DreadOut is an Indonesian survival-horror game that takes inspiration from the Fatal Frame franchise, and pulls a lot from Indonesian myths and folklore. The game is currently incomplete, with a sort of episodic structure. Act 1 is currently released, with a future Act 2 and Free Roam mode confirmed for the future (Act 2 will be free for all purchasers, Free Roam is paid DLC).
First, a recommendation; play the demo on Steam before the main game. The demo is a prequel, where the demo ends is where the game begins. Lasts 15-20 minutes, nothing in the demo is in Act 1 of the game.
You play as a non-talkative protagonist known as Linda, who with a few friends is on a car trip, but they stumble upon a weird deserted city that isn't marked on their map. The friends go to investigate the town, and soon get wrapped up in some severe hauntings from the strange ghost that start coming out when night falls.
The game has a low-budget, and it shows. Graphically everything looks outdated, with low-res textures, odd character animations, and the like. There's also no real-time shadows. The game also has a few bugs. I didn't encounter anything game-breaking, but a few 'look through the wall with the camera', 'get stuck on an object for a moment', 'that character is levitating,' type of bugs, However, something I found interesting was that they didn't copy and paste many models. There were a lot of posters around town, and each one was legitimately different. Same with pictures, and just small details all about.Outside of a few chairs or piles of garbage, most of the models were unique to each other, and I was surprised the developers didn't take many shortcuts.
Mentioning this, something I noticed about the game is that there were a lot of secrets and original assets used for things that most players would probably not even end up finding or seeing. There's more I have to say on the topic, but I'll get back to this in a bit.
The game has legitimately great atmosphere. There are some fantastic scares, the feeling of unnerve that is caused by the game. It has an atmosphere to it that most horror games these days are missing from the days of old, sort of a combination of dread and excitement for what's going to come next. The atmosphere and scares are more akin to something like Fatal Frame or Kuon than Amnesia or Outlast, I should mention. Recommended at night and in darkness, with headphones.
This is backed by fantastic audio design. The music is great, the sounds are great. Voicing is okay, a bit cheesy but enjoyably so. However, with the music, how it is and how it's used in the game, is really effective, and also I can mention unique. The music is very different than any other horror game I have played, but very effective. And how the music transitions with events going on is very well-done. The audio is also unnerving, and sometimes hearing a weird sound, even without knowing its source or even without it leading to anything, raised the tension. It sometimes gets hard to tell if a sound you just heard is part of the music, or something in the environment, but I say this as a good thing.
And the game does not lie on its laurels. By this I mean a lot happens, and the game never throws the same thing at you twice. I was honestly surprised by the number of ghosts there are in this game, there were a lot more than I was anticipating. Some great enemy variety, and you fight each ghost really only once or twice, there was not a single ghost I think the game threw at you a third time. And the 'events' that happen, like scares or atmospheric additions, were all incredibly varied too. This definitely helped to raise the intrigue as you never knew what might be coming next, and some of what happens really goes into the unexpected.
Combat is similar to Fatal Frame, but a bit more simplistic. There isn't a charge rate like Fatal Frame, or a point system, but the closer enemies are, the more you damage them when you take a shot. And if you attack them right before they attack you, you deliver additional damage.
Even the puzzles are well done and intelligent. Figuring out what to do is fun, and they do a good job at laying out clues to what you need to do to help piece it all together. They have clever hints and details, while not being extremely obvious either. However, it should be mentioned that those with less patience and less of a desire to figure out cryptic clues may not like how they're handled. But if you loved puzzles from horror games in the 90s (which have been notably absent in recent years), then you'll likely be quite happy to see some return to form here.
But there is a kicker to all of this; the game's current length. Act 1 of the game lasts for about three hours. It ends on a high note, the game gets better and better as it develops and Act 1 has a fantastic climax... But it ends as its getting very good, and leaves you wanting more. Act 2 is coming free to everyone who purchases the game in the future, and I'll update this review whenever it comes about, but for now what is in Act 1 will probably take players somewhere around 3-5 hours to complete.
As it is now, it's a bit short, and still to be seen how long the entire package of the game will be (if Act 2 will be just as long, longer, or shorter than Act 1), but what they have here is fantastic, it legitimately is one of the best classic-styled survival-horror games to release in the last few years, and I think genre enthusiast who like certain elements of horror games that have been absent since the days of old will really appreciate the game. It's well-paced, well-executed, but due to the length for Act 1 maybe a little undercooked right now.
It feels like the length may have been a budget thing. The developers only had $26k to make the game, and my guess is that they were running low on funds and decided to release what they have so far to help development costs. And I hope it works, there is a very confident horror game here, and honestly some of the most fun I've had in a horror game in a while.
The weird thing is the secrets I mentioned earlier. There are complete sections of the game you could miss if you don't do some exploration. There are ghosts you won't fight unless you go off the beaten path. A tip to the wise is when it turns night-time and before you enter the school, don't enter the school like the game suggests and instead head back towards the town you just came from. There are literally four different types of ghosts if you head backwards at this point that you'll never encounter in the main game. And little hidden areas and easter eggs to uncover all about. So on that front, there is some really cool optional content to explore in the game.
There's also a few cool unlockables. Once you complete the game, you unlock three additional outfits, all of which are actually pretty well designed, and can be used on a second and later playthrough.
There's also a few side areas you can explore right now that don't really lead to anything, which I can only guess are there right now for the possible future Free Roam Mode (a lot of buildings and side-areas off the beaten-path are currently inaccessible or kind of barren right now, and I assume will be open in the free-roam mode the developers are working on).
I want DreadOut to succeed. I really liked what was here, I'd even go as far to say this has serious potential to be one of the best horror games for fans of the genre to release in the last few years. But Act 1 goes by easily in 3-5 hours, and as of the moment of this review there are no conclusions here.
But DreadOut is completely worth experiencing, even as it is now. It's tense, sometimes terrifying, has the right amount of weirdness to it, and is actually a lot of fun. Its low budget shows, especially in the graphics department, but through clever design, good execution, and variety at hand, manages to be a fun experience.