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Video Game / Darkwood

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The Woods are alive...
I see hatred and fear in their eyes.
As if I was responsible for the spreading disease.
As if I were responsible for the misery plaguing this land.
I have nowhere to hide from them, nowhere to run.
The woods have closed us off from the outside world.
We are all doomed.
The Doctor, Darkwood Intro

Darkwood is a top-down 2D Survival Horror game developed by Acid Wizard Studio. A page for the game surfaced on Steam Greenlight on March 11, 2013, with a following a campaign on Indiegogo which was successfully funded. The game released through Steam Early Access on July 24 2014, and was fully released on August 18 2017. The developers said that the game was inspired by "the works of David Lynch, the Strugatsky Brothers, Stanisław Lem. Games like Fallout, Dark Souls, Project Zomboid, Teleglitch. Slavic folklore. And, well, life."

The game takes place in the 1980s, in an unknown forest in Poland, in the midst of a devastating plague mutating people and/or driving them insane. In the prologue, the player is an unknown scientist trying to escape the forest. He discovers a wounded man, brought him back to his house, only to steal his key to the only way out, and leaves him to die in an abandoned house. The player then takes control of the captured man, who sets out to find the scientist and take his key to freedom back.


Gameplay takes a unique approach to horror: the game has a top-down perspective that only shows what the player can see based on their current orientation. This means that you can only see about a quarter of the game world at any given time, and things can sneak up on you. One can view it as a horror twinstick shooter, or a first person horror game in the third person. In addition, gameplay is divided up into two segments. The first is daytime, where the player can explore the Darkwood, meet friendlies, take on quests, and hopefully find enough resources to survive the second part of the game, night time. Night brings untold horrors to assail your house that increase in intensity over time, and a number of random events can occur that can affect both you and whatever's coming for you. Sometimes it'll even be nothing at all...


Darkwood contains examples of:

  • Amnesia Danger: The protagonist and the Doctor suffer from this, and thus don't remember each other the first time they meet in Darkwood proper. Because of that, Doctor proceeds to torture him to get the location of the secret pathway to freedom, setting the game in motion.
  • An Axe to Grind: It's by far the most powerful melee weapon, maiming a Red Chomper in two hits and killing Huge Dogs in one with the Sharpened upgrade. Unfortunately, it's only available a good way into the gamewhen? , it suffers from the same short range as the nail board, and even with the Sturdy Blade upgrade it's flimsy to the point where it may not stand a full day of hard use.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: When morning comes, a special buff is applied to you and your hideout called “Time Freeze” that causes time to stop as long as you stay within close proximity of the hideout. It allows you to trade with the NPCs, make preparations and plans for the day looting trips, and craft supplies all without fear of losing precious daytime progress. Time freeze also becomes active in large, plot-relevant sub-areas, like the Village or the Doctor's house.
    • Traders can give precious supplies like ammo, gas, and more. Successfully surviving a night gains you 100-250 favor points depending on the area, making it easier for you to survive in the more difficult areas.
    • Despite the randomized nature of the game, Darkwood keeps major locations in the same relative place, and important NPCs such as the Wolfman will always give proper directions to locations like Village or Wolfman's Hideout in the Old Woods.
    • If you die, anything in your hotbar remains there and will not be lost, unlike the rest of your inventory - which is left where you died. This can be immensely helpful in keeping useful items on you no matter what, and makes guns much harder to lose if you keep them constantly equipped.
    • Upgrades to the workbench apply to all hideouts, you don't need to upgrade them individually.
  • Ax-Crazy: People get this way over time, especially when night falls. The Doctor starts going this way if you let him reach the Swamp.
  • Battle Trophy: It's heavily implied that "Wolfman" killed the hunter with his own gun, and took his coat as a keepsake/memento of the victory.
  • Bear Trap: Non-comedic example. They deal damage and completely immobilize any schmuck that steps on them for a time, including the player. Several can be found around the wood and salvaged for scrap metal (more if they haven't been triggered), and it's the most expensive/powerful trap to craft.
  • Beast Man: People with animal heads, speaking casually and intelligently, inexplicably roam the forest, offering advice and selling items.
  • Berserk Board Barricade: Your hideout gets increasingly hostile as the nights continue, and it's always in constant danger of being overrun with various monstrosities. You have to barricade yourself in if you want to survive to see another dawn. One aspect of the game that makes the nights so stressful and panic-inducing is that it doesn't always work.
  • The Big Bad Wolf: The relationship Wolfman has with most of the characters he doesn't like is reminiscent of a number of fairy tales.
  • Breakable Weapons: Melee weapons have a limited number of whacks in them before they break completely and can't be used. They can be repaired at a workbench, and upgraded for greater durability. Firearms are indestructible, but obviously have limited ammo.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Both of the endings.
    • In the False Ending, the Stranger inexplicably seems to walk out of the Darkwood into a completely normal modern day Eastern European apartment block, where he goes to his apartment and finally is able to sleep in his own bed. For the rest of the inhabitants of the Darkwood, life goes on as normal, with some meeting tragic ends while others continue to live their lives, depending on the protagonist's actions towards them.
    • In the True Ending, the Stranger realizes that his home is just an illusion created by the Being, and thus sets fire to the Lotus-Eater Machine entity, starting a massive fire that kills himself and hundreds of entity's victims, which quickly spreads to the rest of the Darkwood and burns to death most of the NPCs you met throughout the game. However, depending on your actions, it's possible for the runaway Elephant child, the Musician, Piotrek, and possibly the Wolfman to survive the fire, along with most of the villagers; it's also hinted that the entity's death has ended at least some of the madness tied to the forest, and that the fire has also opened up the Darkwood, allowing people trapped inside to make contact with the outside world.
  • Body Horror: Most of the characters you meet are either mutated humans, abominations, or walking corpses. This includes the Protagonist, who hides his face with a scarf.
  • Border Patrol: The Floor Gore is a unique variation that will mangle any player who strays far from the Hideout, but only during the night.
  • Caltrops: You can improvise these with broken glass. The Protagonist is totally immune to them, since unlike all hostile creatures in the Wood, he wears shoes.
  • Canine Companion: In many respects Wolfman is watching over the protagonist, and accompanies them to areas they cannot reach alone. The relationship is unclear, but the humanoid beast is much more benign towards the player, than any of the other inhabitants of this dark corrupted world. He even calls you "Meat" and "comrade" at times. But if you don't fulfill his requests, he goes from ally to your worst enemy.
  • Commie Land: The game takes place somewhere in rural Poland during the late 1980s.
  • Continuing is Painful: Used to be played straight during early access.
    • In earlier builds, dying once undid all of your hard work leveling up skills, forcing you to start over from scratch. The task of foraging was much more difficult as said items didn't respawn, meaning you to had to forge ahead without your useful abilities.
    • As of v1.0, if you die on Normal or Hard, you'll respawn in the Hideout with half your inventory left where you croaked (it'll appear as a small bright red blip on your map, and unlike Dark Souls, it doesn't disappear if you die again without retrieving it). On Hard, you'll also lose one of your limited lives, which can only be regained by consuming the very rare Embryo item. If you die during the night, you'll wake up again at 08:00 AM of the next day.
  • The Corruption: Either The Plague or the Forest itself seems to spread and infect anything in the area, including bodies, and it does so fast: a large tree can grow to its full size faster than a body can decompose. If you let him live, the Doctor will point out they grow so quickly, he feared being stuck between the trunks as he passed.
  • Creepy Cathedral: One of the locations you can visit in a dream and later on in-game. It contains some useful items and a scripted sequence. And also, there is a basement which is filled with Red Chompers.
  • Darkness Equals Death: If you have the "Shadows" negative perk, the darkness itself will attack you unless you're in a light source. Even if you don't have it, enemies become far more prevalent and aggressive when there's no sun, and Floor Gore will murder you if you don't get to hideout on time.
  • Decoy Protagonist: The prologue has you starting the game as the Doctor who happens upon a wounded stranger in a coat and a hat, with a journal on him indicating a way out. The Doctor nurses the stranger back to health... only to tie him to a chair and slap him around demanding to know where the way out is. After he leaves, we take control of the Stranger trying to find his way out of a locked room.
  • Difficulty Spike: The game takes one whenever you reach a new area. The jump between Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 is especially huge, introducing several monsters that can and will tear you to shreds on sight, requiring you to be both well-armed and cautious with your surroundings to survive.
  • Disc-One Nuke: By rushing to the Old Woods as soon as feasible, raiding the Church wardrobe for the Electronic Game, giving it to the Wolfman to play with, and affirming that it is indeed a joke, you can acquire a pistol well before you are able to craft it at the Workbench. This does however, require some luck and planning, as you will need to be able to survive at least one night in the second area, evade the numerous Chompers and Large Dogs which populate the third area, and somehow locate the Church (automatically located if you purchase a map from Piotrek).
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Being, the undefinable entity that seems to be the heart of the woods and the source of the Plague.
  • Fade to Black/Fade to White
    • If you get killed, the screen fades to black. If you're on Normal or still have lives on Hard, you'll wake up near the hideout's oven at 08:00 of the next day.
    • When the clock reaches 08:00, the night ends, the screen fades to white and a big message saying what day it is appears in the center of the screen.
  • Fantastic Drug: You level-up by injecting yourself with syringes of mushroom/meat cocktails. As you progress, it picks up some nasty side-effects.
  • Foreshadowing: There’s a lot of symbolism based around lying down and going to sleep, one perk dream having you fall asleep in a grave. This is essentially what happens in the Normal Ending.
    • The pyre in the Swamp foreshadows the burning of the strange entity in the True Ending.
    • Throughout the game, you can find clues of military intervention in the Darkwood - army corpses, the hideouts, and more. Specifically, you can find a note detailing a soldier going crazy and deserting with numerous supplies. You find and kill said soldier in the true ending to take his flamethrower, making him a Chekhov's Gunman.
  • Hated by All: Everyone hates the Doctor... and for good reason.
  • Healing Spring: In earlier alphas, the Protagonist had to go to the well each night and only at night to stave off a condition called "The Thirst". After Thirst was cut, wells were too, but in later builds they were re-instated as a source of healing that can be used once a day.
  • Heroic Mime: The Protagonist is mute, thanks to something in his backstory, though he can express himself well enough.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The True Ending, wherein you burn down the sentient tree likely responsible for keeping everyone stuck in the forest at the cost of your own life.
  • Horror Hunger: Inverted. The protagonist doesn't need to eat or drink, and he finds that bizarre. Originally, there was a gameplay mechanic during the night wherein you’d be stricken with a dangerous debuff called “The Thirst” that would kill you eventually if they could not reach a well and drink from it, playing this trope straight.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Many of the characters you meet are clearly mutated, but later you find out that they may not be victims of the plague and nothing about their origins is ever conclusively revealed, leaving how they came to be up to the imagination (and horror) of the player. The most notable two are the Mushroom Granny and Wolfman, the former of which may be a sentient mushroom rather than a mutated human and the latter being implied to be the vengeful spirit of a hunted animal. There's also implications that the Trader may not be human at all, but also a mushroom construct.
  • Hypocrite: In addition to most of the villagers being Ax-Crazy, they come after you seeing you as a monster, refusing to accept they too have seen better days, and even worse, keep mutated animals and livestock of their own. Let alone the horrific “Sow” they keep nearby.
  • I Am Not Weasel: "Wolfman" resembles a fox under his coat, far more than a wolf.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Since the protagonist loves mushrooms so much, the game gives you the option to devour a still sentient granny who just so happens to be half-mushroom herself.
  • Internal Reveal: Weirdly inverted: something treated as common knowledge by the people you meet is slowly revealed to the player over the course of the game. It's a fact that you belong to the nebulous "Outsiders" that makes people so hostile towards you - piecing together dialogue with the Doctor and other characters reveals that said Outsiders are most likely the military and that you, specifically, are a rank-and-file soldier.
  • In-Universe Game Clock: A variant that behaves differently depending on the time of day and your location. It runs much faster during the night than during the day, as well – one hour of daytime lasts 48 seconds, and one hour of night equals around 22.5 seconds. the clock freezes in two cases: at 8:00 AM after nighttime ends, inside the hideout until you leave it, and inside any major locations separate from the main map.
  • Inventory Management Puzzle: Par for the course in survival horror adventures, it develops into a management planning affair when you have multiple hideouts, as you can't carry everything with you.
  • Item Crafting: A key component of the game. Healing items, level-up essence, weapons, almost everything has to be crafted because finding it already assembled is very rare.
  • Kill It with Fire: One of the more effective ways of killing tougher monsters is to hurl Molotov cocktails at them, which will rapidly drain away their health. You can also pour gasoline on the ground and light it with a match or a flare, which can be used to set up a temporary wall of fire or to clear patches of worm infestations. You also pull this off on the Being in the true ending.
  • Light Is Good: Slightly downplayed. The protection gas that comes from your hideout's oven can only do so much. Those riddled with the plague generally hate bright lights, as it disorientates and weakens them. Even though it attracts unwanted attention, you have no choice - to survive you'll need to keep your diesel generator running to power the lamps during the night to protect you from the phantoms. At most, you can drag your lamps to corners where they won't shine through the windows or under the doors.
  • The Lost Woods: Darkwood takes place in a forest somewhere in Poland. Things... aren't going well in there.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: In the True Ending, you discover the seemingly normal apartment block the Stranger escapes to at the end of the Normal Ending is actually one of these, created by a massive tree-like entity that has entrapped hundreds of others. The ending seems to imply that entity was responsible for at least some of the insanity in the forest, and things will be better now that it's dead.
  • Made of Explodium: Mushrooms explode and poison the player when step on. If approached slowly, they can be harvested for items. The same thing applies to the Mushroom Men, who will attempt to rush you and blow you up.
  • Mêlée à Trois: Different enemy types may fight each other as well as the player if their paths cross.
  • Mind Virus: Prolonged exposure to the forest (or rather, getting infected by the Plague) makes people go nuts. They start to become increasingly paranoid and manic, often hear a voice that lures them deeper into the woods. They might even forget bits of their past. Like the Doctor, who doesn't recognize the Stranger.
  • Mundanger: One of the most dangerous roaming creatures you can encounter in the early maps is a simple, seemingly natural elk, which attacks if you get too close and has even more health than a Red Chomper.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Help the Musician in Chapter 1? Enjoy the Wolfman fucking you over in Chapter 2.
    • Free the Village from the giant pig mutant enslaving them? You just destroyed their only source of food.
  • No Name Given: The Stranger, the Doctor, Mushroom Granny, Musician, Pretty Lady,... so on. And the Wolfman as well (assuming that he Was Once a Man).
  • No Party Like a Donner Party: Under certain circumstances the villagers will break through to the Swamp area and proceed to eat the Mushroom Granny if you didn't eat her first. The conditions being: kill the Sow, don't eat the Granny yourself, but don't accept her quest to seal the villagers in the quarry either, or at least turn it in before all of them are dead.
  • The Needless: The Protagonist doesn't have to eat or drink, and never sleeps unless knocked out, thanks to "the incident" before the game's events. That said, food provides healing or temporary buffs, and most drinks are a source of healing.
  • Nice Day, Deadly Night: Going outside after sunset is a verified way to commit instant suicide – expect to get overwhelmed and massacred no matter how many bullets you carry or how many pills you chomp down, even on the Dry Meadow. At night, creatures become much more hostile, and an ultra-aggressive, formless red mass called the Floor Gore pursues and kills any non-natives that aren't protected by the gas produced by the ovens in the hideouts.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The nights can give you an anxiety attack, simply because enemy encounters and events are random. You don't know what to expect. One night you could have a horde of banshees, savages and Red Chompers gunning for your ass. The next night... nothing. Nothing except the door creaking and the noises.
  • One Bullet Clips: Averted with the pistol and the assault rifle. Magazines are the individual ammo item for those weapons, and you can reload before the magazine is empty if you want to, at the expense of the old one's ammo. Played straight with the pump-action shotgun, as the game counts individual shells and they're loaded one at a time. There is also a “one-shot” tier of guns you can make early on in the game, each can only let off a single round before breaking permanently.
  • Perpetual Storm: The Great Lake in the Swamp is under one of these. The darkness makes it especially hard to navigate, and there are monsters covered in the black mold roaming in there. You can make it dissipate by attacking a snout-like hole in the ground, making travel through the location far easier.
  • Player Punch: The game holds nothing back in how the consequences of your actions can ruin everyone's lives. In particular, helping the Wolfman in Chapter 1 results in him eating the woman alive in a perverse parody of lovemaking, which you only see the aftermath of. It's not pretty.
  • Red Sky, Take Warning: Zig zagged. The orange light of dusk is a clear warning that you should run back to the hideout before the nasty things show up, but the bright red light of sunrise means that the terrors of the night are just about to end.
  • Self-Deprecation: If the protagonist's remark at his own reflection is anything to go by, he doesn't like himself very much.
    "You are one ugly bastard. I guess you got what you deserved."
  • Shovel Strike: Most players generally agree that the shovel is the best melee weapon in the game. It's the second most powerful melee weapon, has excellent range, can be crafted early on with a low-level workbench as early as the second area in chapter 1, and with the Sturdy Blade upgrade it's almost impossible to break from negligence. It can be used to dig certain spots for items, which can really save you if the spot just so happens to contain pills or materials you desperately need. On the other hand, it's painfully slow to swing, so timing is key when using it.
  • Spotting the Thread: You can figure out the Normal Ending epilogue is a dream if you actively pursue enough hints, but the main tip that it's All Just a Dream is that the people outside your apartment speak to you - and the protagonist speaks back, after spending the whole game being a disfigured mutant who can't even speak anymore. This blatant contradiction can only become worse if you go the apartment's basement. You can even get a screwdriver inside your apartment and remove the floor tiles. Underneath them? Plant roots.
  • Super Serum: How the game justifies leveling up. You distill a drug from Mushrooms and Odd meat - once you have enough, you fill a syringe with it. The drug allows you to choose one perk and one (at later levels two) drawback per dose.
  • Technically Living Zombie: The basic humanoid enemy is the Savage, a human who has devolved to a mindless, primal state due to the influence of the plague. Locals afflicted by the plague who don't go Savage have it even worse, rotting away while fully self-aware and seemingly eventually evolving into Chompers.
  • Ten-Second Flashlight: The military flashlight runs quite a bit brighter than the regular flashlight, but goes through batteries twice as fast... not that the regular flashlight is much better.
  • Tragic Dream: Piotrek wants to build a rocket that will rival Yuri Gagarin's and take him into space. Wolfman detests the lunatic so much that he's more than happy to sabotage his dreams.
  • Truth Serum: The Doctor uses one to force the protagonist to give up unknown information at the start of the game. The protagonist doesn't tell him, since he can't physically speak. Getting ambushed by The Doctor in his train cart has him inject the protagonist with the truth serum again, this time the protaognist either resisting the serum, or succumbing to the serum and pointing out the location of the underground passage.
  • Vendor Trash: Some items without functione.g. , are only worth anything to build up Reputation with the traders. Shiny stones are among the most valuable vendor trash but can ony be seen if the Protagonist's shining a portable light source at it. Fabric and rope also count after the limit for permanent upgrades is reached.
  • Videogame Cruelty Potential: Weirdly emphasized. Darkwood is an amoral and cruel place, and you learn pretty quickly that you should only look out for yourself. In many cases, the protagonist is rewarded for committing horrible acts against the other denizens in a bid for freedom, with the only judge for your actions being yourself, and the people you've betrayed. You are very rarely punished for your bad deeds. Even if you tried to help them, the results will only be a whole lot worse, such as what happened to the Snail once your freed it.
  • Was Once a Man: In a rather disturbing twist, the Protagonist. It’s outright shown in one scene where the protagonist looks in a mirror that he is definitely not human anymore. This actually benefits him, as he doesn’t need to eat, drink, or sleep, though it has robbed him of the ability to speak and has mutated his body in such a way that complex movements are difficult, such as using a pencil.
  • Weakened by the Light: Starting on chapter 2, some objects and enemies are covered by a writhing black mass that can't be safely approached (and makes enemies invulnerable to anything but fire as well). It has to be burned off with a light brighter than ambient lighting, be it electric or fire.
  • When Trees Attack: Subverted. The trees aren't literally attacking, but the plague has mutated them to grow extremely rapidly and out-of-control, cutting off roads and rail-links, further exacerbating Darkwood's societal collapse.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The ending has a paragraph of text for each of the major NPCs you meet throughout the game, telling you what happened to them after the Stranger's journey was resolved.


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