diana;;through woods;;norway;;forest;;adventure;;horror;;exploration;;antagonist;;1c Diana "DumeeGamer" Dumee

THROUGH THE WOODS

By Diana "DumeeGamer" Dumee on October 27, 2016

Halloween is coming! And have I got a great tip for you on how to spend this spookiest of holidays! Just snuggle up on the couch, turn off the lights and play the brand new PC game, developed by Norwegian indie game studio Antagonist and published by 1C Publishing: Through the Woods.

Through the Woods is the first game that has been developed by the Norse game studio, and they are very proud to release their game! And with good reason, if I may say so, because this game is ten kinds of awesome! Damn, did I just give away my opinion right off the bat, instead of waiting until the end of my review? Oh well, you might as well know it: right here, right now, I'm going to tell you about an exciting, thrilling and eerie game!


As you would expect from a Norwegian developer, Antagonist is based in Norway, so it's a total coincidence that Through the Woods set in the woods of... yes, you've guessed it: Norway. And what a beautiful place it is! But, back to the game; a woman and her son are in a nice cabin in the middle of Norway's rugged nature. I can't recall if the name of the woman was actually revealed during the game, but her son's name is Espen. As we meet Espen, he is complaining to his mom about her working so much at night and, as a result, sleeping a lot during the day. One day, when mommy is sleeping again, he decide to go and play outside, by himself. Bad boy, his mommy told him not to go out on his own. The nerve of youth these days!

When his mom wakes up, she reminisces about her feelings towards her son and having him in the first place. At first, she wasn't too excited, but as Espen grew older, her feelings of love for him grew stronger and stronger. It was immediately clear to me that was going to be a heartbreaking and tear jerking story. And it wasn't long before my theory started to be confirmed. When she goes outside to get Espen, she sees him being kidnapped and taken away in a boat by an unknown man. Without hesitating, she jumps into the (cold) water and swims after the rapidly escaping boat. But wouldn't you know it, the boat disappears into the mist. Being the brave mother we are, we keep following the boat into the thick fog. For a while you can't see anything, except for the game's eerie-looking logo. Well done developers... well done!

Now, I had actually already played a little bit of this game during our visit of the 1C Publishing booth at this year's Gamescom, where the developers ensured me that Through the Woods would contain no jump scares whatsoever. And, lo and behold, when you set foot on land again after emerging from the mist, it's still sunny and everything looks as friendly as can be. I remember thinking to myself: Well, this isn't too bad; in fact, it's not scary at all! The forest environment feels big, you can walk around in any direction you like. One of the first things I noticed was that I didn't have a map or a compass, as well as no clue where to go next, my first thought was: "hmmm, that's strange; no map in an environment this big?", immediately followed by: "Oh no! I'm lost!!! How the hell am I supposed to find my way?!"


But then I calmed down a bit and realized something; I've just woken up, saw my kid get kidnapped and swam after a speeding boat into the single thickest mist I've ever seen. No one would have a map or a compass with them in this situation, right? I tried to use the sun for direction which didn't really pan out for me, but after a while I'm got used to how the environment is built and start seeing where the paths are or in which direction I should go. Houses, fire and stone statues are excellent markers if you want to remember your route. As you make your way through the forest, mom will tell stuff from time to time, which is also a good indicator that you're going the right way.

I like the fact that the mother is sort of an outdoors woman. She can't step on or over a huge rock of course, but she will fluently walk over rocks and branches. And, may I say, much better than some of the other characters in the gaming industry I have seen. The environments are richly detailed; the woods you walk through look amazing! I can literally count the needles of the fir trees. The controls are simple and operate very smooth, and there is controller support (which I really like!). The only noise you'll hear are snapping branches and the footsteps and sniffles of your character. Good detail, because everyone knows how your sniffing your nose from time to time while walking, especially in colder weather.

Alas for me, after finding the first of Espen's reflectors (it is explained that he collects them), night sets in. Luckily I have a flashlight. But, as is true in most cases but especially in a dark forest, during the night, things feels much more eerie. I read and hear folklore stories from Norway as I progress the game and they are not comforting at all. On top of that, you can actually die in this game, so beware. Dim your flashlight from time to time and use the sneak option.

There was one incredible moment, while playing Through the woods, that I really need to share with you guys. It perfectly illustrates the game's refined way of setting a mood. I was walking by a lake and in the distance I saw two lights, which looked just like eyes. I came across a cabin and when I stood on the balcony of said cabin, the lights moved closer rapidly. Precisely at the moment when panic really gripped me, it looked like they dove into the water and disappeared. Most comforting, wouldn't you say?!


I don't want to spoil all the fa-boo-lous (see what I did there?) fun, so I'm going to leave you at this point. The awesome people of Antagonist proved that you don't need jump scares to create a thrilling setting and an excellent horror game. If you want to know if mom is going to be reunited with her son, you should definitely play this game for yourselves.

I will end this review by complimenting Antagonist for making Through the Woods and 1C Company for publishing it. I'm curious if other players finish the game in one play round, because I definitely paused a couple of times to relax my nerves, which were, to say the least, slightly on edge!


available on:

THROUGH THE WOODS
Antagonist & 1C Publishing
October 27, 2016