Ok, let me level with you here: I am a wuss. Hearing noises while not knowing from who or where they originated is particularly horrifying to me. I would rather see an axe-murderer walking towards me than know that one may exist. When I’m home alone, I turn the hallway light on just to walk down it. Not because I’m afraid of the dark, but because not seeing my path makes me uneasy. Horror games take advantage of this feeling, and use darkness and the unknown to keep you from ever feeling too comfortable. In spite of this, I enjoy more than my share of them.
Darkwood is not an exception. This game knows exactly what scary is, and it does it well. It’s another one of the ever-popular Steam Early-Access survival/crafting/horror games, and by the time you finish the prologue you will know fear. Not just that, but a little bit of surprise and disgust for good measure. You might not expect that from a top-down game–Oh, did I forget that part? Yeah, Darkwood is played from above, and it’s executed perfectly.
Darkwood doesn’t waste time holding your hand. You start out in your house, and are told that “bad things are outside” and “be careful at night”. Off you go!
“Wait, how do I attack?”
Pressing the right and left mouse buttons are supposed to let you wind up and attack, but you soon realize that you are completely helpless bare-handed. Your fists might as well be two mushy apples as far as your enemies may be concerned, and the pain doesn’t stop there. That sweet lumber axe you found? Enjoy it while it lasts, because your weapons will break, and oh how fast do they break. Repair kits will let you fix things good as new, but they’re rare. Get ready to run and hide… or die a pitiful, impotent death.
It’s not all bad news in Darkwood. Find enough local fauna and you can cook up a batch of “medicine” to make Heisenberg proud. Each dose will let you pick a new skill to help ease your pain; these new perks may cause the wild, mutated animals to be less aggressive, or they can let you have moments of clairvoyance and allow you to see more than just what your vision cone would normally allow. These are small miracles though, as death brings with it a penalty: the most recently learned perk goes bye-bye. Did you enjoy that extra hotbar slot? Enjoy having to survive without it. In addition, too much of daddy’s medicine causes horrific dreams and hallucinations that will leave the hair on your neck standing upright.
Right now, Darkwood is only in Alpha, so there is theoretically a lot more game to come. This is pretty impressive considering how solid it already is. None of Darkwood‘s systems are super deep, but their basic functions are satisfying. Combat works simply: right-click charges and aims your attack, and left-click lets it loose. Crafting is equally easy: collect materials, pull up your crafting menu, and select what you want. It works, it’s not overly complicated like some games, and it doesn’t require complex ingredients.
If anything I’ve mentioned sounds intriguing to you, it’s worth a buy even while on Steam Early-Access. The length is comparable to some other full games, and the randomized nature of the loot and locations will keep you coming back multiple times. If you’re (understandably) not into buying games in Alpha, keep an eye on this game. Darkwood is gonna be great.