Grab some matchsticks, a lantern, or whatever sources of light you can find; you’re going to need them. Nodbrim Interactive’s latest Steam release, Westmark Manor, welcomes those who are pursuing a true challenge within its dark, haunted hallways. Plunging players into a tale of cosmic horror and mystery; there are a lot of secrets within these walls to be discovered. But can you survive long enough to seek them out?
Theodore Westmark, our protaganist, recently returns from an expedition to Norway after finding evidence of a ‘spiritual’ source that not only can alter space and time, but may be the key to setting his wife free of a mysterious illness. After a brief and somewhat otherworldly encounter, he awakes in a familar, yet different place, and begins to put this Lovecraft-esque tale together.
It’s very clear from the start, that Theodore is not alone while wandering the halls of the manor. Brief encounters with spirits and other entities are well placed and caught me off guard several times. Though I never really experienced any true jump scares, I always had an unsettling feeling that something was watching and waiting to catch me off guard. And most of the time, I was right.
The visuals are really well done, and the Manor is truly brought to life with the amount of detail in place. From candle-lit corridors riddled with old paintings and bookshelves, to dark, eerie cellars; there are plenty of sights to take in while you navigate the the mansion. Some floors are covered in traps and other gauntlet-like obstacles that will do their best to end your story quickly. The sounds really amplify the frightening atmosphere as well. Voices, random knocks on walls and doors, and even hearing your footsteps had me on edge the majority of the time.
Westmark Manor’s gameplay focus is exploration, with a heavy dose of puzzles that will really put players to the test. I’m not a fan of the dark, and neither is Theodore, so I knew we would be getting along just fine. A “Sanity” meter more or less serves as a health bar, which depletes whenever you spend too much time in darkness. Paranormal encounters (paintings falling off walls and ghostly encounters to name a couple) also diminish your Sanity. Sources of light will make life much easier (and longer) as you navigate the eerie halls of Westmark. Sigils can be obtained in numerous ways, and are crucial for survival and progression. Many rooms within the maze-like halls of the manor are locked, and will require a specific amount to open.
A crafting system is also present, allowing you to concoct items that will aid you during your journey. Other items can be discovered through searching cabinets and chests as well, such as keys and contraptions that can be combined with others to assist with some of the puzzles. A stamina bar, as well as few other secondary stats, are also equipped to Theodore, though I never really experimented with them too much. Scattered documents assist in piecing some of the story together, adding depth and background to the motive as well as uncovering what’s really going on.
Make sure to pack some decent hiking boots, because there is a lot of wandering ahead. As mentioned earlier, the game focuses quite heavily on exploration and it can get overwhelming quickly. The mansion is sprawling with dozen’s of rooms and areas to seek out. The map quickly became more important than any other tool I came across. Backtracking is almost unavoidable, as you’ll hit dead ends frequently. Surprises await in almost every room as well. Whether it’s possessed items moving on their own, or ghostly entities waiting to greet you, there’s plenty of creepy encounters to engage in. These were a definite highlight for me and always kept the tension levels high.
The one thing that truly filled me with fear more than anything, was the dreadful presence of inventory management. It could be a personal preference, but I have just never been one to enjoy the mechanic in any game. You fill your slots quickly with crafting ingredients, keys, and other items that will eventually prove useful. Thankfully, there is a secondary storage available by speaking to an NPC who is randomly placed in rooms throughout the manor. But once again, backtracking to the aforementioned areas became a bit of a chore after some time.
Delivering a perfect blend of horror, mystery, thrills and chills, I think it’s safe to say that Nodbrim did this one justice. I could have done without so much inventory management, but I’ll let it slide this time. Descending into the madness within Westmark Manor is challenging, but rewarding. Don’t get discouraged if you die either; it’ll most likely take a few attempts before getting a grasp on how the game plays. Fans of Lovecraft will feel right at home, and he would be proud of this project. Being afraid of the dark can be a good thing sometimes, especially if you decide to pay a visit to the Westmark residence.