Richard ‘’RJ’’ Durante: Phasmophobia, released by Kinetic Games, is a horror game on Steam that has been frightening players since September 2020. My journey with this game began this past January, and I now find myself logging in to Steam every Thursday to play with my fellow spirit-hunters, both of whom are not even in the same country as me. For those interested in playing this game, let’s review the actual gameplay and setup, so you can start your journey to becoming a Phasmo-pro! The game begins, and your team (or just you) is given a limited inventory of objects that will help you find and determine the type of ghost inhabiting different locations. Smaller locations like Tanglewood, or larger like the Prison, change the way players approach each ‘hunt.’ There are many items a player can use to either assist in finding the ghost or preventing it from attacking you. They are also crucial when it comes to the identification process, as figuring out the type of ghost leads to the largest payday. When you return to the lobby, you use the money to buy more items that will further assist you down the road. The game itself is quite scary, but the real fun lies in the time you spend with all these unique players from across the globe. Who knows, you may build yourself not only a team of hunters but also a team of friends.
Simon Zuccherato: Severed is a game that I played quite a few years ago, and yet it’s stuck with me all this time as a great example of horror in games that don’t require jumpscares. Playing like a girl who’s basically lost everything, from her house to her family, you slowly move through dungeons trying to find the truth about what happened to you. Its claustrophobic map design and battle system, in which you’re surrounded by multiple enemies and must constantly shift which one to target, mirror how it feels when you’re at your worst, feel like the world’s against you, and don’t know where to turn. It’s short, but it uses that brevity to impress with its world, enemy designs, and intense combat, and it uses its touch screen controls and first-person point of view to create a sense of immersion. While I feel it was originally passed over due to only being on touch-screen consoles, it’s on Switch, so check it out!
Amir Muhammad: Back in 1999, Silent Hill was released to rave reviews and stood as a unique entry into the survival horror genre, employing more of a psychological horror framework compared to their more action-oriented siblings. I could write an essay on what makes Silent Hill a great game, but my focus here is on its spiritual successor, 2004’s Siren, a personal favorite of mine in the psychological survival horror realm. It was even directed by Keiichiro Toyama, who directed the first Silent Hill, which is what drew me to Siren in the first place. The memories of playing the demo at a young age, terrified out of mind, left such an impression on me that I had to play more of it when it was released. What I love about Siren is how it carries the same ethos and principles that made Silent Hill effective horror – the everyman characters, oppressive and unsettling atmosphere, overwhelming darkness – while introducing new gameplay mechanics that set it apart like “Sight Jacking”, which allows players to see through the eyes of their enemies. It’s not the easiest game and has a bit of trial and error in its gameplay, but those that brave this haunted village will find a rewarding experience worthy of its Silent Hill lineage.
Monster of the Week
Justen Jess: Monster of the week: I can’t do horror in audio-visual formats. I’m a big chicken. That’s why I love horror tabletop games. It gives me the tropes I love in a format I can digest. Evil Hat’s RPG Monster of the Week isn’t exactly scary, but it’s that action-mystery-horror combo that allows you to get in on the Buffy and Supernatural format. Using the narratively-focused Powered-by-the-Apocalypse system, Monster of the Week has the players as Hunters racing against the clock to stop a monster. It combines genres I love and a narrative loop I adore, which lets you make your own fun stories of people racing to save the day. It’s one of my go-to one-shot games to run around Halloween, and it’s easy to modulate depending on whether my table wants some more schlocky pulp action or some dread action horror.
Scarlett O’Dell: Horror games have come a long way since the release of this game. However, many of them pale in comparison to the sheer horror that you get when you load up this game. Outlast (released for Windows in 2013, Playstation and Xbox in 2014, and Linux and OS X in 2015) was developed by Red Barrels and rated M for Mature. It was so successful upon its release that it has since led to a DLC Whistleblower, Outlast 2, and the highly anticipated The Outlast Trials set to release in 2022. The game is strictly survival horror and immerses you into the setting with the story. Outlast places you into the skin of Miles Upshur, a freelance journalist, who gets a mysterious email leading him to investigate the horrors contained inside Mount Massive Asylum. Armed with only a video camera (equipped with night vision) and his own wits, he must uncover the atrocities conducted by the mysterious Murkoff Corporation, who have their webs entangled within the asylum.
Outlast does a fantastic job of making you feel helpless. It places the player into a vulnerable position where all you can do is run and hide. You can’t fight back, and that rush of adrenaline and anxiety fuels you to push forward. The tightening in your chest as you run from an enemy or the rush you get when they barely miss catching you. These are the feelings that make people come back to this game. Outlast is an exemplification of how to create an immersive and terrifying experience in any horror game. If you are a fan of survival horror and all things terrifying, then Outlast is a must-try game.
Gabrielle Cazeaux: I’m a sucker for vampires, and I pretty much loved everything Dontnod Entertainment has done. So when I saw the trailer for this game, I instantly knew I had to try it. Vampyr is a third-person action RPG with a semi-open world separated by districts, where you play as Jonathan Reed, a doctor just back from the war, waking up in a sea of corpses turned into a creature of the night. The thing I can praise the most about this game, and probably the biggest reason why I’ll keep coming back to it, is its atmosphere. The art direction in this game is insanely good. I just love how it feels to walk the muddy streets of a desolated London, fighting enemies or finding people to talk to. The NPCs are another great point I wanna talk about. The quests you receive tend to be very mystery-filled, which adds greatly to our previous point, as you unwrap lies and uncover stories people don’t want you to know. You’re also able to kill anyone you want to, even the most important characters in the story, giving some appreciated freedom of options while making you feel like a true vampire. If you like very stylized games with supernatural settings and worlds with interesting low-fantasy lore, this is something for you.