PAX West 2016 Impressions: Through the Woods
Through the Woods by Antagonist began as a Kickstarter, and it will soon be coming to Steam as their debut game. During PAX West 2016, I got to play the demo and had a quick Q&A with the staff behind Through the Woods. First, let me begin by setting the story. Through the Woods revolves around the story of a mother in search of her missing son in a forest on the western shore of Norway. The game plays in third-person, and the mother narrates her tale as you travel through the forest. Bit by bit, we learn more about what happened in the past; eventually bringing us to the present. This game is a psychological horror game with heavy influences from Norse Mythology and Norwegian folk tales. I only knew a little about the game from watching the trailer. I walked into the demo a bit intrigued and with an opened mind.
One of the things that I noticed was that sound effects play an important role in this game. Certain sounds will increase or decrease based on character proximity and position and really sets the tone of the game. Surrounding ambient noise is interactive and the same goes for the music; it starts slow, then picks up in volume to match the suspense. Weather effects such as thunder and wind noises all added towards the overall feeling of loneliness and terror. Towards the end of the demo, I encountered a troll and as I got closer, I could hear growls and snarls. Eventually, I found a cave to hide in and that signaled the end of my demo session.
After the demo, I talked to the staff and had many of my questions answered. I don’t want to spoil too much of the game, but there were several small things that I noticed throughout the demo that there were actually clues or hints about the game. In terms of gameplay, I was told that using the flashlight (your main tool) will yield different reactions. For example, on certain monsters, the flashlight will stun them and on a different monster, the light will provoke them. I also mentioned to the staff that Through the Woods reminds me of the movie “Troll Hunter” (Trolljegeren in Norwegian). When I noted this similarity, it turns out that “Troll Hunter”, along with “Thale”, another Norwegian supernatural horror movie, were inspirations for the game. I also learned the game takes place in a world where Norse Mythology and Norwegian folk tales are all real, so that might mean you could encounter creatures like a "Gullinbursti", or a "Huldra", who leads people into the forest, or a "Nokken" who lives in a lake and lures people into its icy depths.
If you are even just a bit intrigued by the story or are a fan of the genre, I encourage you to check out the demo. The atmosphere in Through the Woods is fantastic and had me on the edge constantly. This game will have you going online and searching for Norwegian folktales and lore to better understand the monsters and how to protect yourself from them in-game. Through the Woods will be available on Steam soon so add it to your wish list and may you sleep well after playing it.