I've followed this game since 2014, and seen it go through major and minor changes. But one thing that's remained the same the entire way is that intense feeling of dread at night, and fearing for my life with every encounter from mere dogs, to monsters, to worse. In a masochistic sense, I love this game. I love the developers; three graphic designers, and a dog, with little to no programming experience prior to Darkwood - their first title, and a wild imagination for horror fans to explore.
Darkwood is a horror survival game which relies on subtle visual and auditory cues, often combined, to create an immersive experience despite it's top-down perspective. The game does not rely on jumpscares or typical horror tropes you may see in more casual horror titles.
One feature of Darkwood is your limited field of view where objects and others are not visible unless they are being directly looked at. This limitation greatly adds to the immersion as you may be sneaking through a creaky wooden house, and you hear something moving in another room but have no idea what it could be.
Another feature of Darkwood is its' unique day/night system where you spend your day gathering supplies to make weapons or defences, or exploring the complex and mystical lore of the forest and its inhabitants, and your night rushing back to base only to cower behind barricades and traps. Hide behind a wardrobe and wait out the night, equip a handy melee weapon while laying traps and prepare to strike anyone or anything that comes through that front door (or window), or just pick up a shotgun and blast whatever dares to come near your hideout.
And how about the combat? Well most people are often confused initially, but everything is explained in the tutorial. Fighting certain enemies can often become similar to learning how to dodge and counter similar to Dark Souls or Hollow Knight. Running, dodging, quick attacking, and heavy attacking all drain stamina. If you haven't had much experience in fighting in this game; running is a perfectly viable option, and is even encouraged in some situations. Later in the game you can retrieve or craft firearms, but don't think that firearms are a solution to all your problems; ammo is scarce, aiming is tough in a tight situation, and the sound will only give you unwanted attention.
Aside from Darkwood's intense gameplay is its' compelling characters and story; witness a dark Eastern European fairy tale, a tragic mystery, and the harrowing consequences of your actions, as you try to escape from your predicament. The story has a definitive beginning and an unexpected but satisfying end, all of which may not seem apparent at all at first, but all can be revealed if you look hard enough at the smallest details in an environment where nothing is bland. Between all this, your character is dumped right into the middle with little memory of how he got there. As you progress through the game your character will write his thoughts in a journal and commentate on certain areas around the randomly generated map to give the player an idea of what he was doing before the events of the game. He will also be forced to make moral decisions which alter the world around him.
The game has its' beautiful moments from certain results of your good deeds and the amount of descriptive writing in it, and especially the relief of surviving just a single night, for which you get rewarded for handsomely.
If you take interest in the highlighted terms in this review, then I highly recommend this game for you.
And Ross, if you ever read this, I apologise for writing this much but I am a very passionate gamer
Respect the woods for it will not hold your hand.
"Better hide in that hideout of yours before dark... and pray for the morning light."