We tried DarKnot, a multi-faceted indie horror that takes inspiration from the tradition of the genre to scare players.
The horror genre is certainly one of the most inflated in recent years. Many developers continue desperately to pursue the search for the perfect mix of elements, with the hope of being able to create something innovative or that intercepts the needs of a particular niche of players.
There are studios that work to deepen the terror and anxiolytic aspects of the thriller experience, others that bet entirely on survival dynamics, while still others build a guided narrative arc accompanied by engaging action mechanics. DarKnot, of the boys of ElbrusLabwants to be a bit ‘all inspired by the classics of the genre such as Resident Evil and Silent Hill.
The recent DarKnot demo we tried he made it clear to us in no uncertain terms.
A mix of content rather than form
DarKnot catapults the player into the maze of a cursed city, full of a completely hidden mystery, whose only hope is that of survival and escape. The setting is particularly bleak, the supernatural haunts the streets and corridors of the buildings, the jump-scare is always around the corner. The stylistic features ofhorror they are all there, but in the two hours necessary to face the demo they seem to have been combined more for completeness than for coherence. There are monstrous creatures ready to attack us, occult rites, ghosts and maddened shadows. Everything plots against us, but the details of the story are so empty and embryonic that they do not want to give us the reason, indeed, they do not want to give the player a sense of his escape outside the terror that appears before him.
We understand the will to preserve the demo as a spoiler without contextualizing our character within the game world, but in this way we have no narrative element to get in touch with in this cognitive phase. The protagonist has a specific phenotypic characterization, as well as having an occult symbol on his back that weighs on him like a sword of Damocles on his head, but beyond that we know very little.
A series of puzzles dictates the pace of the game
DarKnot is a game almost entirely in third person, it passes in first person only during the puzzle solving phases, during which the interaction with objects becomes much more specific. The puzzles, from the very premise of the game, they are very imaginative and provide creative solutions. In reality the few we have seen are quite simple, far too “imaginative” (ie with little logic behind them), they rarely have environmental elements, but at least well blended in the pace of the game. As per the standard for the genre there is a main one that invites the player to explore and that to be solved requires to face other minor ones.
There is no shortage of options that develop the non-linearity of progression on the game map, these can be played for a limited number of attempts, dictated by the number of candles in the player’s possession.
DarKnot’s strategy for developing a so multifaceted product it is very basic and basically consists in stuffing the mechanics with elements taken from various genres, then leaving the player the choice of how to use them and which ones to prefer. The game can be approached as an action, as a survival or as a psychological horror. This openness, however, appears from the very first bars of the prologue as a problem, rather than a force.
The combat is the victim of slow and fatigued animations, the survival system, with it the crafting, is very basic and does not seem to have major repercussions on the dynamics of the character, and the psychological aspect is less when to take down some monsters / minor entities a couple are enough of well-aimed punches. The player can defeat almost all the enemy creatures that populate the game world, except ghosts, and from them once on the ground can recover raw materials and tools necessary to fulfill the DarKnot survival mechanic subplot. These are used to restore the various health parameters of the protagonist by filling the consumption bar.
As the last noteworthy mechanic for DarKnot there are definitely the Tarot. This is not classic tarot cards, but a deck of sui generis cards, the pieces of which can be found in the exploration phases. These cards give bonuses to the player that are activated at the new awakening, or post mortem respawn. They represent an interesting starting point to try different approaches to the exploration of combat, but in the narrowness of the demo, we do not know the extent of their impact on the gaming experience.
There death of the player keeps intact the successes obtained up to that moment, while restarting the same from the last room in which he “rested”. Over time, the number of death events, according to the developers, should create narrative variations that will influence the game world, but in the demo available we have not had the opportunity to have a concrete confirmation.
TO technical level the game shows the potential of Unreal Engine in parallel with the bugs and refinement that one would expect from a title whose release is yet to be defined and which does not enjoy a producer with large pockets behind: the animations are the weakest part, above all during the fighting. Net of these considerations, the demo has never shown insurmountable problems or bugs that could “break” the game.
DarKnot tries to create his particular horror formula, hybridizing many sub-genres and making use of many mechanics dedicated to each single phase of the game. The puzzles are in the first person, the exploration in the third, the player is invited to combat, but also tries to scare him with jump-scare and invincible enemies, but not only. In the game formula there is really a lot of meat on the fire and with a little forethought during the development this could find its balance. At present, however, the demo has given the impression of wanting to do a few too many things without committing to doing any of them really well. Mind you, for the few hours in the company of him DarKnot didn’t seem like a bad game, but not one that could give us a real reason to be passionate about it.
- Lots of ideas and game ideas
- Varied gaming experience
- Poorly refined mechanics
- Too many facets of unattractive gameplay