The piper is now at the gates of dawn, as we are entering the indie summer flood fest. And left, right, and center all major digital platforms are being flooded with indie games, and indie trash alike, in a capacity which is quite frankly overwhelming and simply ridiculous. And while we are still miles away from the state within which he have been in last summer, then it has to be underlined that this year’s indie flood, started much stronger than the year before. And not because all the major digital store fronts have become a home to larger number of games, but because they’ve opened their doors to titles which are quite frankly good – if not great.
Good, or even acceptable monthly indie game releases can usually be counted on one hand. And while this month has already seen titles such as City of Brass, Everspace, Connan Exiles, and Battlezone: Gold Edition – titles which have exceeded expectations of many – then it has to be underlined that May is far from being over. And it may just be the best month for indies this year, as a plethora of potentially exceptional titles such as Agony, is yet to appear on the major digital storefronts. But before we get ahead of ourselves, and start looking forward to and upcoming major releases, we should take a step back, and have a look at some great titles such as the recently released Through The Woods, which have been lost in the indie flood.
It would be dishonest of me, or anybody, to state that Through The Woods is a thoroughly exceptional titles. As on the technical level, it is fairly disappointing. Its character animations, for the most part, seem unnatural, the in-game cut-scenes feature a number of bugs such as object clipping, and last but certainly not least, all in-game human faces lack any sense of realism. And if only the developer behind the title, Antagonist, opted for an art-style which lacked photo-realism, such as the one of The Long Dark – then Through The Woods, would be a much more successful title as a whole. But that being said, even with all of its technical flaws, Through The Woods is a highly engaging and satisfying experience.
Narrative wise, Through The Woods’ suffers from a slow burning opening – which due to its performance related issues is that much troubling. However, once the title at hand- ironically enough – pulls its head out of the woods, it becomes a superb, personal and relatable tale, filled to the brim with Norse and Nordic folklore. And while Through The Woods relies a lot on the Nordic mythology for its underlying narrative and back story, then it has to be pointed out that the title’s core plot, and the antagonist in the form of Old Erik, are a work of fiction. But the way in which the Old Erik is presented, makes the player feel like he is a part of the wider Norwegian folklore.
Without spoiling too much, all that can be said about the story, is that it involves you, the player, pursuing the above-mentioned Old Erik, who has kidnapped your one and only soon. And while the vast majority of the core narrative revolves solely around the current events, it is not just about the present and the future. As throughout, Through The Woods, through the protagonist’s narration, provides you with all the prior events which have led to creation of a rift between her and her soon, And as you make your way through the titular woods, you come to understand how the protagonist’s relations with her son, led to the current state of events.
Horror wise, Through the Woods – fortunately enough – does not rely on jump scares at all. As all of its inherent horror comes from the title’s environmental design, varied cast of hostile’s, and an array of varied mechanics relating to all of the in-game monsters. On your way to the title’s finale, you’ll stumble across numerous horrific scenes such as parents killing their children, just to prevent Old Erik from doing his ‘job’. And large number Norse creatures, which all posses their own quirks, and unique mechanics. For example, at about half-way point, you’ll come across Skoll and Hati, two wolves representing the Sun and Moon, who in-game will seek to feast on your corpse. However, both these creatures have an aversion to colored light. And the only way to get past them is to utilize your flashlight and a live-flame torch on either of them. And once the correct type of light is applied, the wolf on which you have used it will flee, and allow you to make some progress.
Antagonist, the Norwegian developer behind Through The Woods, has described it as a ‘Walking Simulator with Horror elements’. But in reality, such description is completely untrue, as the sheer amount of interactivity and core gameplay mechanics elevates Through The Woods, past the titles such as the recently released Tacoma, which would do everything to shed the tag of a Walking Simulator. However, the increase in interactive elements has come at a cost of the amount of awkwardness and glitches which it at times creates. And while it feels great to encounter ever new foes and adversaries, it would be much more beneficial to encounter the same type of a polished-up foe throughout the game, instead of the numerous poorly animated Draugur or Trolls.
When all is said and done, it has to be said that Through The Woods is an incredibly surprising title, with a tremendous amount of depth, both in terms of narrative and gameplay. Its sprawling, segmented semi-open world, has a lot to offer even to those who don’t feel like replaying the title, in order to uncover all of its secrets. However, as engaging and intriguing the title at hand may be, it has to be pointed out that its technical state can be incredibly distracting, and ultimately immersion braking. So before you go out there and purchase Through The Woods, you’ll have to ask yourself whether or not you are willing to sacrifice your sense of enjoyment thorough immersion, for a fairly unique, if flawed narrative experience.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.