|Developer(s)||Acid Wizard Studio|
|Publisher(s)||Acid Wizard Studio |
Crunching Koalas (Switch)
|Release||August 18, 2017 (computers)|
May 2019 (consoles)
Darkwood is a top-down survival horror video game developed by Acid Wizard Studio. The game was first released through Steam Early Access on July 24, 2014, with an eventual full game release on August 18, 2017 for Microsoft Windows, macOS, SteamOS and Ubuntu. The game takes place in a mysterious dark forest somewhere in Poland or somewhere within the Eastern Bloc countries, where the main characters have been trapped for an unknown amount of time. On March 20, 2019 a Nintendo Switch version was announced during the Nindies Nintendo Direct and was released on May 16, 2019. The game was also ported and released for the PlayStation 4 on May 14, 2019 and for Xbox One on May 16, under the publisher Crunching Koalas.
The game features a semi-open world, with the player unlocking new areas as the storyline progresses. It also features a crafting system, a day/night cycle, trading and non-player character (NPC) interaction, a skill system, stealth and combat, as well as multiple storyline branches which alter several aspects of the world.
During daytime, the player can explore the world and scavenge for supplies at several locations scattered around each biome, the player may also spend this time repairing doors or barricades around the hideout and crafting new items and upgrades at the workbench. During the day the player can also "cook" certain items at his stove in order to gain access to various skills, any beneficial skill that the player chooses requires a detrimental skill to also be chosen. During the night the player cannot leave the hideout and must defend against possible intruders until morning. Planning a defensive strategy is key and players have the opportunity to lay traps and barricade doors or windows to slow down any intruders.
Should the player survive the night, they will gain reputation with the trader which can be used to trade for more expensive items. If the player dies during the night, they will wake up in the next morning without receiving any bonuses. Should the player die while out scavenging, they will suffer a loss of half their inventory which is then marked on the map for later collection. Higher difficulties have higher penalties for death such as the loss of lives or permanent death.
The storyline is shaped based on how the player reacts to the requests and actions of NPCs. Aiding different ones will lead to different endings, and sometimes influences sub-plots relating to several other NPCs. The game switches to a different map in its second chapter, with the previous regions becoming locked and several new gameplay elements and NPCs being introduced. Different characters from the first chapter may appear too, depending on the player's actions. The game features two different main endings, with each character's subplot being defined by other, smaller actions as well as which of these endings the player has achieved.
Setting and Characters
Darkwood is set somewhere in Poland (as indicated by the writings on the ground, and The Wreckage, an area of the map showing a Polish Air Force Mil Mi-8 helicopter) or somewhere else in the Eastern bloc countries in the late 1980s where a mysterious forest has occupied a large amount of land and is continuing to expand. Many people have been left trapped by the forest and a strange plague is ravaging the survivors, killing and causing victims to transform into monsters and abominations. A group named "The Outsiders" consisting mostly of government officials and soldiers were sent to investigate the woods, setting up hideouts and a tunnel system to get in and out of the forest. By the time the game takes place most of the Outsiders are dead or evacuated from the zone.
In the prologue, the player takes control of an apparent doctor as he searches for supplies. The Doctor seems to be disillusioned with his job of helping people and is hellbent on escaping the forest. After the prologue, the player takes control of "The Stranger", a man who is searching for the stolen key that will lead him through an underground passageway out of the forest. Other characters include a trader who helps the protagonist in the prologue, a half-man half-wolf hybrid known only as "The Wolfman", a cyclist drunk known as the "Bike Man" and Piotrek, who is mesmerised by space travel and wishes to build a rocket.
The game begins with The Doctor rambling about the forest and how it has consumed all exits and trapped its inhabitants, his inability to treat the plague and his devotion to escaping the woods before he perishes. The Doctor awakens and prepares to scavenge the surrounding area for gasoline. While scavenging, The Doctor comes across the Stranger, injured and unconscious after an unknown accident. After looting a large key from his body, the Doctor theorizes that the Stranger possesses knowledge on how to escape the forest. The Stranger is then captured, sedated and eventually beaten as the Doctor interrogates him regarding an escape route. The story focus and controls switch to the Stranger as he engineers an escape from the Doctor's house. After some exploration, the cottage is broken into by several monsters and the Stranger blacks out.
It is implied in cutscene that the Trader stumbled across the Doctor's cottage and rescued the Stranger, bringing him back to a hideout in the Dry Meadow (The first biome in the game). The Stranger first explores the underground entrance to make sure the Doctor hasn't gone through with the key, but finds that the door hasn't been opened in a while. The player may then side with the Wolfman or the Musician in order to find the Doctor, or accomplish this by his own devices.
Once finding the Doctor in the train wreck (either by exploring his house from the prologue, or getting an appointment from the Musician), he will attempt to resist the Stranger. If the player followed the Musician's path, the player will enter a dream sequence with several different outcomes: if the player dies in the dream sequence the Stranger will wake up and find the Doctor gone, and once the Stranger checks the underground entrance he will find the armoured door wide open. If the player survives the dream sequence, the Doctor will be at the mercy of the player who can kill him and take the key, take the key and leave the Doctor or allow the Doctor to accompany the player through the underground passage. One way or another, progressing through the armoured door leads to the end of chapter 1.
As the Stranger leaves the tunnel he finds that it no longer leads out of the forest and instead leads to a swamp (the fourth and final biome). The Stranger will also find the beheaded corpse of the Trader after the first night. Chapter 2 is where many choices in Chapter 1 affect the outcomes of certain characters, for example, if players did not aid the Wolfman then he will steal items from the player and lure them into a trap.
The Stranger finds a large talking tree that blocks the exit of the forest, which indirectly asks the Stranger to explore a radio tower. Meanwhile, a cripple requests that the Stranger burns this tree. Both pathways offer ways of leaving the forest and of reaching the Epilogue.
The Stranger pushes through the forest until reaching a town and their old apartment, where he settles in for a long sleep. However, careful exploration reveals this ending to be an illusion which the player can uncover, if they spot the odd things in the apartment block. The Stranger eventually finds roots growing under the floorboards and a hole under his bed. Crawling through will have the Stranger wake up naked, with his clothes discarded nearby, in a passage overgrown with roots.
The "Road Home" did not lead home, and indeed may be entirely illusory, as the player awakens in a chamber filled with thousands of people curled up around a strange being, sleeping and muttering in bliss. The being attempts to entice the Stranger by making him feel warm and tired, if the player does not resist then they will fall unconscious and be back in the apartment with only one course of action available: bliss and ignorance. If the Player resists, then the Stranger will find a flamethrower among the sleepers and burn the being and all those around it to death. The fire spreads so rapidly that the Stranger is unable to escape, with the flames quickly spreading and consuming most of the forest, killing many of its inhabitants but with the death of the strange being and the Stranger sacrifice had allow the military deploy to the forest safely saving the remaining surviving inhabitants and restore order. In both endings, text blocks detailing each character's fate appear, which can be influenced by the player's actions during the game.
The game's reveal was made through the release of a pre-alpha gameplay trailer on YouTube, on March 5, 2013. A page for the game was created on Steam Greenlight on March 11, 2013, with the following months seeing the release of a campaign on the popular crowdfunding website Indiegogo which funded the game's initial developing. The campaign collected over US$57,000, totalizing 143% of the established goal (US$40,000). On July 24, 2014 the game was released to the public in an alpha stage, with updates being released ever since. Support for 32-bit Linux systems, although present at first, was dropped mid-development, as a survey done by the developers showed no players currently using such a system. On June 6, 2017, the game was pushed out of alpha, and into version beta 1.
On August 25, the developers released a blog post on image hosting website Imgur, telling the story of the game's development process and releasing a free torrent of it, asking the players to buy it if they enjoy it. This move was motivated by two reasons, they wanted some players who couldn't afford the game to be able to play it, and also received several e-mails related to theft of game keys. They stated that they preferred to give the game for free to some people than feed the leeching key-reselling websites.
On January 22, 2018, the developers released the 1.2 update, bringing Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese and German translations to the game. The translations were worked on with the help of the community. They also stated that more language localizations were in development. In May 2019, the official Nintendo Switch version was released. On August 7, 2019, the 1.3 version was released, containing a number of bugfixes, optimizations and localizations for Simplified Chinese, Italian, Turkish and Hungarian. A French localization was also confirmed to be in development.
According to the developers, Darkwood was inspired by:
Critics wrote positive pieces regarding the game prior to and after its public release. It has a score of 80/100 on Metacritic based on 16 reviews. Metacritic also included it in their "top 100 best videogames of 2017" list.
The announcement of the Nintendo Switch version was followed by articles by Variety and IGN. In the second one, Tom Marks (writing for IGN) praised the game for "not taking cheap shots" and "playing surprisingly well with a Switch Pro Controller".
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