Hello and howdy, people and others.
We just looked at our very sadly neglected website and realised it’s been around seven months since the last blog post. That’s crazy! We’ve decided it’s time for us to get back up and kick the horse, as the saying goes.
To re-introduce ourselves back into polite society, the first thing we’re going to do is the most simple thing we can think of; re-introduce you to our game, Through the Woods. What is it? What does it do? Where can you find it in the wild? All these questions and more will be answered henceforth. It’s difficult to know how much of the game to reveal before release, so we’ll just see how it goes.
What is Through the Woods about?
Through the Woods is a third-person horror adventure game about how far a mother would go to save her son. At the beginning of the game, Espen and his mother are at their summer cabin by a lovely lake. You wake up in the morning to find your son gone and you go outside to search for him. Down by the old pier, you witness Espen being pulled into a boat by an old man who rows him across the lake and into the fog. In desperation, you swim after them and find yourself in a forest on the island where the game takes place.
The objective of the game is to find your son and to discover the identity of the mysterious man who took him, and, more importantly, why he took your son. You will also learn a a lot about the history of the island and the strange and sometimes horrific things the old people who once lived there had to do to survive.
What is the gameplay actually like?
We usually describe the gameplay of Through the Woods as similar to Gone Home mixed with a little Amnesia.
You explore the environment, finding any clues you can as to where you son is, while trying to avoid being killed by the various creatures that roam the woods.
We decided pretty early in development that combat was not really going to be a part of the game. We have gone back and forth on this over the last year or so but stuck to our guns on the combat. There are certain creatures who don’t like the light of your torch, and there is a section of the game where you have to keep some creatures at bay with a certain object, but physical combat is not what this game is about.
This is a terrified woman who is forcing herself to cross this terrible place with the sole intention of finding her son. Some of the creatures in the game are vicious and as big as rhinos, so a heavy sword or a chunk of wood is not going to do much good. Sneaking and avoiding being spotted is the way to go. There are certain aspects of the character that do become stronger as the game goes on, but physicality is not part of it, and we are all happy with that.
How is the story delivered?
As well as finding out what’s been happening on the island for hundreds of years, there are also a lot of other stories, Norwegian folk tales and Norse mythology seamlessly woven into the game. It’s a little difficult to discuss this without skirting spoiler territory but, essentially, all kinds of creatures from Norwegian folk tales and even characters from Norse mythology play very active roles in the game. The story is delivered in three ways:
Journals – There are dozens of journals scattered across the island that tell the history of the island and Erik, the man who kidnapped your son.
Dialogue – There is a running dialogue over certain parts of the game, recorded by the mother after the events of Through the Woods. It is not clear to whom she is speaking or why, but she talks about how she was feeling during her ordeal and the player is filled in on some of the history of the relationship between her and her son.
Runes – These are written in various places, and always on the large standing runestones that act as the game’s checkpoints. You can see one below. Stian, our very talented character artist, is actually pretty fluent in old Norse runes and has translated the English text into Norwegian, then into Norse runes. Sometimes the text was translated directly from Norwegian into Norse runes, as Stian wrote some of the checkpoint poems himself. It’s pretty nerdy, but nice for those who think it’s fun to figure this stuff out. The text on the runestone in the image below says, ‘Myrkstad, i skogens skygger. Beskytt oss mot ham, Hels eget avkom‘. And in English; ‘Myrkstad, in the forest shadows. Protect us from him, Hel’s own offspring‘.
Environment – There is also a bunch of environmental storytelling in the game, some of which is up to the player to figure out for themselves, and some of which goes together with perhaps a journal somewhere that might help with some context.
What kind of enemies will I encounter? Can I die?
The game is full of creatures. You will be killed. Probably a lot.
Each has its own weakness, usually a sense. Some are nearly blind but can hear you very well, so you’ll need to sneak around them. Some are large and powerful but cannot hear very well. Some are frightened of light. In terms of dealing with enemies, as we mentioned above, a mixture or avoidance and evasion (avoision?) is key to survival. The game uses a lot of foreshadowing to help players understand how to survive encounters with enemies. There’s a notice just before one area of forest, for example, that says,
‘Beware, a (secret creature) stalks these grounds. Bitch’ll eat anything she can catch. If you must pass, carry a torch with you always; cursed creature hates the light.’
So hopefully players will know that they need to use their flashlight to scare the secret creature away.
The stages and pacing of the game is also set up in a very interesting way, but I think we might be keeping that under wraps for the time being. We may discuss it more, but it’s difficult to tell at this point whether revealing it will enhance or detract from the experience. Suffice it to say it adds a very interesting subtext to what the mother is going through.
Ok, you made it this far! Thanks very much for staying with us. Hopefully reading this will make people understand why, when people say to us, ‘So, it’s a bit like Slender, is it?’ we recoil against the comparison so much! Through the Woods is a carefully thought out and crafted game that we hope people will enjoy and get lost in!
Through the Woods releases in September and you can add it to your wish list on Steam right now!
Thanks again! Until next time!