A couple of years after the PC release, the Poles Acid Wizard Studio finally bring on our consoles the survival horror with Darkwood top view, so we immersed ourselves in the horror of the “forest” to find out what surprises we reserve. That’s what we discovered!
Darkwood is an atypical survival horror game, which doesn’t bother to provide us with a narrative basis at the beginning of the game or to explain what’s happening or what our purpose is, but leaves it to the players to discover as the plot and the secrets of the forest full of dangers in which we find ourselves. That’s why I’m going to try to reveal as little as possible in this review, but we’re going to have to reveal something about the game’s mechanics; if you don’t want to spoil the pleasure of discovering it all by yourself in any way, however, you can skip this peer-to-peer section and read only the Love and Hate points, as well as the conclusion of the review.
Let’s start with the Darkwood prologue, which is a bit tricky. Here, in fact, we take control of a doctor engaged in his daily routine in search of supplies to bring back to his wooden house, in the middle of a dark forest. Everything takes place with a top-down view and gameplay that looks like a mix between a point and click (you can examine and use objects and put resources in the inventory), a survival game (there is a component of crafting and conservation of resources) and the violent gameplay, albeit much slower and less chaotic, of a Miami Hotline. But we soon discover that the doctor wants to escape from this forest and to do so does not hesitate to hurt others who, like him, are trapped in there. After the prologue, we discover that the real protagonist of the adventure is one of the unfortunate victims of the doctor, a man who finds himself a prisoner in the doctor’s house and that from that moment will have two goals: to survive the threats of a hostile place and escape alive and well.
The gameplay loop of the title owes much to survival titles such as Don’t Starve or Minecraft: there is in fact a base to defend and fortify (the doctor’s house, in fact, with the latter mysteriously disappeared), with the need to go to visit supplies and items during the day when the dangers are less looming, and then defend themselves with their fingernails and teeth at night, where our worst nightmares come to life in this crazy forest. Crazy people, mutated people, stray dogs and much more put themselves between the protagonist and the longed-for way out, with a fairly basic combat system where the chances of survival are inevitably linked to the objects found, since it is possible to use different types (both found and built with the crafting system) as weapons but which are all subject to wear and tear. From sticks up to complete machine guns the game provides us with arsenal really not bad, in addition to the ability to “level” with different skills upgradeable.
Darkwood is not an action game, however. The fighting is something to which you must always be prepared but are not the focus of the game. It is instead the exploration of unknown areas, the darkness beyond the hedge, where it is precisely the unknown to offer real terror rather than squalid jumpscare or eternal assaults of brainless monsters. The protagonist is moved slowly with the left analog stick, with the second stick managing the direction of the visual cone. This is the only real area visible to the player, who sees many objects and especially enemies only if they enter this area. So you’ll have to look around often, because despite the two-dimensional view from above, in fact we see only a small part of what surrounds us.
As the adventure progresses we encounter several characters who, like the protagonist, find themselves trapped in this mysterious forest. There are those who help, such as a salesman who passes near the house of the protagonist bringing every day new materials and objects, but not all will prove so friendly. It will soon become clear that things are happening at the edge of the paranormal in this mysterious forest, so the sooner we get out of it the better. How to get to the exit, however, can vary from several factors, as there are some forks in the plot where the story proceeds according to the choices of the player.
Whatever solution you choose, you’ll get to the final phase of the game in about 15 hours. The game world is partially open world and is randomly generated, but there are several important areas designed by hand, whose positions can change from one playthrough to another. Replayability can be given by this factor but also by the relatively open structure of the plot, which allows among other things to live different endings. If you want a real challenge you can choose the highest difficulties that involve the permadeath forcing us to start again from the beginning to each death, while the normal difficulty we lose only the resources that we have on us. Finally, I would like to point out that Darkwood provides a good translation into Italian for all the texts of the game.
Darkwood is a survival horror experience very different from the canons of the genre both modern and classic, able to offer a world full of terror and a satisfying story. The real fear is generated by an excellent sound system and the awareness that in the dark forest can hide anything, which scares even more than the actual arrival of enemies. Unfortunately, however, the gameplay that realizes these excellent concepts is quite fluctuating, because of a slow game system, confusing and frankly not very funny even in the fighting. For those looking for a unique and memorable horror game Darkwood will be able to give many satisfactions, but as for playability unfortunately is not at the levels of the competition.