DreadHaunt – Early Access Impressions – A promising idea that could still use some work

Gare – Monday, November 13, 2023 10:17 AM
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Digital Happiness is an indie developer that fans of Indonesian horror will no doubt be familiar with as the team behind the Fatal Frame-inspired DreadOut series. You may also remember that despite its many technical issues, I was quite fond of DreadOut 2 back when I reviewed it in the distant, misty past of 2020 – so naturally, I jumped into the team’s latest title, the multiplayer horror game DreadHaunt, with feelings of genuine anticipation. Now, let me immediately say that the game does have issues – but then again, it’s an Early Access release, so that’s to be expected; and indeed, it’s something I’ve kept in mind while considering the pros and cons of the project.

First off, it might be worth noting exactly what kind of game this is. DreadHaunt, in short, is an asymmetrical multiplayer game likely inspired by Dead by Daylight and Among Us, where your characters must complete a set of objectives while one of them gets possessed and potentially slaughters the rest of the group. At the beginning of each round, you’re thrown into a map filled with a variety of cursed items that must be found and disposed of. Each cursed item has a corresponding paranormal tool that must be used in order to “defuse” it, so to speak (said defusing also involves a quick minigame, just to make things more interesting), after which you must make your way to one of the disposal locations found on the map and dump the item in there. You can only carry one paranormal tool with you at any given time, so as you might imagine, this leads to lots of running around the map between various locations. Here’s the thing, though: while you do this, one of your teammates is secretly trying to sabotage your efforts with supernatural powers, and will eventually turn into a deadly ghost-monster capable of very quickly putting an end to your paranormal career. So overall, there is the promise of a fun cat-and-mouse dynamic here.

If we are to break things down, I’d say the game revolves around finding the right items and then taking them to the right location, which, admittedly, doesn’t sound super exciting. To be more specific, one thing I was sorely missing from DreadHaunt is a distinct feeling of terror – while you do explore dark, abandoned locations with the occasional paranormal phenomenon and spooky ghost encounter, for some reason, I didn’t find myself as stressed out as I would’ve liked. No sweaty palms, either. Granted, things become a touch more interesting when one of the players turns into a ghostly woman with her own unique set of skills (that were obviously designed to make life harder for the remaining survivors), and I did certainly feel a tinge of tension when I was trying to hunt down the remaining cursed items while knowing that this all-powerful monster was out to get me.

But even here, there are problems. For one, the monster isn’t quite as all-powerful as you would like, and I feel it would really benefit from having an easier way of finding (and hunting down) the survivors. To give a specific example, I easily massacred my friend when I transformed right next to him, but when the situation was reversed (and we were both at vastly different locations on the map), my friend-turned-ghost had a really difficult time finding me while controlling the monster – so much so that I had enough time to dispose of my final cursed item and win the match with ease. Additionally, the core gameplay of the agents could also use some extra spicing up – more things to pick up, more paranormal events to encounter, and just generally more things to do while looking around the map; during the handful of matches we played, we spent most of our time aimlessly wandering around while looking for items to pick up, and while the impostor can do a few things to mess with the others, this usually felt more like a minor inconvenience than anything else.

DreadOutPlatform: PC, OS XGenre: Survival HorrorDeveloper: Digital HappinessPublisher: PT Digital Semantika IndonesiaRelease: 05/15/2014

That said, I do see some clear potential in DreadHaunt, and once you get the hang of the mechanics, it can be fun to play with friends. At the moment, it’s very reasonably priced, which is always a plus, and my prior positive experiences with Digital Happiness’ creative output is making me cautiously optimistic about the overall future of the game. But at the same time, the game is currently in a very early stage (and is advertised as such, so fair enough on that front) and is going to need a lot more content and variety to not only draw players in, but to keep them as well.

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