Through the Woods nails creepy atmosphere and has an interesting story that draws on Norse mythology - something that gives it a unique feeling. However, sometimes finicky mechanics and some other rough edges dampen the experience and hold the game back from ever reaching its potential. That is a shame because Through the Woods presents several missed opportunities where the development team executed on some things very well, while other less effective aspects of the presentation hurt the experience as a whole.
So let's start with what really works here. While clearly not a AAA title, the visual style is really quite good and it is complimented by an excellent soundtrack - both in terms of the music as well as ambient sound. The latter is a must for horror games, and to its credit Through the Woods acquits itself really well on that front. If there's a letdown on the audio side of things, it that I really did not care for most of the voice acting. I wouldn't go so far as to call it terrible, but it wasn't particularly good either. The word I would use to describe the dialog is flat. The idea of narration that accompanies your actions is not new, and from a technical standpoint it is generally well executed. However, this should be a an emotional, trying journey for our protagonist and at times her delivery is very subdued, almost devoid of actual feeling.
Visually the environments look great. There are moments where the lighting effects can be a little inconsistent, which is a bummer since light plays such a big role in what you are doing, but I've seen far worse. Ditto the character models which get the job done, but are not on the same level of execution as the environments.
The actual gameplay is presented in third-person fashion as we follow the story of a mother talking about her harrowing tale. It is centered around her search for her son, who is in the titular woods. I really enjoyed the Norse influences on the story, giving Through the Woods a different kind of vibe than your traditionally horror story. There are some scares to be had here, but in truth this is more akin to a dark fairy tale than a true horror experience.The pace is intentionally a slow burn without a lot of serious threats. Admittedly, once you realize that things really aren't fighting you back, and that stealth is often better replaced with sprinting past enemies due to some pretty questionable stealth detection, some of the suspense is drained out of the affair.
I would not go so far as to refer to it as a walking simulator game, because there are certainly some things to be wary of, but this is a short game that is not overly hard once you learn how to best deal with the enemies encountered along the way. This when combined with the very short duration (I beat it in roughly two hours) provides for a somewhat shallow experience with no real replay value.
Through the Woods is somewhat of a mixed bag that works out to be a rather average game. The technical nuts and bolts are in place, with fine environments and excellent sound design. However, small issues like texture popping and lackluster character models couple with some of the least engaging voiced dialog I have heard in a long time combine to drain some of the energy out of the presentation. Kudos to the team for a unique source of inspiration for their story, but with only two hours of run time and bland narration, the narrative impact is greatly diminished.
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Article by Nick