Desolate Review – A Carefully Crafted & Unique Horror Gem

Desolate             
Nearga/HyTrain Digital

Yeah, we all know that survival games are a dime-a-dozen these days. Survival (and survival horror) fans are pretty much being spoiled right now with all of the options on the video gaming market. We’ve got everything from straight survival titles, such as The Long Dark, to more PvP-oriented fare like the infamous Rust and Ark: Survival Evolved. And then there’s the immensely popular survival horror subgenre, which features all kinds of creepy goodness such as Remothered: Tormented Fathers, Visage, and many, many others.

Indie game developers Nearga has recently thrown their project, titled Desolate, into the midst of this cavalcade of offerings. The backstory is an intriguing one, and revolves around a mysterious island called Granichny.

Something bad…no, very bad, happened on Granichny Island. A murky corporation has been carrying out all kinds of diabolical experiments on the shadowy isle, and now they want so-called “Volunteers,” many who have never held weapons in their lives, to investigate what went wrong.

Up to four players can take the role of these Volunteers and are tasked with gathering clues on Granichny Island in order to piece together why the place suddenly went dark. Dark is the operative word here because when you start off, you’ll find yourself on the edge of the island surrounded by almost total darkness. From there, like many survival games, you’ll have to scrounge around for resources such as food, water, weapons, and various crafting materials.

My first play-through involved spawning in on a beach, creeping around in the darkness through some woods (utilizing the game’s excellent stealth mechanics), and slowly moving into a warehouse district. Suddenly, I heard some snarling noises and spied a large, many-toothed wolf-like creature pacing around nearby.

I swiftly ducked into a warehouse in order to hide, but that’s when I heard someone gibbering to themselves and made out the silhouette of a man within the warehouse’s darkness. He spotted me and began running straight at me, which in turn caused me to bolt out of the warehouse and back into the forest. After losing the possessed chap from my tail, I came across a two-story cabin amongst the dimness of the trees.

I thought to myself: “Great, I’ll just cool my heels in this joint for a bit, and figure out my next move.” Just as I approached the front door of the place, I heard a little girl’s giggles, and the dark shape of a child hovering above the door flashed in front of me. Within seconds I had turned Desolate off.

What I am trying to explain here is that there is something that makes Desolate much different from other survival horror fare that I’ve played. In other games of this sort, I’m used to encountering a bunch of zombies, which are by now pretty tired and hackneyed. If not that, then some Hills Have Eyes-type of weirdo-family, a devil-worshiping cult, or a not-too-abandoned insane asylum.

Desolate differentiates itself by having a decidedly Lovecraftian vibe combined with elements of psychological and supernatural horror. Therefore, you’ll encounter ghostly orbs which crackle with energy, deformed monstrosities with multitudes of tentacles, evil spirits, and beastly creatures that have been experimented on and somehow escaped their captivity. Simply put: Desolate features a real cornucopia of horror.

Another thing that sets Desolate apart is its phenomenal sound design. If you’re wearing a pair of good headphones (recommended), you can hear all sorts of creaks and groans coming from your surroundings. When you begin to veer a little too close to one of the island’s denizens, you’ll not only hear what direction they’re in but also little details about what to expect.

For instance, when I heard heavy footfalls I could usually expect to turn and see some sort of lumbering beast nearby. However, if there were some low mutterings that sounded like they were coming from something demonic, I’d expect a possessed human or evil spirit. It’s the little things like these that can cause a chill to run up and down your spine with anticipation and fear.

In all, Desolate is a fantastically horrific addition to the survival horror genre. It combines great pacing, interesting and unique foes, stellar sound design, and some seriously creepy environments. Any fan of horror should definitely pick this title up. Just make sure you go to the bathroom before you do.

 

SCORE: 83%

Desolate features pretty great 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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