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As an avid horror fan, the Dark Pictures anthology series has been a blessing. While I enjoy gaming, I am not amazing at combat or difficult puzzles. Because of this, I just had to try out all games in the series as they came out. Man of Medan was released all the way back in 2019 and you can definitely see it was the first pancake so to speak. Let’s dive in and find out why shall we? 

Plot

The story takes from the legend of SS Ourang Medan, a ghost ship from World War II times. Five young adults embark on a scuba diving journey to see a wrecked plane. Things take turn for the worse when they run into people with bad intentions. The group ends up trapped on the Ourang Medan and it’s not long before they start seeing ghosts of the ship’s past. Will they make it out in one piece or will the evil entities consume them? One will have to play to find out the ship’s secrets and what lies beneath the surface. 

Five main characters sit in the dark lit up by only a lantern. From left to right - Brad, Julia, Alex, Fliss and Conrad. They look mid conversation
Come on guys, let’s fill play time before the action starts (https://thedarkpicturesprod.blob.core.windows.net)

Characters

I’ll be honest, the characters are not super likable. Conrad and Julia are more or less just spoiled rich brats who seem quite out of touch with how the real world works. Alex doesn’t have much development apart from his relationship with Julia and Brad is sweet but a bit bland overall. Fliss is probably my least favorite as her characterization seems a bit inconsistent and the voice acting does not help. There is a lot of focus on relationships, to the point where maxing one out is a trophy, but they don’t have that much of an effect on the story (except Alex and Julia).

Conrad looks at a smiling woman who has dried up looking skin and demonic eyes.
It’s me, hi, I’m the scariest part of the game hands down (https://thedarkpicturesprod.blob.core.windows.net)

Gameplay

This section is the downfall of Man of Medan. You can clearly see that it was the company’s first attempt at an interactive movie type of game (not counting Until Dawn as that was backed up by Sony). The gameplay is janky with scenes cutting off at weird points and characters popping up in places they weren’t at a second ago. One of the trophies is also glitched, making platinum impossible for those who take the gaming endeavor that seriously (I believe it is now patched up but cannot confirm 100%). 

Final thoughts

All in all, I still admire Man of Medan and the precedent it sets up for the rest of the anthology. Gameplay troubles aside, it is still an enjoyable adventure with a quite fair branching-out system that actually provides multiple endings for the story. I would absolutely recommend it. 

3.8 out of 5 stars (3.8 / 5)

Gaming

The Sinking City Review: Sunken Lovecraftian Lore

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The Sinking City is an open world third-person shooter developed by Ukranian developer, Frogwares, and published by Nacon. In this game, you play as a private investigator who has come to the city of Oakmont. In this half-submerged city you hope to find the cause of your maddening dreams and the mass disappearances plaguing the city.

Inspired by several H.P. Lovecraft stories, The Sinking City is a love letter to Lovecraftian lore. However, it takes the time to condone problematic themes in Lovecraft’s writings which is always appreciated. It has a massive open world that lets you explore the haunting world of a city driven partially mad. The neighborhoods are painstakingly designed and the found objects tell an enrapturing story. Riding a motor boat through flooded streets was mesmerizing. I also am fond of the novel detective mechanics. Even if they are a little basic, they are still interesting and tell a good story. 

A screenshot of gameplay from The Sinking City, showcasing a great character model.

I cannot stress enough that I wanted to love The Sinking City. The premise and the atmosphere were everything I wanted from a Lovecraftian horror game. But, the game just fell flat. Frustratingly enough, most of the issues with the game are simple quality of life improvements. I had consistent bugs, performance issues, and visual hiccups that prevented the game from coming into its own. The enthralling environments were tarnished by enemies appearing and disappearing and character animations not functioning properly. While the character models were exquisite, the dialogue was comically tacky, once again ruining the mood. I also wasn’t a fan of the combat, which felt undercooked in its difficulty and stealth mechanics. The Sinking City feels like the alpha release of what could be an amazing game. But in its current state I found it to be semi-unplayable.

That being said, the game has an amazing mod community on Steam. They have created community content to fix a lot of the issues I have with the base game, so I recommend checking that out if you already own the game. I have also heard that the game has better performance on consoles instead of on PC, where I played it. So that may be another avenue for enjoying The Sinking City.

Another unfortunate reason I can’t recommend the game at the moment, is current legal battles against Nacon the publisher. Nacon has been accused by several of its developers, including Frogwares, of pirating their game and uploading it illegally to Steam. The legal battles have yet to be resolved, however, it is unfortunate that these accusations have happened twice now by two independent developers.

Maybe one day we’ll have a good Lovecraftian horror game. But, it is not yet that day. 

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

However, in honor of Frogwares please consider donating to a Ukrainian Relief Fund as they actively fight on the front lines to keep their country safe. Additionally, consider supporting their new game Sherlock Holmes: the Awakened.

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Gaming

Röki Review: Family & Scandinavian Folklore

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Röki is an adventure puzzle game developed by Polygon Treehouse and published by United Label and CI Games. In the game, you play as Tove, a young girl on a hunt to save her kidnapped brother. She must engage with creatures from Scandinavian folklore as well as her own guilt surrounding the death of her mother in order to save her brother from a grim fate.

This is a game with an immense amount of heart. From the art to the story to the sound design, you can feel the soul and care that went into Röki. And for the most part, it pays off. I invested emotionally into all of the characters as I played. I was also enraptured by the depth of the story and character interactions as the game progressed. The gameplay is similar to that of a point-and-click adventure game, where you collect items and drag them onto environmental objects to solve puzzles. The items and environments were intricate and satisfying to engage with the majority of the time. Especially in the first third of the game, I delighted at uncovering little secrets and talking with the inhabitants of the forest. When the game was rewarding, it really felt rewarding.

A screenshot of gameplay from Röki.

Despite its enchanting nature, the middle third of the game was a definite low point. As a game that took me about 10 hours to play through, about 3 of those hours were exhausting. The puzzles were especially tedious, requiring a significant amount of backtracking and/or convoluted solutions. Instead of feeling rewarded for solving the puzzles, I just felt thankful I could move on. The biggest issue wasn’t the solutions or placement of items, it was the annoyance that I knew exactly what I needed to do but had to spend at least fifteen minutes stuck in unskippable animations to complete it.

Röki is a gorgeous adventure game that immerses you in Scandinavian folklore through a combination of story and puzzles. However, if you don’t have patience for unskippable dialogue or frustrating puzzles you may want to try a different game. Additionally, I find the price of $20 a little high for how frustrating a third of the game is. But I would consider it a must-get for puzzle fans during a sale! Find Röki on Steam here.

3.9 out of 5 stars (3.9 / 5)

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Gaming

Ring of Pain Review: An Addictive Dungeon Crawler

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Ring of Pain is a rogue-like dungeon crawler developed by Simon Boxer and Twice Different. In the game, you travel through layers of a dungeon collecting loot and killing monsters. Each layer holds a series of cards containing enemies, curses, boons, and exits. As a character, you gain equipment, spells, items, and stat increases that help you defeat your enemies (or just run away better). 

Ring of Pain is a fantastic game. I received it in a charity game bundle, but it had sat untouched in my Steam library for a year. On a whim, I decided to try it out, telling myself I would play an hour or two and then review it. I ended up playing for four hours, only stopping because I had prior engagements. Every time I sat down to write this review, I instead played another couple of hours in Ring of Pain. The point of this story is not my weak will, but instead the highly addictive nature of Ring of Pain.

A screenshot of gameplay from Ring of Pain.

The gameplay had a good mix of strategy and luck, making it rewarding to succeed. There are also many viable strategies to pursue, which means there are many ‘correct’ ways to play the game and still see success. As someone who can get frustrated with rogue-likes, I liked how each run was relatively short but rewarding. This meant that I didn’t feel like I was sinking hours into gameplay that led nowhere. Also worth a mention is the absolutely stunning artwork that masters being atmospheric, creepy, and comical. 

My biggest gripe is that I wish there was more diversity of items. I sometimes felt as if I was just getting the same boring equipment over and over again. That being said, the developers have been consistently adding new content to the game since it released. Therefore, my largest issue is being addressed. 

Ring of Pain is a great game, and I highly recommend it for those who enjoy quick rogue-likes with dungeon-crawling elements. However, try another game if you get frustrated by random generation that could be impossible to surmount. 

Available on Steam for $20, I would say the price point is a little steep for the diversity of content. However, it’s a must-get during a sale!

4.7 out of 5 stars (4.7 / 5)

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