by Dr Marker
“Something strange is happening in our town. Old Gods are awakening. Reality is beginning to crumble. Robed figures can be seen gathering in the woods at night. People have gone missing. Strange creatures haunt the beaches.”
These are the cryptic words with which you are introduced into the World of Horror, a retro mystery, horror and adventure game which tasks you with investigating the strange goings-on in a small Japanese town to uncover, and hopefully prevent, the awakening of a Lovecraftian Old God and in so doing saving mankind from a horrible, horrible fate.
Taking very clear influence from the works of H.P. Lovecraft and Junji Ito the most immediate quality of World of Horror is the atmosphere and presentation, the creepy, unsettling artwork coupled with the minimalist retro style combine to make a game that can be surprisingly unnerving and chilling tapping into the same feeling of uncanny discomfort and revulsion that fans of Ito will recognise from his works, tapping into the darker parts of your imagination to help fill in the blanks.
The gameplay, admittedly, is one of the first faults with World of Horror. It does take very heavily from old school adventure games mixed with elements of roguelikes and RPG’s, so while there is a fair bit of depth and a lot of satisfaction to be had from learning how the different mechanics work within the game it is admittedly a very dense game that is understandably very daunting and overwhelming for people new to the genre
The tutorial, while helpful, does gloss over some very important details such as how exactly skill checks work which can result in a lot of early playthroughs feeling very random and like you’re at the will of the random number gods rather than the great old ones, not because the game itself is particularly unfair (at least not in my experience) but because a lot of mechanics aren’t very clearly explained, requiring a lot of patience and willingness to experiment on the part of the player.
Combat is an element of the game and is honestly the weakest part of World of Horror, overall the interface is rather clunky and, again, while the system isn’t overly complicated it suffers from the issue of looking very complex, requiring the player to balance out the idea of things like power level, time multipliers, how weapon stat scaling works, what kind of damage the enemy does, the four different pages of actions you can take, the difference between dodging and bracing and a few other things that, while not overly complicated or hard to get to grips with, can result in a bit of information overload at the beginning, resulting in the game seeming harder and more unforgiving than it is (this is not even getting into the ritual system for combatting ghosts that was added in a patch that, while flavourful, relies on a bit too much guesswork for my tastes).
The difficulty of World of Horror, as a roguelike, is obviously going to be rather high, with a lot of elements of the game requiring either advanced knowledge that you may not immediately have or in some cases being down to complete RNG (skill checks, for example), while there are methods of mitigating the difficulty and randomness of the game (along with ways of breaking it completely) it is something that should be kept in mind for those who are interested in trying this game out, you can find yourself on a downward spiral where things just seem to go from bad to worse and everything seems hopeless…and you can also find yourself dealing with a cakewalk of a run where everything seems to go perfectly, similar to many roguelikes.
An elephant in the room is that World of Horror is still in active development, as such, there are items, encounters and features that aren’t quite fully implemented and mechanics can change dramatically from how I’ve presented them here (and as such, I can only attest to the accuracy of this preview as of the date of writing), if you are interested in trying this game out I would encourage you to keep this in mind and remember that not only are a lot of things open to change but that the developer does pay attention to feedback in the forums so it’s also worth sharing your thoughts there! (Please notice me, Panstasz-Senpai)
Overall, I do want to recommend World of Horror, especially to people who are fans of the source material or have become rather tired of the visuals and jump scare focused horror titles of today and want something a bit more slow-paced that’ll actually disturb you rather than just startle you.
But I will also acknowledge that for people who are easily frustrated or who prefer a more laid back and user-friendly experience this can be a very frustrating game that, like the Lovecraftian horror this game depicts, requires a dedicated, possibly mad, mind to truly appreciate and understand.
TL;DR: An excellent roguelike game that, despite still needing some tweaking and polishing in areas and being somewhat unfriendly to the inexperienced, is a worthwhile addition to any horror fan’s collection.