkwood, but I think it's certainly going to pull me back anyway so that I can see what else is in those woods.

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