Darkwood Impressions: Survival Horror in Mediocre Fashion

Game: Darkwood
Developer: Acid Wizard Studio
Publisher: Acid Wizard Studio
Reviewed: PC

Darkwood is the latest roguelike to grab gamers attention and with good reason. It is a top-down horror title that will get survival players excited. It takes two well-known elements – horror and survival – and mixes them together very nicely. Sadly though, after a few novelty scares, and a couple of hours into the game, it becomes more of a chore than anything else.

Games that throw people in with little to no instructions could sometimes be really fun, look at the Souls series for instance. Learning things as you go, uncovering new mechanics, and seeing variants of enemies could be loads of fun if done correctly; however, Darkwood did not manage to pull it off. This game literally says from the very beginning it will not hold your hand. You will be thrown into the game without no instructions on how to survive, cook, heal, or level up. After an hour into the game, I didn’t even know there were skills to upgrade, I only found out about them by accidentally pressing a wrong button on the keyboard. The game holds back a little too much, causing more frustration than wanted.

Gameplay is very simplistic, so there isn’t much problem there. You will gradually learn what does what and the premise of the game doesn’t take too long for you to understand what’s going on in the world of Darkwood. By just looking at the launch trailer you could tell that this game was going to be scary, even if it has a top-down perspective. Starting from the very beginning of the game you could tell the developers didn’t want to hold back on pushing this post-apocalyptic themed world. You will genuinely jump out of your seats if you play with the lights off like I did.

The narrative of Darkwood opens up very strong giving you a good look at the scary world you inhabit while also laying some groundwork for the player. However, like most of the game, after a couple of hours, the story sort of disappears and gets shadowed by the open world survival element portion of the game. This was a huge bummer as the first hour of Darkwood was by far the best part of the game. Once the story disappears, there will be a timer subconsciously in your head ticking down to when the game will finally start to bore you out. The world is big enough to have you scouring for gasoline and other useful items for hours, but there is only so much you could do it until you have to get back to your hideout and wait out the night. This is when you will have to board up and wait throughout the night and hopefully survive.

As scary as the night could be, it is mostly you standing there waiting until the sun comes up so you could do it all over again. It’s a rinse a recycle mechanic which overstays its welcome a little too quickly. However, this is a trend throughout the entire game. Like mentioned before, after the first couple of hours of the game generally starts to get boring; and if it’s not boring, it gets frustrating as it will have you looking for answers which will not be given.

Darkwood is a hard game to actively warn people against. Even though my first impressions of the game aren’t too hot and there are more negatives to the game than pros, Darkwood still has some very cool elements worth exploring. The mysterious story and the strange characters you come across will have you wanting to learn more about them; the beautiful post-apocalyptic world is worth exploring, and the scares that the game has is worth seeing.

Darkwood is one of those games that will really have to be up your alley. You will need to like survival games, you will need to be able to embrace a horrific world, and you will need to be able to figure mechanics out on your own. The game isn’t too pricey, coming in only at $14.99. However, you must be warned, this game is not for everyone and that is OK.

Full Disclosure: A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for purposes of this review.