Ultra-Indie Spotlight Sunday: From The Darkness Is A Small Game With Big Terror
From the Darkness is the most recent game by developer N4bA. The premise is simple. You are to enter a Soviet housing block, find the long-vacant apartment of a deceased grandfather, and bring his photo albums home. You soon find yourself trapped in this teeny tiny creepy condo, with things getting stranger and scarier by the minute.
A recurring theme for this column is the ability for a developer to do more with less. Reusing assets and mechanics in clever ways is one of the greatest skills for indie horror devs. This could be turning a model of one thing into something else entirely—friend of the site David Szymanski used a manhole cover as the gun magazine in Pony Factory. Or it could be when a game uses the same room over and over in interesting ways, like other friend of the site Mr. Pink has in Golden Light. But how far can you take asset reuse when it comes to physical space?
What From the Darkness does so well is create a full and complete horror experience in a single tiny apartment. Forcing you the player to confront the terrors in such a small area makes the already claustrophobic apartment that much more effective. By simply shuffling the contents, one small space becomes one gigantic engaging horror experience.
Non-Wanky Game Recap:
From the Darkness is an escape room game. You traverse the open map (about 600 sq feet apartment) looking for clues and objects in order to find your way out. It’s not quite linear, since you are more or less collecting objects while waiting for spooky events to occur in order for the way forward to reveal itself. Until then, you’ve just gotta keep poking around while you await something to happen.
While the space in which From the Darkness occurs is not big, the horror just grows and grows. You may enter a room you were just in and find the lights are off, or the objects rearranged, or a tall gangly man rushing into a hiding spot. The process of reshuffling the proverbial deck means that you never quite are able to adapt to the situation, and the familiar space does not get any less terrifying.
Like all escape room games, it can be hard to figure out what to do next. Being a small game, you might think From the Darkness would not have this problem. But then, this isn’t even really a problem, it’s the point of the game. The objective is to seek out the way forward, and if it was obvious it wouldn’t be fun. I’m really struggling to try and find something wrong with the game,
How To Fix It:
Once you get into the flow of the game, From the Darkness can be beaten within an hour or two. I guess the only fix I can offer is to make a sequel or more similar games because the world needs more Soviet horror.
I didn’t even have time to write about how From the Darkness is just a supremely polished and clean experience. The entire character (who wears a cool leather jacket) is fully rendered and appears in a mirror. It all just works so well that the player does not even get slightly bothered by how small the area is. Contrast that to massive open world games, which compared to From the Darkness feel small and empty.
You can purchase From the Darkness from Steam by clicking here.