If you were a fan of late ’90s PC games and your bedside games were called Thief or Deus Ex, then stop, because Gloomwood may have reignited the flame you thought was gone. But others can also keep us company, as they may discover a title that, with its unappealing vibe, turns out to be a little gem of atmosphere and level design.
Important: About the early access test
This review by Gloomwood assesses the qualities and drawbacks of Early Access and is in no way a test of the final product. This text will be reworked as the game develops, prior to testing the final version.
I know you’re going to say when you see the photos and the trailer accompanying this test: “But what’s this thing straight from the early 2000s? So yeah, ugly Gloomwood, we’re not going to lie to each other.” But this visual austerity, as you can imagine, is voluntary, and it turns out to be completely in keeping with the theme and concept. It should also be noted that Gloomwood comes from the stables of New Blood Interactive, a small publisher that specializes in “neo retro” games – mainly FPS – from which such pearls as Amid Evil, UltraKill or Dusk (one of the best FPS games of years) have emerged. last ten, yes yes).
It is good to make the old with the new
Furthermore, Gloomwood is the new project of David Szymanski and Dillon Rogers, the creators of Dusk. And while dusk is a wonderful homage to Doom and Quake, This new project follows in the footsteps of Thief: The Dark Project, a game released in the late 1990s in which you played a medieval thief.. This is the accepted model for Gloomwood, at least in terms of gameplay, and thus we are facing a first-person exploration and stealth game, the “Immersive Sim” direction. If that genre doesn’t appeal to you, consider Dishonored, Deux Ex, or Deathloop. Freedom to approach, open level design full of alternative paths : Two essential aspects to this type of experience, we find here.
In Gloomwood, you play as a prisoner languishing in the depths of a dungeon, who apparently calls himself “The Doctor”. A mysterious voice comes to speak to you and leaves you with a key that allows you to escape. After a few meters of crawling, you put your hands on your beloved sword, a weapon that will get you out of many situations. On your finger, you will also notice a ring whose stone will begin to shine if you are very visible. A great way to manage “disappearance” in the environment, darkness is your best friend.
Flat design with small onions
Here you are released into the world of Gloomwood, with the only indication: reach the lighthouse by all means. Looking at the filthy windows of the prison, it doesn’t seem very far away, but the number of obstacles standing in your way is astounding. You are then completely free to go where you want, but above all free to be dropped by the first cross guard. Be warned, the first few moments in the game are a bit tricky. We grope and try to hide somehow, getting lost in the corridors … before gradually taking over the place. Here we touch on the game’s greatest success : a fascinating science of level design, inspired by the best game Immersive-Sim, but also from a less obvious at first glance model: From Software games.
From Thief and Dishonored we find this almost unhealthy desire to offer many more or less hidden paths, this desire that drives us to explore ever more to find the best way forward. From Dark Souls and Bloodborne, we find this pleasure in opening a door, rope or ladder, which will give us access to a saving shortcut and, most importantly, allow us to easily access the gramophone, the only way to save in the game. A design choice that can be frustrating at first, when you spend so much time killing and have to start over at the previous save point. Thus there is a form of learning to fail, Which nevertheless has the plus side of learning architecture and feeling of knowing, after a while, every nook and cranny.
And as you advance in the game, the levels unlock: once you leave the prison, you’ll explore a mine, a forest, or the beginning of a village, always with the very satisfying feeling that a thousand secrets are hidden there. By also progressing, the gameplay will gradually expand. Unlike Thief, in particular, Gloomwood does not prohibit the “forward” approach, since You’ll put your hands on a pistol barrel and then a rifle. However, ammunition is scarce, and you have to decide when you need to shoot, especially since it will inevitably attract guards. The game encourages player mischief more than ever, For example, the possibility of placing an explosive powder keg in the corner, throwing a bottle to attract a couple of guards, before a well-placed shot explodes all.
You’re a little ugly, but you have crazy charms
We mentioned it in the first lines of this text: Gloomwood intentionally uses a very retro style, giving the feel of playing a computer game released in the late 1990s or early 2000s. But this does not mean that it is devoid of artistic trappings, far from it. Here, a mention from the program should be made again, because sometimes we feel like we’re in the world of Bloodborne. Blooborne that would have been released at the launch of PS2, of course, but its magic acts instantly Even if one is slightly sensitive to the neo-retro style. The atmosphere is Victorian, steampunk, with a good dose of horror. Also notice a lot of work on the sound, especially with the occasional and sometimes ringed nasal guards’ sounds, or the terrifying growl of dogs lurking in the mine, which have the ability to smell you even if you’re in the dark.
However, do you have to spend €16 to buy early access to Gloomwood, knowing thatThis version will be completed between 4 and 6 hours depending on your desire to explore the map from top to bottom ? The answer is yes if you are a super customer of type and fee style. It’s obviously an introduction, almost a big demo, but everything is spotlessly clean and bug-free and still has the feeling that it has a beginning and an end. The game should remain in Early Access for at least a year and a half, although new parts will be added over time. The title also looks catchy enough that you’ll want to replay the game from the beginning, to discover the new subtleties.
- Very open and elaborate level design
- A variety of styles
- Very successful gothic and scary atmosphere
- Guns can succeed in stealth
- Excellent job on the sound
- Backup system that can be frustrating
- slow motion hero
- Visually, it can sting if you are not familiar with the new retro style
- Not a big introduction at the moment
If you like stealth / first-person action games that leave plenty of room for creativity and the “retro” graphic style doesn’t scare you, you can try Gloomwood Early Access without any worries. This Victorian “prankster/thief”, with an atmosphere close to survival horror, actually benefits from exceptional level design, making it possible to change styles on a massive scale. The desire to deliver the sensations of “early 2000s computer gaming” is there, very clearly, with the necessary modifications to the title that will be released in 2022. The result is a mixture of very enjoyable sensations, as if the Pentium MMX has miraculously transcended the eras, And that the developers kept releasing games there against all odds. However, we must realize that this early access, immaculately clean, is only a great introduction and the best is sure to come.
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