While I was checking out Chasm yesterday, I kept glancing over my shoulder at this wicked-looking title. From my vantage point, I could tell that I was looking at a horror game (very dark, flashlight, single protagonist), but I couldn't make out any details. I'm a fan of good horror games, so I told myself that I'd swing by that booth another time.
I made good on my personal promise today when I finally got a chance to play Through the Woods.
Through the Woods is a horror title by Nordic indie developer Antagonist. You play as young mother Karen Dahl, whose son Fillip has been kidnapped by some being called Old Erik. Erik has taken her son to dark and mysterious island full of nightmares and for some reason, this lady followed alone with just a flashlight. (I applaud her courage, but not her planning.) She's navigating the island by hunting for reflective shards of glass Old Erik has left around the dark forest he calls home. The game is presented as a story that Karen is relating to a reporter or detective.
Through the Woods is intended to explore horror from a different culture. Antagonist is a developer from Norway and they're drawing on their own folklore for the game. "Old Erik" is another name Satan apparently, and he's used by parents to scare kids straight.
"When children would misbehave, parents would use it to scare them to death, or keep curfew," says Through the Woods creative director Ole Helland told Byte at GDC 2015. "'You better be in bed or Old Erik would come and get you.' We took that urban legend and decided to make it this character."
Old Erik won't be the only Nordic legend appearing in the game; the latter part of the PAX Prime demo features a troll hunting Karen in the darkness. Through the Woods has a great deal of tension to it, partially because Karen has no defense whatsoever against the things that go bump in the night. (When she dies, whoever is interviewing her asks if she wants to try telling the story again, which is just a great framing sequence.)
The game also features some excellent sound design with screams and howls winding through the trees; if you hear something strange, you have no clue whether you should turn back or not, because if it's something horrible, Karen is pretty much dead.
Through the Woods looks absolutely amazing with some great art and real-time lighting. I asked a dev what engine the game was built in and he told me they recently switched to Unity 5. Color me surprised that Unity is that powerful. To show off the upgrade, I've also included some before/after Unity 5 shots so you can see the developer's amazing effort.
Through the Woods is planned for early 2016 release on PC, Mac, and Linux. If you're interested, Antagonist also has a early prototype of the game available for download on its official site.