A Short but Terrifying Stroll Through the Woods…
The horror genre is known for taking risks to better create an experience that sticks with players through fascinating shadowy figures, haunting sounds and ambiance, and an atmosphere that practically breaths down the back of your neck. While not all horror games fill this mentally frightening task, indie developers Antagonist, and their atmospheric horror game Through the Woods, accomplishes an experience that’s not exactly geared toward the faint of heart.
How far will you go to save your child?
Playing as the mother of a Norwegian boy, Through the Woods starts off by introducing the player to a timid, but loveable couple of mother and son. Soon after, however, players witness the abduction of their precious boy only to find themselves amidst a dangerous ancient Norse tale of old Erik. Painted as a lonely old man who steals away naughty children only to later take their life, you begin your trek into the dark and shadowy woods determined to save your only child.
Through the hair-raising adventure our protagonist, Karen, begins to open up and express her true feelings toward her son, Espen, as the dangers begin to lurk ever-near. At first, seeming like he was only a burden, the thought of losing her boy begins to dwell on her conscious only to trigger an undying love and resolve to track down this Erik monster and win back her child. But what she doesn’t know about the dreadful forest she’s so carelessly wandering into is exactly what she learns, not only about herself – but the old folk legends as well, along the way.
A Chilling Atmosphere
Through the Woods hangs onto an atmosphere in which creates a haunting experience all with minimal combat. Only equipped with a flashlight, and a torch for a short period, Karen must fend off dreadful shadows and abominations as she makes her way through the night. With no real option to fight back or defend yourself, players will operate the game more as a stealth mission than anything else. Sneaking passed the terrifying giant trolls, listening for the screeching screams of the zombie-like creature – the Huldra, or fending off a pair of wolves simultaneously all comes into play within the dark depths of the woods; and avoiding these creatures brings forth some of the most chilling events in the game.
Primarily focused as what many would call a ‘walking simulator’, players will spend the entirety of the game exploring the veering trails of the dark forest. The game drives players through a mostly linear path leading up to the game’s ending, but does offer a few semi open areas to explore for hidden collectibles, journals covering the lore of the Norwegian island, as well as uncovering past secrets about Karen’s life. The game’s main narration only lasts a couple of hours, but most of the trek will leave you with sweaty palms and an increased heart rate.
What Through the Woods lacks in content and gameplay more than makes up for with exhilarating frights and a trembling aura. The longer you explore the woods throughout the unforgettable night, the more you begin to understand the characters and lore that surrounds the game. Every so often you may come across torn down villages from long ago hearing the lost voices of past villagers who’ve lost their young ones to old Erik, but may also come away with more than you knew about the forgotten island before. Throughout the abandoned villages squeaky doors may be peered into in hopes of finding more journal entries from some of the inhabitants that suffered so long ago.
Through the Woods creates a horrifying experience without throwing in any difficult enemies or strategic combat maneuvers. The atmosphere is perfect for any thrill seekers looking for a more casual approach to the horror genre.
With a mostly fulfilling story line the characters aren’t exactly expertly crafted, and low-budget visuals definitely don’t add to the experience. Still, for the modest price and haunting memorable experience with the 3 or so hour storyline, Through the Woods’ casual gameplay helps pull the frightening narrative all the way through to the end.