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Video Game / Fear the Dark Unknown

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Fear the Dark Unknown is a 3D third-person Survival Horror game with fixed camera angles, developed Dreamlight Games Studios (which consists of two core developers and about 3 to 4 supporting asset makers) and released for PC through Steam on December 2nd, 2019. It is notable for featuring two playable characters with two divergent storylines, and so the game needs to played through twice in order to fully understand the story.

For 200 years, the Beresford Mansion has sat on a cliff a few kilometers outside the town of Barrow. After the death of the Beresford's fourth-of-five daughters, Matilda, there have been rumours of a curse hanging over the estate. These rumours were only reinforced by the misfortunes that befell the family in the following years.

In the present day, James Sullivan and his daughter Chloe have found themselves called to the mansion for reasons unfathomable. There, they will be faced with true terror, and confront a being called "The Dark Unknown".

Fear the Dark Unknown contains examples of:

  • All There in the Manual: There's nothing in the game itself that would reasonably allow you to figure out the meaning of the ending. The explanation can only be found in a Steam forum post by the game's developers. Basically, the Dark Unknown's previous host died in the apartment next to Chloe's (it's the withered corpse shown in some of the loading screens), and it attacked Chloe and her father in an attempt to possess one of them to use as its new host. The entire game is happening in their heads, and many of their memories are false; Chloe's mother and brother are perfectly fine and waiting in the car outside the apartment for them. This also means the "Forgive" ending is pointless, as the Dark Unknown just resets James and Chloe to the beginning with their memories wiped and makes them go through the whole thing all over again until they make the choice it wants them to make.
  • Batter Up!: Chloe is given a baseball bat covered in barbed wire by the ghost of Robert Beresford, and it becomes her first melee option against the monsters. Given the tight confines of the mansion, it is in fact often more useful than the revolver she finds earlier on.
    • It also plays a plot-critical role by the end, as her storyline ends with Chloe standing above her father, holding that bat above him, and given the choice to brain him with it or not as he begs for mercy.
  • Book Ends: The "mercy" endings of both storylines essentially just replay the opening segments.
  • Boring, but Practical: You receive a melee weapon fairly early on, and unlike most games in the genre it's actually extremely useful, being capable of taking out basic zombies fairly reliably without your character taking any damage.
  • Cat Scare: An unusual variety. Early on in Chloe's storyline, you'll find a mostly decomposed body of a policeman in the mansion. Examining it for a closer look suddenly results in its skeletal jaw beginning to move...but it turns out this was due to a rat that had been feeding on it crawling out from the windpipe due to the disturbance. However, it soon gets back up regardless.
  • Ceiling Corpse: There are numerous rooms where tied-up corpses are hanging from the ceiling; it's never clear where all of them have come from. At one point, they are so low, the protagonist will literally end up bumping heads with them.
  • Creepy Crows: One is seen atop the column at the entrance to Beresford Mansion, right as James/Chloe is about to walk in.
  • Crouch and Prone: Either player character can crouch down to avoid making noise and attracting attention from the monsters.
  • Distressed Dude: When Chloe arrives at the doors of the mansion itself, she suddenly sees a huge burly undead (later known as Samuel) carrying her father's unconscious body on his shoulder, and from then on, her goal becomes to rescue her.
  • Driven to Suicide: In Chloe's story, escaping the giant Dark Unknown who had shown up after her mother died a second time is to literally to commit suicide with the already-prepared noose at the scene. Chloe dies, but she then wakes up in the mansion, though, she is now held fastened to a bed by a giant spider's limbs, up until Victoria's ghost arrives and frees her. This episode is never brought up again.
  • Eaten Alive: Chloe can be gobbled up by the undead Grandmother if she can't escape her grasp.
  • Enter Solution Here: There is a gift box in Chloe's storyline that needs to be opened with a 4-number code.
  • Exposed to the Elements: Averted, perhaps even to a ridiculous degree. Unlike most such horror games, you do not get completely trapped in the mansion as soon as you enter. In fact, there are several points where you need to walk out onto its balconies or porches (or even fall out of a 2nd story window onto a porch.) Nevertheless, the given reason for why you cannot walk away is "One shouldn't be walking outside in such rain." While the rain is indeed torrential, the implication that the player character is more afraid of catching pneumonia than of the dozens zombies and other such horrors in the mansion is certainly something.
  • Face-Revealing Turn: Teased, yet ultimately averted in Chloe's storyline. After defeating her first couple of undead, Chloe spots a bald man standing at the end of the doorway with his back turned to her. She approaches him hesitantly while asking questions and is initially met with silence, raising the player's suspicion it's just another monster. Then, the stranger replies with "there's nothing to be afraid of", and once he does turn around, he is in fact a real human. Though still undead, being a ghost of Robert Beresford.
  • Flash of Pain: The edges of the screen get briefly drenched in blood whenever the player character is hit.
  • Giant Spider: Giant crawling arachnids are essentially the only other opponent in Chloe's storyline besides the zombies. James' storyline includes a couple of other beasts.
  • The Goomba: The basic zombies you first meet are quite weak; they deal very little damage and can generally be effectively defeated with your melee weapon without getting hit. More threatening "fast zombies" start appearing from the Hotel section onward, and tougher enemies appear throughout the mansion fairly quickly as the game progresses.
  • Guys Smash, Girls Shoot: Averted. When it comes to the two storylines, Chloe's gameplay places a much greater accent on bashing through the enemies with a spiked bat, with her revolver generally playing second fiddle. James' axe, though, is both less effective than the bat, and he also gets both a shotgun and a hunting rifle in addition to a pistol, which makes ranged combat a more viable option for him.
  • Harder Than Hard: The Survival difficulty level, which sets above the conventional set of Easy, Medium and Hard. Notably, each selection is accompanied by a paragraph that describes the difficulty differences in a literary, in-universe manner. I.e. Medium's description notes that "the monsters weren't as cruel as I thought" and that "I have found more than enough equipment to protect myself and focus on uncovering the mystery that brought me here."
  • Infinite Flashlight: The flashlights hanging around each protagonist's neck will never run out.
  • Justified Save Point: In a meta touch, you can initially save your game whenever you find a laptop. Later on, CDs act as portable save points as well, though they are consumed in the process.
  • Last-Second Ending Choice: Both storylines conclude with The choice to kill or forgive the other character. Forgiving is clearly the right choice, as it is all-but-stated the Dark Unknown's real purpose was to manipulate James or Chloe into killing the other. However, the Forgive endings are also much briefer, and there is an impression that the more detailed "Kill" endings are meant to be canonical.
  • Madwoman in the Attic: Robert locked his mother in a protective cell in the attic after she went insane and ripped her own eyes out. Her ghost/zombie is still up there.
  • Mind Screw: Things take an extremely strange turn at about halfway point of Chloe's storyline, as she is eventually supposed to crawl into the well, which results in her going through a realm of pure darkness for several minutes, before eventually leaving through the basement door hatch, multiple grasping hands sticking out hungrily after her. Once that hatch is barricaded, Chloe goes around the outside of mansion, until she somehow finds her long-dead mother in a cage, and tries to free her, only to see the avatar of the Dark Unknown kill her. Afterwards, it becomes giant and starts crawling after her, and the only way to finish the stage is for Chloe to hang herself with the already-prepared execution-style noose. However, that somehow makes her wake up in one of the mansion's beds, pinned in place by giant spider's limbs, but otherwise unhurt, and once Victoria frees her, this incident is never brought up again. Yeah.
    • James' storyline is more conventional, but the endings of both characters crank up the weirdness gradient regardless. The "Forgive" endings do not seem to resolve much; at best, their Book Ends nature with Dark Unknown's avatar behind the current protagonist seems to represent them managing to hold their own darkness at bay. The "Kill" endings, however, feature a strange cutscene where James/Chloe get into the car driven by Chloe's mother, Emma, and also feature Ethan, James' son/Chloe's brother who was literally never brought up in the storyline until this point. Then, your protagonist lies about the absence of the other, and then the car drives away. It could be seen as an implication that you have changed the past somehow, since there are clues about time manipulation in some notes, except that the ending text still has the player character blame themselves for everything falling apart.
  • Misidentified Weapons: A revolver is referred to as only a "handgun", which is only technically correct at best.
  • Mood Whiplash: The opening shows a bright morning in Barrow, as people are going about their business and even street cats are playing about as a calm piano music plays. This is occasionally interspersed with the brief flashes of the main character's dead body.
    • Later on in Chloe's storyline, she discovers a photo of her mother in the mansion and pauses to reflect on how beautiful she was and how much she misses her, all scored to the contemplative piano music. This is rather at odds with where the picture was found - a gift box full of viscera, with dozens of large meat flies swarming through the air around it and buzzing loudly.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: The undead shambling through the entire game are never called zombies, even though they otherwise fit essentially every characteristic.
  • Plot Armor: The player character can beat down or shoot normal undead without too much trouble, but the plot-relevant undead are untargetable, even if they are functionally little different from normal zombies.
  • Poor Communication Kills: When Chloe briefly sees her mother again, she asks her "not to believe his lies", and refuses to specify things further, just telling her to run. She meant the Dark Unknown, who arrives immediately after to kill her again, but the way she's been saying also leaves the impression she might have meant James, and Victoria also subtly hints that James killed her mother (it's implied she was used by the Dark Unknown to manipulate this very outcome, or was even an alternate avatar of him.) Thus, the choice to "kill" doesn't look as ridiculous in her storyline as in James', especially if you haven't played James' storyline first, which all-but-states that her mother died in childbirth.
  • Puzzle Boss: Pretty much all the boss fights are like this.
    • The blind grandmother in the attic has infinite health, so you can't defeat her in combat. You need to cover yourself in corpse guts so she can't smell you, at which point you can walk right up to her and take the dining room key from around her neck.
    • Samuel likewise can only be temporarily stunned with weapons. To neutralize him, you need to place the four items linked to his wife at the shrine of her skeleton.
    • The Final Boss, the giant Dark Unknown, is stuck in the pit in the basement, and he occasionally sweeps with his hands and constantly summons zombies and/or spiders in the surrounding room. To defeat him, you need to pull the three levers around the pit that result in metal debris collapsing on top of him, and do so three times.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: This is invoked even before the game proper starts, as you ponder the character selection menu. James' entry says that his daughter Chloe was accused of murdering a roommate, and she fled to the Beresford mansion in despair, and so he went after her, disbelieving she could have had killed anyone. However, Chloe's entry does not mention any murder at all, instead stating that she received a text message from James where he promises to reveal the truth about her mother's death if she heads over to the mansion. The obvious conflict between these narratives already helps to drive the mystery.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: Averted. An old revolver is the first weapon Chloe finds; it kills a typical zombie in about 3 shots, while the bat she receives soon afterwards generally takes 2-3 swings, while consuming no ammo and being potentially capable of hitting multiple opponents at once. Then, both her revolver and James' semiautomatic pistol are practically identical in terms of effectiveness.
  • Schrödinger's Canon: The exact time and reason for the death of Emma, the wife of James and the mother of Chloe, appears to vary between the storylines. James' storyline seems to show that she died in childbirth, while in Chloe's, it's implied there was a car crash.
  • Short-Range Shotgun: An old hunting shotgun is the second ranged weapon in James' storyline, and its effectiveness drops off by a lot if it is not fired literally point-blank.
  • Story Breadcrumbs: The mansion contains a diary belonging to the estate's founder, Robert Beresford, which details the apparent curse that began wrecking his family's fortunes ever since the death of his fourth daughter, and the various additional letters and notes.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: As you enter the cabinet room where you pick up the revolver, the player can very clearly see and hear the undead policeman standing outside and beating at the glass. does not react to it at all up until you actually pick up the revolver, which triggers a sequence where the policeman finally breaks through the glass and your character must shoot him after diving for the floor. Even then, there is zero reaction to the event.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The endings of both storylines pay no heed to Victoria, though it is heavily implied she was just a friendlier avatar of the Dark Unknown that was there to manipulate them into murdering each other.. Chloe's storyline also involves a larger number of the mansion's ghostly inhabitants, and all of them are equally forgotten with little, if any, resolution.
    • Likewise, the roommate Chloe had apparently murdered, at least to James' understanding, is never brought up past the opening to his storyline, and we have no idea what happened then.