The lights are on
Veteran Member - Level 13
Horror is a
celebrated game genre that has spanned through decades. From greats
such as Resident Evil and Silent Hill, to lesser known games like
Penumbra and Amnesia. Now, I am by all means no avid fan when it
comes to this genre, only having played about 8 of them due to my
irrational ability to hold on the psychological anguish that takes
place in these games.
There are numerous
factors that go into crafting a survival horror game. Such as the
broader mechanics like setting, the abilities of a player, audio,
enemy variations (both cosmetic and in programming), to the smaller
things like lighting and including the player's sporadic heart beat,
or quiet menacing growls from nearby predators.
But due to my
seemingly unfortunate disadvantage, I can discern what it is that so
effortlessly instills such a fear into my psyche.
essentially every case, the player is set in a very remote location;
where the only locales are the ones that want the player dead. In
Silent Hill, you are in the abandoned town of the titular name. In
Amnesia, you are in an abandoned 19th
century Prussian castle. Penumbra had you in an empty research base,
and in the second game in a vacant mine. Resident Evil featured a
mysterious mansion; it was the embodiment of creepy.
are extremely diverse, from a frozen ship in Cryostasis, to an empty,
eerie forest featured in Slender, or an under water city in Bioshock.
Developers have a habit to keep the player isolated from anyone
mildly friendly, which is one of the major trademarks in horror
manipulating the terrain to help put players at a disadvantage are a
tremendous mechanic that help with slowing the player down and making
them more vulnerable to the terrifying enemies pursuing them. This
includes setting up sharp corridors that make maneuvering a hassle,
trees to help block paths, mazes to confuse and disorientate the
player, or water to slow down the player.
there to be safe zones all along the way can add a lot to gameplay.
Though a rather simple mechanic, it helps to only instill fear into a
player. While the player is hiding they can help regain sanity, but
all the while understanding the world beyond is dangerous and lacking
in allies, and not knowing the location of another place of solitude.
In the end, they are there to harm rather than help since the player
usage of lighting has always been a simple trick when it comes to
horror games. The mind has a natural ability to fear the unseen, so
using shadows and darkness is a wonderful way to instill fright into
the player's mind.
can also be used for the opposite effect; when a player goes into a
highly lit area, it is generally implied as a domain of comfort and
refuge. Causing infrequent scares to take place in well lit areas
does a great job at forcing the player out of their comfort zone, and
to help keep the scares fresh.
it comes to the player's natural abilities, horror games tend to
limit them to a very minimum. This ranges from not allowing them to
use weapons, limiting the ability to use weapons, or completely
taking away the ability to attack.
mechanic that factors into the chipping of the player's sanity is
lack of memory. Amnesia: Dark Descent is the perfect example: waking
up in an unknown location for unknown reasons, looking for someone
you don't know, all the while being chased by unknown monsters add
lots of mystery and depth to a story.
weapons either non-existent or scarce, along with other resources,
does a great job in aiding the suspense of a journey. Uncertainty has
a sinister way of rooting itself deep into the brain of the player. A
player armed to the teeth doesn't quite make the experience all that
fearful, so limiting everything, from health to ammo, or even proper
lighting goes a very long way.
Amnesia: A Dark Descent, the character you play as has a meter that
gauges his sanity. When he enters a lowly lit area, his sanity begins
to drastically tumble. The proximity to the main enemy, or the amount
of time you are inside of darkness will also have a negative effect
on the player's character. Conversely, staying inside of a lit area
or carrying a lantern allows for the player to gain sanity. Hiding
inside of a closet seems to also remedy his
to the teeth!
survival horror, enemies come in a variety of shapes and sizes. From
blood thirsty zombies, to giant grotesque creatures adorned with a
large pyramid on their head, carrying vicious weapons, the variety is
are every where, always lurking beyond the player's line of site;
ready to descend upon their prey at any moment. Having seemingly
appear from thin air always adds to the suspense, as players
constantly are on the vigil for any possible foes.
enemies grotesque and hideous can add much to the atmosphere; if
something seems unfamiliar, it is easier to fear. For instance, the
simple usage of elongated limbs makes the mind wonder why it is that
way. Most games seem to have enemies as hideous, genetically modified
mutants, with a very very angry temperament. Mistakes made by
sinister human beings, abominations that defy nature.
seems to be becoming increasingly popular to make enemies almost
invincible, and to where they are able to kill the player in only one
hit. Enemies also have a constant advantage over the player, knowing
the terrain much better, and are always able to find the quickest
route to the player.
are also programmed and react differently. In Resident Evil, zombies
slowly stagger with the only thing in their mind: to consume their
prey. In Slender, the Slenderman appears once the players find the
piece of paper, and from then chases to player further into the
forest. In Amnesia, the mysterious monster constantly tracks down the
player, driving him deeper into the dark, evil castle.
WTF is going on here?
is perhaps the most important aspect to a good horror game. From the
sounds of doors, windows and floor boards creaking, to the sound of
quiet groans and grunts from the nearby hall are a extraordinary
addition to building tension. Music is also a wonderful way to
instill fear and otherwise unpleasant feelings.
ambient sounds such as screaming are methods often coined as “jump
scares”, which is considered by most to be cheap shots. I however
believe that when used in moderation, they can go a long way to add
frights to otherwise boring points in the journey.
music, the usage of bass seems to help get the heart pounding, followed by a pretty good woodwind section. When accompanied by an occasional shrilling note or two, it does a wonderful job at keeping the player on the edge of their seats; and their under garments on the soiled side.
traveling through the unknown and being hunted by the paranormal, the
player's character will most likely become tense and under heavy
mental anguish. Adding the sound of the character's heart pounding as
impending danger nears goes wonderfully with helping build suspense.
a reason that survival horror has such a large and dedicated
following: it's because no other genre can deliver the fears and
emotions that the survival horror genre can emulate to the player; no
other genre can make a player feel so proud for completing it, and
yet so scared that they are unable to even play another minute.
other genre can enshroud the mystery that survival horror can.
other genre can give an unforgettable experience; so unforgettable it
keeps you up at night (though this effect is largely unwanted, I have