Gray Dawn Demo (Impressions/Review)
You. Are. A. Sinner.
Gray Dawn is a psychological thriller puzzle adventure game developed by Interactive Stone. If you're in the mood for playing a religious horror game,then this might be right up your alley. However, I feel even if you aren't someone who's into religion, you could still find some enjoyment here. Let's get to it.
The first thing I want to say before giving my impressions of the demo is this won't be one of my normal reviews where I break down the game piece by piece and basically write an entire thesis on it. Usually for games like this that requires tons of puzzle solving, I keep it vague and leave stuff to the imagination because nothing beats solving a puzzle for the first time and seeing the end result of it for yourself.
Having said that, lets move on.
Gray Dawn takes place in and around the 1920's in England. You take the role of Father Abraham as you try to prove your innocence against crimes others have said you have committed. Armed with your vigilance and faith,Abraham must use all he mentally has left to find out the truth of what really happened. But which will break first? his sanity or his faith?
Gray Dawn focuses heavily on two things,narrative and puzzle solving. In order to successfully manage your way through the game, you must listen and pay attention to all character dialogues at all times. Do not ignore voices you hear,books/notes you read or other messages because they could hold a clue that you need in order to solve a specific puzzle. They even might hold the key to unlocking a mystery later on in the game.
Growing up when I was younger I was always a fan of point and click games puzzle adventure games like Are You Afraid Of The Dark: Orpheo's Curse or Myst and Riven. Puzzle games is a genre I've always enjoyed,even though most people find them to be boring and tedious because there's not a lot of action going on. That's understandable,but puzzling solving in an adventure or psychological game to me has always been exciting.
Gray Dawn isn't a point and click game though,its a psychological interactive thriller and for good reason. The game relies heavily on religious subtext and psychological horror events that try to mess with your brain to make you question the main characters sanity and his innocence. It's a game that constantly makes you think about any actions you take and what they could actually mean later on down the road.
Throughout the game Abraham will begin to see visions and other signs of past events of what might have transpired to a young boy he is accused of making ''disappear''. You venture off to a dream like realm named ''Romania'',which provides you with even more questions than actual answers. This is what the game does well, it keeps you guessing,it's not obvious. Well,at least it wasn't to me personally.
The game is played from a first person point of view. All objects of any value are clickable and readable. For instance if you find a note or a book that you are interested in checking out, you may pick it up, rotate it and read it. The core aspect of the game that you will do a lot is searching and exploring, this is key, never leave a door unchecked or a desk drawer unchecked or you WILL miss a key item needed to advance through the game.
I can not emphasize enough that exploration is a key part to what makes Gray Dawn an interesting game to play. Without exploration you will not be able to unlock doors or solve specific puzzles because certain areas of the game requires different items you must collect. Much like I stated earlier, some require a little bit or basic knowledge of religion in general. But even without any prior knowledge or even without being a believer in religion itself, the game still makes it clear enough for the player to be able to complete their task without any hassle what so over.
I'll give a quick example. There is one particular section where you need to find blood and body as part of a ritual to feed to a frog statue(think plague). Blood and body is part of blood = wine and body = bread. So these are the items needed to complete the ritual in this part of the game. However, what if you don't know something like that, it doesn't matter, the game actually tells you specifically that you just need to find some bread and find some wine,simple! The developers at interactive stone have made the game accessible to people even without having any knowledge of stuff I mentioned and I feel that was a good move on their part.
I won't go any further into the actually story and what the puzzles actually accomplish in relation to the story because that would be doing a disservice to the game itself and to the team at Interactive Stone. Stories and games like this are ones that deserve to be experienced first hand so the shock value or interest level is at its peak moment. That is what makes these type of games special when done right.
The environments and settings in the game are ''nice''. The game graphically looks like an early playstation 4 game,which is actually pretty decent. There's a lot of jaggies to be seen in some of the areas of the game and some rough environment design overall that could've been polished a little bit more,but they nailed what they needed to do and that was atmosphere. The most important part of any horror game of this nature is setting a tone and getting someone invested in the overall atmosphere,which I feel that was done well here,regardless of any graphical shortcomings.
Now with some of the praise I gave the game out of the way, I want to talk about the things I didn't find so likable about the game that left me with a bad impression or just with a sour taste in my mourh because of it. The main thing I'll talk about is the voice acting. It just doesn't work, it's not up to industry standard in my opinion.
The voice acting in Gray Dawn comes off very monotone and of someone very uninterested in the script they're reading. You get this sense from the opening cutscene where you see a crow flying through the snowy night sky as the narrator talks. The voice just seems off and doesn't seem to have their heart set in to what material they're reading. It's quite a shame for a game that is so dialogue heavy. It's not a game breaker but it definitely can throw off some immersion in the right moments.
Some of the environments also don't look as polished as the rest of them do. I covered this above a little bit, but I really wanted to emphasize it again. One minute you'll be in a room in one of the houses and the lighting and setting in the room with the paintings and candles looks absolutely splendid,it completely draws you deep into the immersion of the world you're supposed to believe. However,no more than a few minutes later just down the hall you could enter a room where some of the textures seem a little unfinished,jagged or flat. It's not a game damning thing, but its more so a ''aww man'' type of moment that sticks out like a sore thumb.
After playing the Gray Dawn demo,a game in which I put a good amount of time into. I can say that Interactive Stone's work seems to have paid off for them from my perspective after playing the demo. The game might not be perfect from what I've played and it does have some flaws to it,but I feel it manages to capture the psychological horror element and sense of immersion well enough for people to really get their head inside of the world the developers created. It's not for everyone due to some of the religious subtext,but if you can look past that,then I think you'll have a good time.
Oh hey. Um. Excuse me. Do you remember when i told you at the beginning of this review that I would not break down this game like my other reviews?
Well. I lied. Father please forgive me.
For I have sinned.
Gray Dawn is set to be released in June 2018 on STEAM/PC
*Early Access/Review code provided by Interactive Stone/Community Villa