I mentioned in this post, about Through the Woods, a survival horror game based in the dark and eerie forests off the coasts of Norway, that I haven’t played any survival horror games for a while. Well, now I’ve got my hands on a demo of Through the Woods it’s not a claim I can make any more.
Through the Woods tells the story of a Karen Dahl, a woman who having lost her son, investigates the hellishly creepy forests searching for Old Eric, a legendary, child-abducting myth that she feels is responsible for his disappearance. The story is narrated by Karen, as she attempts to explain her story to the police.
The game starts with very little pre-ample in the way of story. You start in a very dark forest, hardly able to see anything, except for the light of your torch and these little green glowing bears that are put their Old Eric to entice/trap his prey, and large carved stones that are ‘significant points to go back to if Karen tells her story wrong’ (i.e. dies).
Through the Woods is a game that uses the lack of visibility to nerve-shredding effect. Rocks in the distance look like corpses, and I began to think that I could see faces and all manner of things. Minutes had passed and I hadn’t seen any other living (or dead) thing, but my heart was pounding, and I was starting to get breathless. Sure, my anxiety means I could get nervous opening an envelope, but this was genuine.
The game plays with all the tools from the Freaky Box; darkness, ruined farmhouses, creaking doors, unexpected thuds, howls, etc. but it plays with them all very well.
Without spoiling anything, I started to hear some slow thudding footsteps. I was already pretty unnerved by a series of wolf howls from somethings that sounded hungry, and I was trying to head back to a somewhere I recognised for safety. Well, these thuds became quicker and closer. Until it sounded like something very big and heavy was chasing after me. I was running as fast as I could, but to no avail. Whatever it was thumped me to the ground and the rest is history. I have no idea what it was that was chasing me, because I knew my only chance to escape ‘it’ was to run as fast as I couldn’t take the time or chance of looking back.
This game took me by surprise; it engaged me completely, and without the need to shove the standard horde of monsters and gun-toting action down my throat. Through the Woods is a game worth taking a look at. The creators have made the story and the atmosphere the most important factors of the game. Not the monsters, the action or the puzzles, and in my opinion a good story can float a game for more successfully.