Desolate Review – A Hidden Horror Gem Emerges

Desolate
HypeTrain Digital

My friend and I began our journey unceremoniously dropped off on the eastern side of Granichny Island. The entire island had been an experimental locale utilized by the mysterious “The New Light” conglomerate, where they conducted their nefarious research unimpeded. But it had recently become the epicenter of a catastrophic event of unknown origins, at least to the outside world.

The conglomerate had undertaken a massive-scale campaign of finding out how to rectify the disastrous situation by sending “Volunteers” out to the island in order to see what exactly is going on. We were two such Volunteers, and like all of the other ones we were unarmed and given orders to search the island for clues as to what happened.

My fellow Volunteer, in reality a good gaming buddy of mine who is just as squeamish about survival horror games as I am, first noticed how creepy the island’s environments were. We stood next to a campfire and it was nighttime, and the light of the fire only carried so far and then disappeared into swirling fog and ominous shifting shadows.

“Okay, we might as well do this,” I said in a half-baked attempt to galvanize my friend into action. Actually, I wanted him to go out into the mists first. We begrudgingly began walking towards the first building we could see. It was a large warehouse by the shore next to a few other buildings. I reminded my friend, who was walking around upright, that we should probably be utilizing our “crouching wimp technique,” which consisted of carefully moving forward in a semi-squatting posture.

My friend let out some sort of sound that reminded me of a squeaking rodent and I glanced over to see what he was dealing with. Not too far from our position I spied what looked like some sort of four-legged creature with a large gaping maw moving towards us. We both shrieked in our mics and took off running in the opposite direction.

It took us a few moments to stop sprinting and recover some semblance of composure. Then we gradually gathered enough courage to sneak back down to the general area, just not where the same beastie had been spotted. We approached another building at the opposite end of the small compound and snuck through a back door, thinking that we’d have a better chance of being unnoticed. That was a mistake.

Just as soon as we entered into what looked like a storage building, the dark, ghostly silhouette of a little girl flashed into existence right in front of us. It emitted some bizarre lullaby-sounding utterances. We couldn’t have turned around and bolted any faster. In fact, as we tried to scramble back through the same door, we got stuck, apparently trying to do our best Laurel & Hardy impersonation.

If my first game of HypeTrain Digital’s new survival horror extravaganza, Desolate, is any indication of how effectively scary it is, then you can probably surmise that horror fans are in for a real treat. It’s also a very original title that should be applauded for not relying on the same old tired horror tropes that most game developers lazily fall back on.

I’ve read a couple of Steam reviews that described (rather reductively) Desolate as a combination of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and Dead Island. While I would partially agree with the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. comparison, Dead Island though, is totally off. Instead of utilizing the same old, tired, worn out zombie template, Desolate has some of the most original monsters and weird entity designs I’ve seen in a horror title.

For instance, during my playtime, I encountered various demonic-looking, red-eyed madmen; mysterious electromagnetic entities; ravenous warg-like monstrosities; and phantoms that seemed to materialize right in front of me at just the right (or wrong in my case!) moments. All of these enemies were quite deadly.

Considering that if you do find a firearm, it’ll have limited ammo, and that melee weapons wear down over time, you’ll really have to pace yourself and choose your enemies carefully. Therefore, utilizing the game’s handy stealth mechanic is a must if you want to survive for longer than a few minutes. You can also sneak up on certain foes and administer one-hit kills if you’re ninja enough.

I was also pleased to find that Desolate has a full crafting system with many different recipes that you can discover and equally diverse types of resources that you can gather. And you won’t see any unrealistically glowing items within the game’s environs. Therefore, you have to scour through areas very carefully and see what items you can interact with and which ones you can’t. As a nice touch, the game also sports an encumbrance system, so you can’t go around carrying all kinds of heavy equipment, since each item has a certain amount of weight to it.

Desolate’s open world campaign play consists of going to different locations, looking for clues as to what happened on the island. You also receive tasks such as re-activating a power station or investigating a distant lighthouse. The island’s various enemies roam the island, while some of them linger around or guard certain objectives.

Overall, Desolate is a fantastically effective fright-fest that will keep gamers on their toes. It has great atmosphere, fright-tastic enemies, an interesting storyline, and immersive visuals and sound design. What’s also scary about the game itself is how much potential it has since it’s only been in Early Access for two months. Try it out with up to three of your friends and see for yourself.

SCORE: 81%

Desolate features outstanding graphics that make its survival horror gameplay truly shine. However, you want to have a pretty beefy gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:

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