The Darkwood forest is infested with all sorts of vile creatures, mysterious friends and foes, an eerie atmosphere, and a sense of dread like you drank contaminated water out of desperation and regretted it almost instantly. You are alone, but you are not truly alone. All of the inhabitants are after you, want something from you, or haunts you with their presence. All are ravaged, infested with darkness, except for rabbits that hop in front of your path, scurrying away because they know too well that Darkwood is not a safe place. It is not something you have figured out yet, but soon, you will become one with Darkwood and all of its manifestations. One nightmare after another, you wonder if this is all a nightmare that you manifested in your mind, or is it all real? You embark in this dark journey to put the pieces together, scavenging to survive through the night and one night only, because that is your main fear. Will I survive through the night?
Darkwood is a survival-horror, roguelike, sandbox game with a story. The player can choose to venture into Darkwood using permadeath or no-permadeath. It is highly recommended to play Darkwood with permadeath. It increases the tension, vulnerability, and sense of dread which all add more to the atmosphere and overall experience. Darkwood is unforgiving, merciless, and it is not for players with a weak heart.
It is important to note that Darkwood does have a story. The player can explore, unravel secrets, and the other mysteries in the dark forest. In your dark journey, you will meet the inhabitants of Darkwood. The residents of Darkwood consists of different, unique, twisted individuals. You will meet characters that you would never expect to meet in all shapes, sizes, and forms, equipped with unique personalities. Some are informative, some of them may want or demand things in return, and some work on incentives. They make some of Tim Burton's creations seem tame.
The visuals, art style, and graphics in Darkwood are easy on the eyes and they lend themselves to the atmosphere. The visuals are up to standard for an Indie game and especially for this particular type of game in this genre. While walking through the forest, the shadows create imagery that look almost like hallucinations. "Am I really seeing this? Or is that a corpse that I am seeing?" In Darkwood, trust your instincts more than your vision. The color palette suits the environments and the atmosphere. It creates a dark tone and an overall sense of dread that looms over you. Dark areas can be lit up with a light source such as a torch, a match, or a flare (items so far in the game). They light up the path for you to explore and gain access to new areas. But explore with extreme caution - you do not know what is around the corner. You may step on troop of mushrooms and become poisoned. Wander too far and you may become lost, run out of any light sources, and distance yourself further away from your base and safe haven. But is it really safe?
Darkwood is played from the top-down point of view with a cone of vision. While the cone vision is not a light source, it does show the player what you "can see." If a "horror" is chasing you and you are running away from it, your cone of vision will be in front of you because that is what you can only see while you are running away. The enemy that is chasing you from behind will not be visible to you; not until it is inside your cone of vision. Even if the foe is out of the range of the cone of vision, it will not be visible either. This adds suspense and it makes it more challenging when you must "fight or take flight." In Darkwood, you will need to pick your battles. You may wonder if it is from a top-down perspective, wouldn't you be able to see everything? And wouldn't that reveal all of your surroundings and everything in it? No, that is not how it works. Your cone of vision gives you some visibility, but you will need your light source to penetrate the darkness and light your path. The rest of the areas that is not within your vicinity will be dark. It is not as dark as an auditorium with a spotlight on a person, but it is really dark. Often times, you will not see an object until you get really close to it, even with a light source.
So far, there are several items that you can loot, a few weapons, and crafting recipes in Chapter 1. I have found three weapons so far - plank with nails, an axe, and a shovel that are melee weapons. Other helpful items that could be used as weapons or hunting, is a bear trap. You can also make molotovs. And with glass bottles, you can break it into shards and use it as an immobilizing trap. One of the coolest game mechanics that I found very interesting was the use of mushrooms or cooking mushrooms turning it into a drug/chemical substance. When you explore the forest, loot all the mushrooms that you find. Gather them and you may have enough to fill a syringe. Once the syringe is filled up, use the injection and it will grant you a new skill. I thought this was a really unique game mechanic and I cannot recall it ever being used before from my knowledge of many years of gaming since the 90s. It certainly took me by surprise and I just loved it. Further, there are recipes hidden throughout Darkwood like a recipe to make a "lantern" that I found along the way. This of course will require you to explore and search for the materials to craft and make a lantern. In your inventory, you can experiment and try to combine items together to create a new item from that combination. Just a tip: you can eat mushrooms! They heal you. Also, drinking water from the well at your base will heal you as well. Some of the most essential items are wood logs and mushrooms. Loot them all the time. If you find yourself running out of inventory space, craft what you can craft, and store away items at your base in the crates that you do not need at the moment.
The movement, movement speed, and combat feel fluid and responsive in Darkwood. If there is one gaming pet-peeve, that is clunky controls. You can sprint, but your character uses up stamina or endurance. In combat, you can hit harder by simply holding the right mouse button (RMB) to pull back and swing harder. It uses stamina as well. You can click LMB without the hold to make a light attack. With careful timing, while strafing, you can time your attacks while dodging attacks (there is no dodgeroll, don't worry!). So far, I have only used melee weapons and the bear trap, although I have found a gun clip and materials to make a molotov. Combat was surprisingly satisifying for a top-down game.
You can hear (audio, sound) every thump with every hit you land on an enemy. Weapons do deteriorate indicated by the item going from white to red on the weapon icon. I have found one NPC that you can trade items with and make deals. Since there is no money currency, because why would you have any, trade is on a barter system. For instance, if you find a piece of valuable jewelry, you can trade that for an item that you may need, or you can trade it in for information. Other NPCs will want information as well, so you may have to search and uncover information that you could trade for an important item that may be of aid.
Darkwood works on a level design system of randomly generated levels.
The audio, sound design, and soundtrack are fantastic. The music sets the dark mood and tone. And every crack of a melee weapon can be heard with authority.
There is so much to talk about and Darkwood is barely in Early Access with only one chapter! As you can tell, I am very pleased with the content that is available at the moment. It not only has surpassed my expectations, it already has me hooked with its dark charm and vast potential. I genuinely hope that they continue to support and add content to the game well after the final release.