The Dark Meadow Review: Creepy, Grind-Intensive Adventure
Halloween is coming! If you’re in the mood to celebrate with something spooky, you’ve got to check out The Dark Meadow, a creepy new mystery/survival horror game from Phosphor Games. While the game can get a little grind-y at times, its top-notch production values and its reliance on the Unreal game engine make it a game worth experiencing.
The Dark Meadow relies on a number of horror story standards — the abandoned mental hospital, the monsters appearing from nowhere, the protagonist waking up without any clue as to who he is or where he is. You wake up, FPS style, in said abandoned hospital with the aforementioned lack of memory, and, guided by a slightly insane fellow captive over the hospital intercom system, you battle those monsters and try to solve the riddle of who — or what — you are and why you’re there.
In terms of visuals and storytelling, The Dark Meadow really stands out. Relying as it does on the Unreal Engline, the graphics are, not surprisingly, excellent; but there’s also a definite skill in design here beyond just the graphics engine. This place looks creepy! And the monsters you face are bizarre things, not at all like zombies or ghouls or other traditional creatures. Exploring this abandoned mental hospital is creepy, and some of the little touches (like a kids’ room mural) really help set the tone for the game.
At the core of The Dark Meadow is combat. I was surprised at how much the combat is like Infinity Blade. I guess I didn’t realize how much of the combat system is built into the Unreal Engine. They do a bit more with it here, though, including a ranged combat option that can sometimes make the difference between success and failure once melee is engaged. The game also presents things from a FPS perspective, whcih makes combat a bit easier overall (I always got thrown off by IB’s 3PS quasi-side view). It doesn’t make the combat any faster, though; just like in IB, the combat is a series of pauses punctuated by bursts of hack-n-slash.
Part of how much you like this game, then, will depend on how much you like the combat style of the Unreal Engine, because there’s a lot of combat. As in, a lot of repetitive grind. In the same vein as IB, you’re often playing through the same stages over and over (though the method behind that is a bit different here, and your path is less restricted). I think that that developers did their best to minimize the grind by interspersing a lot of great cutscene style voiceover work (that never seems to repeat), but there’s no getting past it. You’re going to grind.
One thing I definitely disliked about this game was the lack of a save function. It does automatically save your progress, but if you quit out of the game you restart at the beginning the next time you load. There is no pausing halfway through!
All in all, if you’re interested in curling up with a creepy little FPS this October, then The Dark Meadow is definitely worth a look. Sure, the combat can be grind-intensive, but the gorgeous design, sharp writing and compelling mystery will continue to draw you in.
Our Score: 4.5 out of 5.