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Released in 2007, Darkness Within is a point-and-click adventure of the kind generally not made any more, absorbing, intelligent games nowadays being eschewed in favour of lowest-common-denominator efforts like Gears of War and Halo instead.
Darkness Within sees you take up the role of a private investigator who was taken on the case of the mysterious disappearance of a man who, it soon becomes apparent, became involved in a dark and mysterious Lovecraftian universe of ancient, unknown terror and all-encompassing madness. You start off investigating said individual's remote home, searcing for clues in the study and crawling through basement spaces to the brink of unexplained subterranea beyond, though the story also develops back at your own apartment too, as your character's mind begins to unravel as relity seems to cave in around him.
The game is in the first person, however rather than being a free-roaming first person game it instead consists of a series of old-faashioned static screens through which you navigate the gaming universe, each of which are phenomenally detailed and beautifully lit. The visuals really are superb, and perfectly suited to the pace of the game, and the voice acting is excellent too, whilst the minumalist piano/synth/ambience-driven music is brilliantly executed and adds to the atmosphere immensely.
The game relies on problem solving, sucking you into its universe brilliantly and making for a positively cinematic gaming experience, albeit one that absorbs by virtue of taking a firm grip on your mind rather than being a pretty but passive experience like, say, the new resident evil game for example. The puzzles are engaging and challenging without being so tough as to become infuriating, and the atmosphere is unparallelled, and the game can be genuinely terrifying in places, especially if played alone in the wee hours, sitting bathed in the screen's ethereal glow as Lovecraftian horrors look just beyond the veil of reality.
Highly recommended for anyone who remembers what pc games used to be like before the pc market merged with the console market and all was lost.
"Darkness Within: In Pursuit of Loath Nolder" is a 2007 psychological horror thriller point and click adventure game from the now collapsed production company Lighthouse Interactive.
The player assumes the role of Howard Loreid, a private investigator who is presently incarcerated in a mental hospital, having been found near a local cemetary searching for a specific grave, gibbering and screaming like a madman. The game tells the story of how Howard came to be there.
Much of the story and atmosphere of the game is done in a faithful Lovecraftian* style, and has some brilliantly scary moments. Something which computer games scarcely manage these days. The horrific themes explored in this game include fear, reality, insanity, sleep paralysis, mythology, hallucination and schizophrenia.
The game's interface is highly innovative. The player must navigate the brilliantly rendered (some of the best graphics I have ever seen) 3D environments with a Myst-style point and click system, picking up items and finding things out to aid his investigation, searching for a missing man named Loath Nolder.
There is a great deal of thought put into the inventory screen. As well as being able to combine items picked up throughout the course of the game, the player receives notes or "clues" which he must then mix with other clues to reach conclusions pertaining to Howard's investigation. These clues are discovered with the document research system - The player must read notes found around the various residences he investigates and literally underline certain phrases and sentences to find new information.
There is very little dialogue in the game, and whilst conversations are recorded by professional voice-actors, all of Howard's internal dialogue is done with subtitles. This works well to give a real sense of a train of thought.
Few face-to-face conversations take place in this game, and the character models are quite dated and dont really fit in with the outstanding looking environments. The developers clearly noticed this and as a result, placed most of the dialogue over the phone. (Howard keeps a fully-interactive mobile phone complete with contacts in his inventory, something which really impressed me as I have never seen it before.)
The puzzles are quite complex, and difficulty modes have been made available to account for this. Customizable difficulty entails the enabling and disabling "Automatic document research," the availability of "hints" and a "clue counter." This is really great as it stops players from resorting to online walkthroughs.
Although some of the puzzles are a bit over-elaborate,(searching for trap doors, finding keys and matching mystical patterns to reach hidden places) there are also some really mundane and functional elements, like having 'car keys' and your 'phone' in in inventory which add some realism.
Oddly, the game is set in the near future (2011) which I have never seen in a game before. Either way it all works really well.
Quite a bit of the game takes place in Howard's troubled psyche, through dreams and hallucinations which force the player to question the nature of reality. This gives rise to some really chilling nightmare sequences. Some environments include Howard's home, a cemetary, a forest, caves and down an ancient well. The allusions to Lovecraftian mythos really make a fan of his work like me smile.
Despite being in first person, there is no action or shooting in the game, something which may disappoint the more casual gamer. Darkness Within really requires lots of thought if you're going to play it properly.
The story is excellent with some truly heart-stopping moments.
*Lovecraftian - relating to the style of horror author Howard Philips Lovecraft, creator of the Cthulhu mythos.
256MB RAM (512MB recommended)
128MB DirectX 9.0c compatible video card
DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card
1.1GB available hard disk drive space
Darkness Within: In Pursuit of Loath Nolder takes players to an eerie and disturbing corner of the human psyche exploring nightmares, the occult, and a frightening psychological world. The game is filled with terrifying vistas and a compelling plot that revolves around a protagonist-investigator in classic Lovecraftian style. As police detective Howard E. Loreid, players are tasked to solve the murder of Clark Field, a wealthy man involved in the occult. At the top of your list of suspects is Loath Nolder, a highly respected private investigator who mysteriously abandoned his last case for reasons unknown. Rumor had it that he ventured to several exotic places around the world. It remains a great mystery as to why Loath Nolder disappeared so suddenly, resurfacing five years later and resuming his investigations just as abruptly as he had left them. Why does this venerated P.I. now sit on the other side of the law? This seemingly routine investigation takes a dramatic twist as strange and terrifying happenings begin to plague your psyche. You experience lucid horrifying dreams and are tormented by paranormal happenings. Why do days pass instead of hours when you sleep?