Darkwood

Darkwood Review

All roads lead deeper into the forest

Alex Legard

Reviewed by playing a PS4 on

Darkwood is also available for Xbox One and Nintendo Switch

ESRB Mature rating

Darkwood recently released on consoles so allow me to give you an idea of what to expect from this unique survival horror game.

Darkwood screenshot 1
You know you're in for a creepy game once you come across the stranger in the prologue

When you start, you're dropped into the world as an unnamed doctor. You set out from your house and make your way through a dark and eerie forest until you come across an unconscious stranger with a key marked "21". You know the stranger came from outside the inescapable forest so you rob him of the key then drag him back to the house and beat him as you try to find out how he got into the forest. Then, the perspective switches and you now play as the stranger and have to find the doctor and get your key back. To find him, you have to explore the world, complete quests, find materials, and craft useful items as Darkwood is a survival RPG. At night, you have to make your way back to your hideout, turn on the generator, and pray that you don't get attacked by monsters. Trying to survive is a harrowing experience because it seems like everything is much stronger than you.

Combat in Darkwood does not feel good but I suppose that's intentional. First, you need to find a weapon before you can attack at all. Your weapon doesn't have much range and you have to wait at least a second between attacks. There are guns that you can craft later on but it'll take a while before you acquire one of those. After the tutorial, you have to find out for yourself what to do next without objective markers. I got stuck for a while at the very beginning but I used the journal to piece together where I needed to go. At a house near your starting point, there's a secret entrance leading to the underground. After the underground, you have to explore until you find the Wolfman. At first, I thought he was hostile because he says "I can smell you from a mile away, Meat." Anyway, he will tell you that he wants the key to the Chicken Lady's room and in exchange, he'll give you the doctor's location.

For most of Darkwood's campaign, you meet a certain character who tells you to meet another person or find an item but they don't tell you exactly where to do so. It usually takes quite a while to find what you need and this nonsense goes on throughout the entire game. To make matters worse, some dialogue is not repeatable so a couple of times, I couldn't remember where I had to go. As a result, Darkwood felt like a big game of hide-and-seek yet you have to get back to your hideout every ten minutes which is not fun.

Darkwood screenshot 2
Pro tip 1: when someone calls for help in a dark house, ignore them!

To survive in Darkwood, you explore the forest during the day and return to your hideout at night. Each day lasts 9.5 minutes in real time while the night is 4.5 minutes. At night, visibility is near zero so you'll either need a lantern or a nearby light source to see your way around. In the dark, you won't see the monsters coming but they can sure see you!

There are 4 hideouts that you'll encounter throughout: 3 in chapter 1 and 1 in chapter 2. Dry Meadow is the most peaceful hideout and you'll frequently have nights where you won't get attacked at all if you just move the lamps into the center room and make sure the light from the lamps doesn't escape the windows. I usually got rather bored as I did nothing while waiting for day. Silent Forest is more difficult but it's possible to not get attacked if you're lucky or have the right setup. I had a hard time here because I kept getting attacked by those dumb savages with long sticks and I didn't know how to deal with them. Old Woods is probably the hardest because I kept getting attacked by ferocious face-monsters known as chompers that are almost impossible to take down without firearms. The Swamp has several new types of enemies and is the only hideout in chapter 2 but the enemies there aren't particularly dangerous.

This brings me back to a point. I already said a few words about the combat in Darkwood but I'll say it again: you have to wait at least a second between attacks. Unless you're very familiar with enemy attack patterns, you will probably die many frustrating deaths.

Darkwood screenshot 3
Pro tip 2: when the sunlight turns orange, return to your hideout ASAP!

I wanted to mention that the story is pretty good despite all its faults. There is some interesting world-building and you have to piece together what's going on rather than have it laid out for you. The story is genuinely scary thanks to a few details that I won't say because I don't want to spoil anything. Thankfully, the art style and ambience only add to the scary mood. The story is rather short if you rush through it but you will find many plot details if you play Darkwood multiple times and there is a secret ending as well.

Darkwood is quite a difficult game so I don't think most players will complete it once let alone multiple times. Therefore, if you are like the majority of players, just keep in mind that you're not really getting the whole experience as you will need to beat Darkwood multiple times to see the big picture. As a side-note: for some reason, part of the screen along every edge is partly cut off when I play on my TV. This is extremely annoying because I can't see part of my health bar and my hotbar. I seriously don't get it.

Darkwood screenshot 4
I finally got out of the horrible forest but I still feel pretty miserable

Darkwood has an interesting world, a story that can go in different directions depending on your decisions, and a gameplay loop that's exciting at times and tedious at others. Its biggest weakness is how hard it can be to get to where you need to go and for that reason alone; I'm not entirely enthusiastic in recommending Darkwood. However, if you have the patience, why not give it a try?

  • + Your decisions actually alter the story in interesting ways
  • + Good world-building elements
  • + Genuinely scary atmosphere
  • - Figuring out what to do simply requires too much guesswork
  • - Returning to the hideout often is tedious
  • - Combat can be frustrating
7.0 out of 10
Gameplay video for Darkwood 10:07
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