Title: Doorways: The Underworld
Platform: PC, Mac, Linux, Steam
Reviewed on: Windows
Genre: Puzzle, Horror
Players: Single player
Written by Whistler 18th September 2014
I was actually surprised that the horror genre took a bit of a break as of late, but my palette’s been given a break and ready to dive into the genre once more. Starting in 2012, eight man team, Saibot Studios began their concoction of fear known as Doorways, starting on indiedb.com and gathering a following with Steam Greenlight and popular Youtubers (The gaming advertisement of the future it seems). While Doorways was planned as a 4 part episodic series originally each chapter would be included as DLC; while already keyboard warriors of the forums are arguing over reasons but now Doorways: Underworld, the third chapter, has been released as a stand-
While admittedly I missed the hype train for this particular title, the tale so far follows one Thomas Foster, a special agent for Doorways who tacks down several psychopaths and delves into their psyche as he survives the horrors of both the psychopath’s machinations as well as their victims. In the latest episode he is hot on the trail of a doctor know for hideous experiments and that’s pretty much all the briefing you’re given; so it’s time to don your headsets, turn off the lights and delve into the Underworld for some scary times.
The eight man team has a ways to go yet but Underworld, while trotting though the usual tropes we see some nice examples of creativity with a solid use of sound and some monster designs. While granted the majority of the enemies are your typical machinations of flesh and steel we’ve all seen in horror genre as a whole with Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, Konami’s Silent Hill and Tripwire’s Killing Floor, some of the creative works from Saibot are genuinely impressive. Sadly level design is underwhelming with very overdone and rather bland layouts of sewers, labs and tunnels that aren’t aided by the game’s restricting linear framework. I picked up the almost textbook pattern Doorways utilizes that follow getting familiar with your surroundings, finding the puzzle, going about your way solving said puzzle while avoid the level’s creature feature then rinse and repeat with a slightly more complex puzzle. While linear styles are not bad in anyway, when the same set up is repeated with just a slight variation starts to dull the energy and pacing that Doorways holds.
Puzzle elements are lacking as well, often boiling down to simple find item A and use it on its corresponding lock or door, and these puzzles don’t really alternate until what I consider the is the third act in Underworld. In the third act I feel Doorways’ crams in its unique mechanic that for short moments allows you to see things that are unseen similar to Clive Barker’s Undying; but the mechanic is introduced so late into the gameplay that it just isn’t given the legroom required to be fully explored or expanded upon.
It does when thrown together with the last monster introduce a very creative concoction; as mentioned the mechanic allows you to see the unseen for short periods of time, now when you throw in the risk that the monster can harm you when in this state adds a whole new approach to facing ‘the beast’ so to speak. Of course a strong element of fear is not seeing the thing that you’re afraid of, and now Doorways hands you the very device that will reveal this fear leaving you to be your own destroyer (I may be reading too much into this).
It is a real shame too as the mechanic is a genuine creative element rarely seen or properly used lately and I only hope that Saibot remedy this and push this mechanic to its fullest.
While these do seem like glaring issues, it’s clear Saibot are still finding their place to stand in the genre and honestly I feel I’ve just been spoiled with Outlast and really it’ll be a while before the Silent Hill classics are toppled from horror Olympus (seriously it’s awesome there, they have cookies and waffles).
I would say though that from what I could feel of this episode in a four part series that I reckon it would have turned out better if Doorways was released as a full title or if episodes were brought out closer together and Doorways: The Underworld is certainly not without its flaws, but it is short, sweet and is certainly worth a look considering the price (arguably) if you’re a fan of the genre.
Creative monster designs,
Sound gameplay with balanced difficulty.
Bland level design,
Introduces and underuses its unique mechanic too late.
Doorways: The Underworld as a standalone title scores a 5.5/10 but the 4 part series does need to be improved upon for its conclusion.