“It’s the silence that scares me. It’s the blank page on which I can write my own fears. The spirits of the dead have nothing on it. The dead one tried to show me hell, but it was a pale imitation of the horror I can paint on the darkness in a quiet moment.” Mark Lawrence
Released: October 2016
Platforms: Windows, Xbox, PS4
Available on: GOG, Steam, Humble, Microsoft, Playstation
Through the Woods is a third person horror, adventure set in a forest on the shores of Norway and is heavily influenced by Norse mythology and folklore, which the game also borrows some of its monsters from.
Searching the woods for your son, you play as a female protagonist who is deceptively complex. At first, she evokes sympathy but this wanes as we discover more about her and her past through encounters and triggered dialogue in a kind of reverse character development. Unfortunately, I did occasionally find myself being dragged out of the narrative by questionable dialogue and flat delivery. I guess things could have gotten lost in translation, being written in Norwegian originally, but I played an updated version after the mother’s voice had been rerecorded with a new actor and supposedly improved.
The game starts a little slow and I wasn’t quite sure what I was meant to do at first. It didn’t take me long to work out where to go though because if I strayed from the right path I found myself walking into an invisible wall pretty quickly, which sadly also served to break the sense of immersion. That being said the game itself is pretty, with some really nice artwork, especially the forest and surrounding landscapes (the characters’ faces are a little bit odd, but that’s a small gripe).
I found little notes, diary entries and similar on my travels through the woods that gave tidbits of information about the monsters I’d be facing next (yes, it was that linear). These were based on Norse mythology and added an extra layer to the game that I found really interesting. The monsters themselves were sometimes creepy; the draugr was aesthetically horrific and an encounter with the wolves had an element of suspense but, despite dying a few times the game never felt challenging which I felt detracted from the horror element.
Through the Woods had an interesting overarching narrative littered with folklore as well as some interesting characters but the ending, at least in terms of gameplay was disappointing. Control is taken from the player during what should be a panicked and frantic moment, only to be left watching the protagonist walk when anyone in their right mind would be running. Shortly after, another moment is ruined; something that should have felt poignant was reduced to a single button QTE which felt almost distasteful and even lazy.
It took me about 9 hours to finish the game and despite its flaws, Through the Woods was an enjoyable experience and interesting addition to the horror genre, however, I did find it to be somewhat unpolished and it has very little replayability.
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