Darkwood tries to balance old-school gameplay and primal terror with an Indiegogo campaign

The last time we saw Darkwood , we knew it looked downright creepy. What we didn't know is that Darkwood is going to try to reinvent the '90s survival horror game with a unique perspective, a dark setting, and a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo.

Created by Polish developer Acid Wizard Studio , Darkwood will be a top-down survival game in a large procedurally generated world. T he game will be deliberately punishing for new players, according to Gustaw Stachaszewski, programmer for Acid Wizard. Permadeath, creepy atmospherics, and brutally difficult enemies are all part of an effort to recall a feeling that, according to Stachaszewski, is hard to find in modern games.

“We were raised on our Amigas and Commodores and miss the days when games posed a real challenge and sometimes kicked your ass pretty bad. Sometimes we return to the titles we remember very fondly, but most of the time we can't get past the first level because of the difficulty.”

A team made up of three c ollege friends, Acid Wizard is embarking on its first big project with Darkwood. Earlier this year, they won Best Design Award in the Global Game Jam for their game , the hilarious and bizarre Kevin Costner's Tatanka Hunting Simulator 2013 .

Survival genre staples like barricades, crafting, and scavenging all make an appearance, but Stachaszewski rejects over-reliance on jump-scares found in other “scary” games. He thinks the startle reflex is used too often in horror. “The fear of the unknown… like in the works of David Lynch or Stanley Kubrick's The Shining —that's the kind of thing we are aiming for.”

That fear of the unknown is built right into the game's bones. The top-down perspective deliberately obscures parts of the environment. Is it a corpse? It is a dog? You don't know, but you're certain it's trying to kill you. “[The perspective] hinders your ability to clearly identify what you see on the screen," Darkwood's Indiegogo page reads. "We embrace it. It's much less literal that way, and it forces your imagination to work and visualize things you can't clearly see in the game.”

For Acid Wizard, making a difficult game isn't about being sadistic to players—it's about that moment when players break through to the other side, when they earn a story they can share with friends. It's a feeling that only comes when they've been punished often enough to start to understand the moving parts underneath the creepy visuals.

“In Darkwood, we don't want to punish the player [too] badly. Instead we want to give him a good challenge but at the same time be fair,” Stachaszewski says. “This means you will have a hard time surviving at first, but once you learn the mechanics and how Darkwood operates, it gives a deep sense of accomplishment.”

Darkwood's crowdfunding effort will end on June 5. The game is currently planned for a mid-2014 release.

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