Through the Woods Alpha Preview
Through the Woods is a third-person horror game developed by Norway-based studio, Antagonist, and currently being funded through Kickstarter. It follows the tale of a mother named Karen Dahl. On a cruel, fateful night, her son was spirited away by a creature of legend, known as Old Eric. Karen retells that horrible night to a man named Christian Petersen. This is where Through the Woods begins.
You play Karen’s flashback as she relives that terrible trek through the woods. As you patrol a dark and foreboding forest, Karen and Christian narrate over the action; he asks questions, while she clarifies the events. It all revolves around her son, Fillip Dahl Erikson.
In Through the Woods you can only walk, run, search, and carry a flashlight. Along the way, as you explore deeper and deeper into the woods, you will be led by small reflectors. They look like flat, green bears, and they illuminate with an orb of light once the beam of your flashlight touches them. Oh, and when your light falls on any of these reflectors, they give out a soft humming noise. You follow these on an indistinct path.
The graphics in Through The Woods are decent. There’s a lot of detail to the forest, with various types of trees lining the terrain, and lots of subtle etchings on rocks. You only get to see what’s in the circle of your flashlight, but there’s enough attention to the little things that it keeps your eyes interested and exploring the terrain.
Through the Woods has great atmosphere, and the lack of music in the beginning adds to the suspense and wonder. Eventually, when the music did start to play, I was on edge since it hinted at something in the shadows. I experienced a few seriously freaky moments. The ambience is wonderfully chilling; the sound, the subtle noises, lack of music, and the haunting tones that play when danger is near all work together to create a lot of genuine tension.
Controls are okay. It’s a horror game where you wander and carry a flashlight. The slow moving character adds to the terror element of gameplay, while the light has a slight delay as you swing it around. This took a bit of getting use to, but having this delay also makes searching a bit more terrifying since you may swing the light too late and find something standing in the darkness.
I loved the narration on top of the exploration. On its own, the wandering through the woods, with only the ability to turn the flashlight on and off, was reason enough to push onward — if only to see what creature would appear from the night. But it was the conversation of Karen Dahl and Christian Petersen that kept me intrigued and wanting to move forward.
I also praise the level design of Through The Woods. I have to admit I felt like I was getting turned around — I had no idea where I was going, sometimes. But then I’d see a glint of light, and I always knew I was on the right track. Even when I thought that I was heading in the wrong direction, or going in a circle, I always ended up where I needed to be. That, to me, was very impressive.
The voice acting is a bit of a mixed bag. Karen’s dialogue is alright, but the delivery leaves a bit to be desired. It isn’t terrible by any means, but certain moments felt like they needed more emphasis to drive the emotion home. Still, it did well on pushing the narrative of Through The Woods forward, and keeping you engaged in the tale.
Graphics chugged on my PC, which was odd considering I can play most games on their highest setting. This isn’t a fault of the game at all, but it did dull the experience. I was, however, able to play Through The Woods on the lowest setting, and it ran like butter. Once again, not the game’s fault, but I thought it was worth mentioning. You’ll need a strong, or decent, PC if you plan to pick this game up.
However, even on the highest setting, some of the textures are a bit muddy and unclear. Through The Woods is in the alpha stage, and it is stated that this does not represent the quality of the final game — so I can’t judge the graphics too harshly. For what it is, it gets the job done, and still sets up a pretty terrifying atmosphere.
Through the Woods is shaping up to be an interesting horror game. I really enjoyed the premise, and the cliff hanger left me wanting more. The preview demo was short, which was disappointing. Disappointing only because it left me yearning for the next piece of the story! So I guess that’s good thing? I’m very eager to see what the final build of the game will entail, and I’ll definitely be picking it up. It’s currently being funded on Kickstarter and is slated for release Q1 2016.