What an odd beast The Town of Light [official site] is. Per Alec’s preview from Develop last month, it’s Gone Home by way of Silent Hill rather than a traditional horror game. No monsters, no supernatural sub-plot and very little direct threat. A new trailer reveals that you play as Renee, an ex-inmate of Volterra, an infamous and real Italian asylum. She’s returned to the decaying ruin of the institution in the modern day to find the doll pictured above. The doll is not going to turn out to be the physical embodiment of an evil spirit – it’s just a doll she wants back – but the trip could be spooky thanks to realistic atmosphere and aesthetic, produced through thousands of hours of research.
It’s a difficult one to consider and there’s obviously more pitfalls along the way than with almost any other subject. Once you’re in the realm of taking this stuff seriously, respect is needed at every step of the process for everyone involved. The best way to do that is through realism and, as Alec noted, developers LKA.it are going as far as putting real notes from staff members in the game, rather than making up their own and risking ending up in familiar, tropey territory. Equally, all 7000 square meters of Volterra have been painstakingly recreated to ensure that while Renee’s story may be fictional, the real-world inspirations for it are front and centre.
I’m just happy somebody’s trying to do something serious with well-worn horror locales, even if they may ultimately miss the mark. I enjoyed Outlast, I like Silent Hill as much as the next guy who never had the stones to play it, but something different is always interesting and something new is always welcome. Almost every horrific moment throughout human history has at this point been alternately gamified, dramatised and used for comedy across various mediums. Games rarely get to take a documentary-like approach and The Town of Light is toeing that intriguing middle ground of teaching while maintaining interaction through player choice.
We’ll get to see exactly where it lands on that spectrum before the end of Autumn, and it has already made it through Greenlight. It’ll also have Oculus Rift support, if that’s your bag.