Gloomywood / Big Ben Interactive (studio)
17 March 2017 (released)
15 March 2017
Frédérick Raynal, the original creator of Alone in the Dark has gone off the radar in recent years until his reveal of the new survival horror title in question. The title 2Dark could represent so many things within the game, the mature content, the disturbing themes, bleak story or the fact the game world is engulfed in darkness. None the less the title is fitting for the experience players are in for.
Set in the mid 1970’s, where a gristle and tired private eye known as Smith is taking on a mighty dangerous job. Rather personal is his series of tasks and one that will help him find some redemption and peace. Many years prior to the events of the game’s story his children were kidnapped and his wife brutally murdered. Now Smith is determined to save as many children as he can from killer clowns, perverted millionaires and doctors who wear pig masks while having some unsavoury attractions to dead bodies.
Smith’s journey will allow him to expose the deranged underbelly of Gloomywood while providing him an array of moral choices and a chance to possibly discover the fate of his own two children.
The nature and manner of 2Dark will very shocking and dives into an area which may be difficult. But this is a bold theme to go with as many developers and designers don’t often put into gameplay and storytelling saving children from mass murders and sex offenders. The visuals, tone and atmosphere all work perfectly to create an uneasy and dread filled journey with an unsettling sense of danger with every step you make.
The tension and horror setting of 2Dark works well to craft an intense stealth based experience. Players will control Smith as he explores various locations including a run-down funfair, hospital and a sinister corporate complex. Your main objective for each level is to find and rescue as many children as you can and obtain vital clues that’ll reveal the next point of interest in Gloomywood.
2Dark is primarily focuses on stealth based gameplay while investigation and basic combat is also included. Smith is able to hide in shadows to avoid detection or equip certain items such as a mop and bucket in order to pull off a crude disguise. Along with this, he can interact with objects in the environments to his advantage, whether he switches off a power box to cause a blackout or turn of a host of security cameras. Segments of 2Dark are forgiving as many NPCs will often give you the chance to turn back and leave a forbidden area while some others won’t be so forgiving. You’re given a slight break in some situation mainly because Smith can easily die.
Most NPCs are very powerful or if an alarm is tripped, expect some heavy resistance. There’s also all manner of death traps that’ll end you if you’re not too careful. How 2Dark handles the experience for players is to present a trial and error formula of play. Often most dangers don’t become recognisable until you engage with it or die by it. There is an aesthetically neat way of saving the game where players will have to combine a lighter with a pack of smokes. Not only does this set up some character depth but creates tension as this usually leave players vulnerable for a few seconds as the game saves.
While 2Dark has all the right elements to make it a tremendous and highly original horror title, there are a few issues which harbour it from that status. There’s often some impairment on NPC movements, causing them to get stuck in doorways, resulting in a halt in progression. It wouldn’t be so bad if there was a more advanced saving system, i.e. being able to save multiple saves. I gather this helps build some form of tension but this is clearly a game where making a simple mistake most often results in failure.
There are also some inconsistencies with the stealth mechanics that are fairly baffling. If you’re walking normally with a guard in the next room, there’s a big chance they’ll hear you and come to investigate. However if your same location/situation you can shoot someone without anyone ever knowing or taking notice. So a couple of footsteps ring all forms of alarm bells but firing a loud firearm doesn’t attraction any attention.
There’s also a few other issues including a very obscure acknowledgement of your health while many items you find in the world don’t seem to serve a recognisable purpose, leading to a lot of confusion and back tracking. It doesn’t help to make a stealth game and not have a hide mechanic. This would relieve some stress on the crudely executed mechanic that allows you to hide in the shadows. Yet it works some times and others it doesn’t.
And don’t get me started on the bloody rats that pursue you relentlessly and attack you without rhyme or reason. By the last level the game decides to throw an immense amount of them at you in a bid to get you caught by other NPCs as much as possible.
While the narrative does pack a punch with some extremely disturbing themes and creative level design, you’ll find yourself seeing all manner of horror clichés here. We have generic killer clowns, pig masked cannibals and everything in between you’ll find in the genre. Everything is presented perfectly for an unsettling approach and there are definitely some memorable segments but overall there’s very little to break it away from what’s already been done to death. Right up to where you can tell what’s going to happen to the poor pet cat.
But as said all these clichés are presented just fine and doesn’t ruin the experience. The biggest problem was that by the end of the game there’s little closure after a long and gruelling journey. The explanation of what is actually happening jumps all over the place from organ harvesting to child sex trafficking, only to come to the conclusion that’s very dull. The end rewards little satisfaction and your left with a sense of emptiness as 2Dark just throws a thinly thought out conclusion.
2Dark is a compelling horror titles that does bring in new dynamics but is held back by how cliché it can be. The story is unnerving and there’s plenty of moments that’ll make you blood run cold. It’s effective and in terms of gameplay it’s simple yet engaging. But with some technical issues becoming an annoyance, the themes of masked killers being rehashed with some tedious NPCs and cheap death traps making this at times rather infuriating. Still 2Dark is worth checking out as it has a charm we rarely see in horror games and a means to make you sick yet engaged at the experience.
++ Intense atmosphere
+ Interesting concept
+ Good visuals and Music
- Some crude stealth mechanics
- Story is all over the place and never finishes on a high
An Xbox One copy of 2Dark was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.