Kraven Manor Review
Simply one of the most terrifying experiences you'll ever have with a game.
Horror has always been a fascinating genre to me. From childhood (I watched Stephen King’s It at the age of 6, which probably explains a lot), horror movies have been a staple of my entertainment diet. Surprisingly, however, I’ve rarely picked up a horror title for my PC, although I can certainly think of a few games that might be best described as horrific. It was with that relatively novice perspective that I approached Kraven Manor.
Born from the graduate work of a group of students at the Guildhall at Southern Methodist University in Plano, TX, Kraven Manor is categorically a first-person horror puzzle game, but is perhaps best described as a “don’t play with the lights off for fear of soiled underwear” thrill ride. The game has already garnered significant attention in the horror gaming community, as well as swept the awards from the inaugural Intel University Game Showcase, notably for Best Gameplay and Best Visual Quality. But, enough of the title’s many accolades, and more of what you can expect from Kraven Manor.
The game begins with the character’s arrival in a foreboding, Gothic-esque mansion. As expected, a raging storm is taking place outside and shelter has been sought in the worst possible place. Here is perhaps the game’s most discernible weakness, if it could even be called a weakness – the lack of a backstory. Not entirely surprising in a genre in which the primary focus is on heightened atmosphere and tension, rather than intricate plot. Pleasantly (although it feels somewhat unpleasant in discovery), by carefully studying and interacting with the environment throughout the game, the player can uncover some of the mystery behind Kraven Manor and its prior occupants, although fans of plot-intensive games might still feel a slight twinge of disappointment.
Plot absences aside, Kraven Manor is an exceptionally immersive experience, fraught with tension and suspense throughout. This is accomplished, in a large part, by the superb visual details of the manor, as well as the soundtrack. As players spend the majority of the game roaming around with only a flashlight and occasional lightning flash for illumination, this attention to visual detail is greatly appreciated and, in fact, is crucial in solving some of the game’s elaborate puzzles.
As exploration of the mansion continues, players discover scale models that can be used to alter the layout of the mansion itself. Players certainly don’t need to wait to initiate any changes to the layout, as room shifts and disappearing doors are commonplace and add a solid layer of tension to every new location (Will this door even be here when I come back?). New locations reveal new details about this mysterious residence, and studying the environment is a necessity for learning more of the storyline, if not for completing the game itself.
Inspection of a dimly-lit, abandoned mansion doesn’t seem all that bad prospect at first. The player does, after all, have a flashlight (unless playing on Nightmare mode, which is as terrifying as it sounds) to light the way and cast on all those nasty shadows. Enter the game’s demon/ghoul/all-round horrifying entity, craftily appearing as a bronze mannequin. At first content to mostly give out stern warnings, this fellow becomes increasingly insistent on getting rid of the mansion’s intruder in the creepiest ways possible. Imagine the infinitely more sinister and shocking cousin of the Weeping Angels of Doctor Who, who doesn’t appear to move, but will unexpectedly rip your guts out in a heartbeat, and one will come close to envisioning the mansion’s ethereal resident.
Whether players have experienced Kraven Manor during its beta run or are brand new to this debut title from Demon Wagon Studios, its a title well worth picking up. Kraven Manor enters full-release on Steam on Friday September 26th at a pricepoint of $9.99.
Learn more about the game’s distributor, Digerati, by following them on Twitter @digeratiDM or liking them on Facebook.