If you were a PC gamer in the late 90s and your bedside games were called Thief or Deus Ex, then hang on, because Gloomwood might just reignite a flame you thought was gone. . But others can also join us, because they can discover a title that, under its unattractive air, turns out to be a small gem of atmosphere and level design.
IMPORTANT: About Early Access Testing
This Gloomwood review evaluates the qualities and shortcomings of Early Access and in no way represents a test of the definitive product. This text will be reworked as the game develops, before testing the final version.
I know you’re going to say when you see the images and trailer that accompany this test: “but what is this thing straight out of the early 2000s? So yeah, Gloomwood is ugly, we’re not going to lie to each other. But this visual austerity, as you can imagine, is voluntary, and has been completely consistent with the subject and the concept. It should also be noted that Gloomwood comes from the stables of New Blood Interactive, a small publisher specializing in “neo retro” games – and mainly FPS – from which pearls of the genre emerge such as Amid Evil, ULTRAKILL or Dusk (one of the best FPS of the last 10 years, yes yes).
It’s good to make the old with the new
In addition, Gloomwood is the new project of David Szymanski and Dillon Rogers, the creators of Dusk. And while Dusk is a nice homage to Doom and Quake, this new project follows in the footsteps of Thief: The Dark Project, a game released at the end of the 90s where you play a thief in the middle ages.. This is the accepted model of Gloomwood, at least in terms of gameplay, and therefore we are facing a game of exploration and penetration in the first person, trend “Immersive Sim”. If that genre doesn’t appeal to you, consider Dishonored, Deux Ex or even Deathloop. Freedom of access, open level design full of alternative paths : two important aspects of this type of experience, which we see here.
In Gloomwood, you play as a prisoner suffering deep in a cell, who apparently calls himself “The Doctor.” A mysterious voice comes to talk to you and leaves you a key that will allow you to escape. After a few meters spent crawling, you will get your hands on your beloved cane-sword, a weapon that can save you in many situations. On your finger, you also notice a ring whose stone begins to shine when you are very visible. A great way to manage your “invisibility” environment, darkness is your best friend.
A level design with small onions
So here you are released into the world of Gloomwood, with the only clue: reach the lighthouse by all means. Seen from the dirty windows of the prison, it doesn’t seem very far, but the number of obstacles standing in your way seems dizzying. You are completely free to go where you want, but most of all free to shoot at the first cross guard. Warning, the first few moments of the game are a little rough. We groped around, we tried to hide somehow, we got lost in the corridors… Before gradually taking the place. Here we touch upon the greatest achievement of the game : a superbly mastered science of level design, inspired by two of the best Immersive-Sim, but also by a less obvious model at first glance: the From Software games.
From Thief and Dishonored, we found this almost bad desire to offer many more or less hidden paths, this desire to push us to explore more to find the best way to progress. . From Dark Souls and Bloodborne, we have found this joy in opening a door, a rope or a ladder, which will give us access to a saving shortcut, which is even more important if it allows us to quickly to reach a gramophone, the only way to save The game A design choice that can be frustrating at the beginning, if you spend a lot of time killing and have to start over at the previous save point. Thus there is a form of learning through failure, which however has a positive side to learning architecture and the feeling of knowing, after a while, every nook and cranny.
And the further you go in the game, the more the levels open up: once you leave the prison, you explore a mine, a forest, the beginning of a village, always with more satisfying that feeling of a thousand. the secrets are there. search. It is also through development that the game gradually expands. Unlike the Thief, in particular, Gloomwood does not prohibit the “frontal” method, because you get your hands on a pistol barrel and then a rifle. Ammo is scarce, though, and you’ll have to decide when you need to fire, especially since you’ll inevitably attract guards around. The game encourages more than player damage, with for example the possibility of placing an explosive powder keg in a corner, throwing a bottle to attract a duo of guards, before a well-placed shot blows everything up.
You’re a little lazy, but you’re crazy
We mentioned it in the first lines of this text: Gloomwood deliberately uses an ultra-retro style, which gives the feeling of playing a PC game released in the late 90s or early 2000. But no that would mean he has no artistic trappings, far from it. Here, it is also From Software that should be mentioned, because sometimes there is the impression of being in the Bloodborne universe. A Blooborne released at the launch of the PS2, of course, but whose charm works immediately if one is even slightly sensitive to the neo-retro style. The atmosphere is Victorian, steampunk, with a good dose of horror. Also note the extensive sound work, especially the sometimes nasal, sometimes guttural voices of the guards, or the terrifying growls of the dogs lurking in the mine, which have the ability to sniff you out even when you’re there. in the dark.
However, should you spend €16 to buy early access to Gloomwood, knowing that itThis version can be completed in between 4 and 6 hours depending on your desire to explore the map from top to bottom ? The answer is yes if you are an ultra customer of the genre and the graphic style. It’s obviously a prologue, almost a big demo, but the whole thing is completely clean, bug-free and still has the feeling of having a beginning and an end. The game should remain in early access for at least a year and a half, although new features will be added over time. The title is also attractive enough to want to restart a game from the beginning, to find new subtleties.
- A very open and detailed level design
- A wide variety of methods
- A successful gothic and spooky atmosphere
- Guns in a stealth game can work
- Excellent job on the sound
- Backup system that can be frustrating
- The slow motion of the hero
- Visually, it’s offensive if you’re not used to the neo-retro style
- Not much of a prologue for now
If you like first-person stealth/action games that leave a lot of room for creativity and the “retro” graphic style doesn’t scare you, you can try Gloomwood’s early access for nothing anxiety. This Victorian “Dishonored / Thief”, with an atmosphere close to a survival-horror, already benefits from a unique level design, which makes it possible to change the methods widely. The desire to offer “early 2000s PC gaming” sensations is there, very clear, however the necessary changes for a title that will come out in 2022. The result is a mixture of pleasant feelings. , as our Pentium MMX miraculously crossed the ages , and that developers continue to release games there against all odds. However, we must know that this early access, clean clean, is only a great introduction and that the best is sure to come.
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