What’s Gus Playing? Episode 2

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The diminutive duke of danger is back ~

Lloyd Sabin, 9 October 2017

Alrighty here is the second installment of What’s Gus Playing? Covers Darkwood, why I pretty much sucked at it and why I am shelving it for now.

So it goes without saying that when summer ends and the weather finally cools, I get in to a spooky mindset.

You know me. Yes you. And that guy too. We’ve known each other for a long time. And you know that this time of year I love to scare the bejeezus out of myself. I mean, just look here at this thread – I didn’t even create it myself.

So it goes without saying that when summer ends and the weather finally cools, I get in to a spooky mindset. This season’s first attempt at PC gaming fear comes courtesy of Darkwood, a top-down perspective game developed with the Unity engine by Acid Wizard studios. Reading that last sentence, how could Darkwood NOT scare the crap out of most players?

Well I guess there is one way. Darkwood prides itself on not holding the player’s hand, and being merciless in its treatment of its players in general. I can corroborate this. I died, got hopelessly trapped and restarted the game…all more than once. This week, while trying to navigate Darkwood in the off-hours, was a rough one: long days at work, wife away, tons of chores and errands with the kids and I was also sick. So…it may not have been the best week to attempt a game that only wanted to crush me in its bony green fingers.

That said, the setting of Darkwood – eastern European countryside, like that found in Poland or Hungary, although it is never named precisely – exudes a vibe of terror immediately. There’s something about that part of the world, when portrayed in games like the Witcher series, or Stalker, or Metro2033, that is just baseline unsettling. Add in Darkwood’s portrayal of the forest, it’s animal and human inhabitants, and the supernatural elements, and the game gets in to your head quickly. After an hour or two with Darkwood I always felt I had to shake it off, like I had seen enough for one night, and needed a shower. The game is very good at eliciting a sense of claustrophobia, of feeling more and more trapped by a hostile force, or even multiple forces…the woods, the structures you enter, the underground passages – everything in this game feels out to get the player. Sometimes I like that sense of challenge, sometimes not. If you enjoy that feeling of taking on a hostile world alone, then you will love Darkwood.

Additionally, the lore in Darkwood is great. Every tidbit I read, after whispering to myself ‘what the hell is going here,’ I wanted to learn more. But after getting stuck many times, then getting killed many times, then getting trapped…I decided to shelve Darkwood for a time, temporarily, and mentally gird myself for another attempt in the not too distant future. Darkwood is a solid game, it looks good, runs well and has great lore – but it will probably kick your ass more than a few times. Just be prepared for that.

See that disclaimer there? Acid Wizard Studios are not kidding.


Map skills are a must in Darkwood. You will get lost, and you will need to know how to read a map (even a scribbled, rudimentary one like this) in order to progress.


The lighting effects are very well done and are a major part of the game’s immersion, along with the day and night cycle. You do not want to be caught outside after dark.


Good to know *shudder*


Parts of Darkwood’s environment can be used in crafting medicine, food, weapons and other things. This is just one small example.


‘Protective substance.’ Sounds strange. Without it, though, you are as good as dead.


A road! A way out of this nightmare? Don’t count on it.


Rest assured that in every corner of the game that you cannot see, there is something waiting to kill you.


Are you here to help me? Oh…


This was the last thing I saw before I put Darkwood aside for a bit, to gain some semblance of sanity and to go take a hot shower. I will come back to it, maybe in a few days or a few weeks, but I’ll come back to it. It’s got it’s claws in me.


Think you have what it takes to navigate through Darkwood with your sanity intact? Try it out! For about $15.00 on Steam it’s not an unreasonable risk. And chances are you may be more successful at navigating its murky depths than I was on this initial try. There is a lot to like in Darkwood, but it can get frustrating quickly. You’ve been warned.

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