“All roads lead deeper into the woods,” says one of the twisted characters in Darkwood, an excellent and haunting game of survival in a nightmarish forest. There are horrors in its tangles of subsuming wood, things you won’t quite understand, characters who aren’t quite human, aren’t quite friendly. A game in the tradition of Pathologic and STALKER, Darkwood was developed by a Polish team of three called Acid Wizard Studio, and in many ways, it sounds as if that mordant quote is a comment on their experience of making it.
Their desire to marry a strong non-linear story, meaningful choice, a threatening atmosphere, and a procedurally generated world that changes shape during play, led to serious challenges. As team working on their first-ever game, they’d blundered into tackling some of the biggest design questions in games today. “It was an extremely stressful experience,” artist and writer Artur Kordas tells me, as Darkwood’s development pushed into five long years. And part of their solution? Killing permadeath – a decision that led them deeper into the woods. Read the rest of this entry »