Survival horror is one of the most renowned and successful genres in gaming, whether it’s during the golden age in the 90s or the immense resurgence of the late 2010s. Recently we have been blessed with such great horror games, but many of them follow the same formula, which is a winning formula, but it’s something we gamers have seen many, many times before. So it’s quite refreshing to see when developers break the survival horror mould and experiment. There are a few games coming up which look promising, and the first of these titles is You Will Die Here Tonight.
Does it live up to its promising concept? Read on and find out.What is You Will Die Here Tonight?
The formula for any good survival horror game is isolating players in a complex maze-like environment, filled with puzzles, monsters and limited resources. This is a great basis for a video game, but after 30 years of survival horror games, it is time to freshen things up.
You Will Die Here Tonight takes the classic formula and injects some innovative components, namely rogue-like mechanics. Basically, what we get is Resident Evil meets Groundhog Day, which on paper sounds amazing, but is something that could go horribly wrong. Players will take the role of an entire team of highly trained police officers, as they venture to an old, seemingly abandoned mansion to locate a serial killer. If this sounds all too familiar then yeah, You Will Die Here Tonight pays homage and takes a few story notes from the classic original Resident Evil.
The team is soon separated and from here on in, players must control each team member to explore the mansion and fight for their lives to escape. However, each member of the team can die permanently and once everyone is dead… it’s game over.
Or so you may think. As one death has engulfed the entire team, the mission repeats. With all the knowledge and collecting critical items such as new weapons and upgrades, will players manage to find the escape to the spooky mansion? Simple right? … Wrong. Do you ever have déjà vu?
What starts as a simple tale of the elite Aries Division, venturing into a mysterious mansion to find a serial killer, soon reveals itself as a complex web of shady experiments, gothic horrors, and something much more sinister.
Upon arriving at the mansion, the Aries Division is overpowered by a strange, supernatural light that renders them unconscious. Each member of the team soon comes to, only to find they have been separated. Taking the role of each team member, players will venture through the mansion, soon to discover the man they were looking for. However, he is quite dead. Things only get stranger when the living dead appear, and even stranger when they discover a lab underneath one of the main rooms on the ground floor. Soon enough the team dies off, but what happens next is a repeating loop of the same mission. From here, it’s up to players to lead the team through the mansion and find an exit, with each death and bit of knowledge passing over to the next loop. Live, die, repeat, until you can escape … or find out the truth behind the mansion.
The premise is quite good, with there being plenty of WTF moments from start to finish, and a cast of characters I genuinely liked. What starts as a simple venture into a spooky house, very similar to that of the original Resident Evil, becomes something much more sinister and twisted. I won’t discuss heavy spoilers here, as there is quite a compelling mystery at hand, and while some of it does seem quite ludicrous, I will admit it kept me engaged until the very end.
To unravel the mystery, you will have to do some detective work and think outside the box in a few instances. I will admit, there is one story moment that does require playing a certain character at a certain moment, which is never really hinted at to do so. It is likely to halt a few players, and I only managed to do it by sheer luck of playing the required character. As this is rogue-like, with a rather lengthy lead-up to said story point, you can easily miss it or not have the right character to complete the required action. It is something you can easily miss, or just not realise, and with the rogue-like elements, progression can potentially be prolonged.
I will also state that the story could have used another layer or two to unravel, as it feels as though it does jump quite dramatically regarding story progression/pacing. I just wanted a little more to discover and figure out, and there was plenty of room here story-wise
These issues aside, I really love the horror aesthetics, setting, all the gothic lore, and the twister mystery at the centre of it all. Each breadcrumb of lore, every discovery and scratch revealing a new layer of the truth really did keep me invested. I loved the cast of characters, with little things such as the potential romance between the gunsmith and medic being quite endearing and seeing how things go, felt quite heartbreaking.
The end, while a little crazy, does go all out and I thoroughly loved it for that. Plus you get all those creepy Resident Evil-style bits of lore, building a deeper, darker picture of the backstory. It’s all great, and if you enjoy many survival horror mysteries of the past, You Will Die Here Tonight will surely pique your interest.You have once again entered the world of survival horror … and again … and again
So yeah, I feel the summary of Resident Evil meets Groundhog Day is pretty spot-on for its gameplay loop. What this entails is players will replay the same mission of a specialist team investigating a spooky mansion hunting down a serial killer. However, the mission soon changes and what starts off as a search for a deranged killer, becomes a tension-inducing great escape.
After the prologue, players will start their run by choosing a member of the team who will wake up in a small, strange lab underneath the mansion’s library. This acts as the safe room, where you can save, collect ammo, upgrade weapons and so forth. The first thing to do is to bring power back to the basement, allowing you to venture to the mansion, and from here, the game takes the form of an old-school Resident Evil game, where you explore, find key items, solve puzzles and fight with all kinds of monsters.
Each member of the team can perform certain actions that will help you one way or the other. The gunsmith can upgrade weapons, while the Medic is able to craft medkits for the others to use. Some members have more life, but are much slower, while others are needed to perform certain actions to progress the story. Once a team member dies, they are dead for this run and you must pick another poor soul to continue forth, finding more key items, and clues and revealing more of the mansion.
Once everyone is dead, you start the run again, right from the beginning, but will keep weapons, and upgrades, maintain story progression from before, and of course, have all that know-how for the puzzles.
The sense of discovery and exploration is awesome, with each new room holding a new type of reward or threat, and something new for your knowledge. The mansion is a dense, complex environment filled with danger, death traps, and puzzles while giving you just enough to venture through the hordes of monsters. I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the mansion, fearing at every step and what lurked behind every door. Whether it present a somewhat haven, a puzzle that could reward or take my life away, or a new beast to kill.
The structure allows for a good sense of pacing when exploring, with enough captivating discoveries, and monsters, without feeling over or underwhelming. It’s also the right size and complexity for the most part, for a rogue-like gameplay loop. From someone who’s played all the old (well, all of them) Resident Evil games repeatedly, I had no problem venturing through the mansion numerous times. As I mentioned, it’s a good size, with a great sense of pacing and discovery, that’ll keep you invested and wanting to come back and reveal a new section, or two.
I will have to admit that the first section where you turn on the generator is a little long on multiple playthroughs. Much of your time in the mansion above the basement can be shortened by knowing routes, exploiting shortcuts, and having knowledge of puzzles and key items. The basement is mainly a linear path that requires you to do the same couple of arenas, and one section which has multiple levers opening different door types, again and again. It would have been nice to discover a way to bypass this on the second, or third run, but you have to power on the generator each and every time.
It’s a shame as the mansion itself is put together incredibly well, and once you have a better weapon or key item, you can avoid certain areas on your next run, and focus on exploring those you haven’t. There was so much here to find, with quite a few tasks I forgot to finish even after reaching the true ending. It was a place I really did want to keep going back to, but the basement section blocking my way to the mansion itself was a little tedious on multiple playthroughs.
Although the basement is not all that bad, as it does have some good arenas, a really great puzzle, and a huge, bouldering callback to the original Resident Evil (no … not the boulder moment in RE5 … actually there have been a few boulder moments in the RE games haven’t there?).
For those groaning at the thought of repeating the same sections over and over, then fear not. You can find these special tokens around the house that grant you a continuation if your entire team dies, saving you from starting the loop again. And plus you keep your weapons from before, so you will be more powerful each run you play out. But with the design of the mansion and pacing of events, you will keep wanting to head back again and again I’m sure.House of the Dead!!!
Aside from exploring, dying and reviving yourself, there is of course combat which is a little more dynamic compared to other survival horror games. As the world view is isometric, you might think combat would be with tank controls and simply your aim and pull the trigger, right? Well, interestingly enough no.
What happens when you meet a ghoul or two in the mansion, is you can trigger a first-person view allowing you to battle monsters head-on. It’s incredibly reminiscent of House of Dead, feeling very arcade-like, as you are stuck on the spot handling a weapon that feels very light-gunny. It’s simple and highly effective, as monsters move towards you as you aim, fire and hope to hit a weak spot causing massive damage and putting them down swiftly. Of course, there is a variant of monsters, from stiff, and slow zombie butlers, to incredibly fast zombie maids (seeing them crawl up to you in real-time always freaked me out), and to bigger, more deadly opponents including Knights and giant Spiders (again, super creepy).
You’ll be able to use several weapons you find, including a pistol, shotgun, machinegun, grenade launcher and a shield (which comes in handy during one boss fight). The aiming is responsive and smooth, the tension electrifying as enemies can sprint towards you after firing your first shot, and weapon impact feels great as you can easily blast chunks off your enemies in gooey, gory detail. While not the most sophisticated combat system, it is still quite a lot of fun, especially when you gather all the weapons and can switch between them.
However, combat can feel somewhat limited, most likely due to encountering the same types of enemies repeatedly. And not being able to move also means enemy movements and attack patterns are limited, not allowing for grander, more dynamic battles. So having a few more enemy types would be beneficial here, or even to include random encounters/special events like in House of the Dead (saving scientists, disarming traps etc.). Switching into combat mode when you face multiple gatherings of enemies in a small space can feel particularly jarring too. Of course, you can choose to fight or run away, but to not feel overwhelmed in some areas, you will need to fight and pick off some enemies.
Especially as enemies will follow you, which is a daunting and terrifying ordeal, and they can be quite relentless. This I found to be a great tactic overall and kept me on my toes for the most part. Seeing enemies follow you and pursue you, even to open doors was quite intense. One of the problems with the old Resident Evil games, is the lack of respawning enemies (unless scripted or something like the Crimson Heads), and You Will Die Here Tonight does keep things rolling as new enemies spawn in randomly and will certainly keep you nervous of what could be lurking around the corner.You were almost a Groundhog sandwich
To wrap things up, I have to mention that sadly, You Will Die Here Tonight does not contain any unlockable content …. Which is a real bummer. Now I’m pretty sure there is nothing, as I did finish the game on the true ending and didn’t see anything new.
This is a shame as survival horror games usually do have unlockable goodies, such as costumes, weapons and so forth. It may have been a brilliant opportunity to include new story elements, or even a cool gun to play around with (there is a cool gun you get to use in the true ending, but only there….). Massive misstep in my humble opinion. But then again, the developers could update the game with new content, which would be very awesome!Overall?
You Will Die Here Tonight is something of a small miracle, where combining vastly different genres such as survival horror and rogue-like, could end in utter disaster. And while with a few flaws, the developers behind this compelling survival horror have done a fantastic job. The engaging world design, great pacing, creepy horror elements, combat and rogue-like gameplay all come together in a beautiful, gruesome unison.
I can see this won’t be for everyone, but I will say the developers took a big risk at merging these two gameplay formulas, and for me and many others surely, it worked incredibly well. This is quite a big deal which will open the floodgates for other people mixing up the survival horror formula with other genres, and who knows what it might lead to. The genre is better than ever, and I welcome more games like You Will Die Here Tonight, which I hold in high regard as Signalis, Amnesia: The Bunker and My Friendly Neighbourhood. You Will Die Here Tonight is a thoroughly enjoyable survival horror treat you can’t afford to miss out on.
++ Awesome and highly engaging gameplay loop
+ Great world design and pacing
+ Great sense of exploration and discovery
+ Cool mystery that unravels with some neat twists and turns.
- The starting area can be tedious on multiple runs
- Combat could use a few more enemies and riveting encounters
- The story could have used a couple more beats
- No unlockable content …?
A review copy of You Will Die Here Tonight was kindly provided by the publisher.