You’ll either like or not like Dawn of Fear ($19.99) for a few reasons. You’ll like it if you’re a big of the classics for the strict, stick to the script “survival” horror gameplay borrowed liberally from the first Resident Evil, with a touch of the more unsettling Silent Hill for good measure, very limited save function, static to a fault camera angles, blind spots, rigid aiming, low ammo counts and all. You’ll not like it for all that if you’re a newer survival horror fan or an old fan of the genre that’s moved on to games with more freedom of movement and a plot that makes more logical sense. Plus there’s a somewhat spotty localization that needed a bit of work, as it’s a bit cringe-worthy on the grammar side. Oh, and there were some pretty awful bugs and glitches at launch, some of which stopped the game cold and either forced a restart, or had you go back to an old save to hopefully restore things.
A recent patch helps a great deal, though. It turned the sluggish movement speed to an always run animation that helps a tremendously (even though the instructions still state holding the Square button runs, when it now doesn’t). Although you’ll now zip into camera angles that switch so fast it’s tricky to not run back into an area you just left. Glitches that were major visual and technical ones seem to be stomped out, but sometimes areas you explore still load in pieces. For example, you’ll be
walking running into a dark room in that mansion and the lights suddenly switch on, but it’s not the lights, just an area on the map that’s loading in its pre-rendered details (oops).
You play as Alex, a 20-year old who’s led a hard life which has become exponentially harder after his stepmother dies and he inherits a creepy mansion that’s got a rather deadly set of secrets. I’ll say no more save to expect puzzles, traps, and gunplay, the latter against hideous enemies that want to munch on you as a midnight snack. The game is so much like Capcom’s classic that I was chuckling each time I came across a locked door and needed to backtrack for a key, or a blocked door that required access from the other side. The guy who bought those old doors wholesale from that mansion in Raccoon City and restored them really got a great deal, I bet. So did the mansion architect, who transformed puzzle rooms from RE into what’s here, you’ll see.
While things are pretty familiar and similar on the story and gameplay front and the music is quite good overall, an auto save system would have been nice. Limiting saves is old-school good and hard and all that jazz, but a room by room automatic backup would have been spectacular (you know, in case of crashes or other issues the game was prone to have in the release build?). Having to restart from the beginning or use up a candle to save the game when allowed only works when you’re actually, you know, enjoying the game and not restarting because of some silly flaw? The homage is very good though, even though the technical merits can be problematic.
That said, the game is a nifty, flawed reminder of what many of us were doing back in 1996, and if that sort of thing floats your boat, then by all means, get this game and relive those days (but with a few more technical hiccups). Indie developer Brok3nsite may not be the best at what they do, but they nail enough down where it counts and that makes for a not terrible experience when it all comes together. While its definitely not Game of the Year material, Dawn of Fear manages to be good for a few days of horror themed thrills if you play it in a few sittings and don’t forget to save when you need to take a break. Me, I tend to portion my play sessions out, so your mileage may vary in the length department.
Score: C (70%)
(Review code courtesy of the developer)