The Doorways series gets another chapter-esque instalment, is it as haunting as its predecessors?
Holy Mountains of Flesh, an apt and disturbing image conjuring title, is the third instalment of the Doorways series by Saibot Studios. While my knowledge of the previous games was experienced by other gamers in ‘Let’s Plays’ I had the chance to play the most recent in this games series and I could definitely understand the horror that some of them witnessed.
My proverbial hat is tipped to David Levill, the music producer for Doorways, it is spot on for creating a tense environment throughout the game. No matter what the situation was, I was always on the edge of my seat, constantly looking around for the ambush that I was sure was waiting for me around every corner. Bound to jump out at the sudden stop to the music, only to find that there was nothing. Increasing my stress, constantly repeating to myself “Next time, definitely next time.” Since being exposed to the same thing for a long period of time can reduce its effects, the music had a similar state of deterioration, as my fear of the ‘drop’ in music dissipated. With that being said, just the nature and distortion of the music gave me an instinctual reason to be afraid, logically I knew what was coming. Instinctually, I was terrified.
Although the music helped greatly to create the atmosphere you would expect from this type of game, it was often misleading as when the tension built, I had assumed something different had happened. This was not the case, it was just that section of the music, this often happened unless you were in an event-driven part of the story. It was a common misconception during the start of the game as there didn’t seem to be a clear goal.
I was led down a path that had a number of grave stones depicting the credits (An amusing way to start), whilst at this point I was convinced the game would be linear, until I came to a fork in the road. It was no longer linear and exploration had come into play, yet I still had no goal, so I followed the traditional gamer logic of “Wander around and find glowy things.” Eventually I started picking up parts of the story and figured out what I needed to do, steadily the story was fed to me and by the end of the game I knew what was going on. However, one question still lingers in my mind… Who is Julieta? Her name was mentioned twice in the game and I received a steam card for this character, yet I still have no idea who she was.
During the story you’re given a number of puzzles to solve in order to continue, these ranged from “Oh, that’s pretty simple” to “That’s it! I need a walk-through.” And after a while they became repetitive as it was often the case of, I need an item to get through here. I’ll solve a puzzle to get that item, now I can get through. Rinse and repeat. While the process was the same, the puzzles did differ and offered a range of variety.
There did seem to be a system around the difficulty of a puzzle in correlation with the amount of fear I was experiencing, since during the start of the game I was scared and found puzzles more difficult. Whereas towards the end, I was stressed and found puzzles to be tedious, by that point I just wanted to be finished and eventually I was. The game lasted no more than 6 hours and after experiencing its linear story line, I would say that there isn’t much replay ability and due to the stress that it gave me at the end, I wouldn’t play it again.
This does not mean I wouldn’t have ever played the game, alongside it’s bone chilling music, visually the game was just as unsettling. The moment you step out into that crumbling world, you instantly get the vibe of fire and brimstone, this was not a place you would go on holiday to (Unless your holiday destinations include Sodom and Gomorrah) The textures themselves were gritty and dirty, giving you the sense that something was defiantly off with this place but you couldn’t quite put your finger on what it was.
Doorways seem to cater towards its returning players than those who have jumped in later in the series. This isn’t a problem as you would expect a person to start at the beginning of a game, rather than half way through. However, putting story aside, when it came to game mechanics I was given no indication of how I was supposed to get through this world. Movement came naturally as it seemed to be a universal rule held among all game developers. Yet, when it came to objects that you picked up, there was a number of buttons that could open up these various interfaces.
While going through the different possibilities, I eventually found the buttons that opened up the Inventory (“I”) and the Notes (“N”) It didn’t take a lot of time to figure this out, but being told this information would have been helpful from the get go. This being said, when you encountered a loading screen, you were given a “Tip” that would include this information. It was a strange notion to want more loading screens in order to get told the pieces of information you needed to access certain parts of the game. When ordinarily, loading screens were the bane of every gamers existence.
Another feature that would have been beneficial to know was the saving system. There was no icon or indication of when the game would save, nor did you have that option in the menu. From what I gathered there was a checkpoint system in which the screen would fade to black for a very brief moment before returning, at certain points in the game. Yet after receiving one of these checkpoints, I wandered around the strange realm, interacting with it before exciting out of the game. When I returned I was back at the checkpoint area, but my interactions remained the same, so I was still unsure what the save mechanic was.
Aside from those minor gameplay issues, Doorways holds an experience that you could find in games such as Amnesia. Being unable to defend yourself against the worlds hostilities, and making progress with the story through voice clips and notes found within the world. So if you are looking for a game that focuses on tension building music accompanied by gritty environments, this may be the game for you. With its occasional jump scares and atmospheric tendencies, Doorways provides a game that could be leaving you lying awake at night.
My opinion was swayed due to the issue that I had played it all at once, so towards the end I was stressed and just wanted it to be over. Since the game was released in various updates, allowing new content as it came out. Players would experience the story at a much slower rate than those who played it all in one go. So for a better experience overall, my recommendation is to play it an act at a time.
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