Damned is, at its core an asymmetrical multiplayer-only experience that contains some incredibly effective tension and dread as you and your group skulk through darkened corridors in hopes to avoid an onslaught of death at the hands of a malevolent supernatural being.
Damned successfully taps into that primeval fear of ‘what you can’t see can kill you’ as it will have you more paranoid than David Icke himself. Chiming grandfather clocks, whistling radiators, creaking doors, flickering lights and laughing jack-o-lanterns all play their part as you move cautiously through each of the eleven different environments hoping not to touch uglies with that thing that goes bump in the night.
Each of these come in a variety of flavours – from abandoned Hospitals, Asylums, Hotels to Factories; all oozing with an eerie atmosphere that isn’t seen nor felt in any other horror based multiplayer game. The scares and true terror rival that of any single-player experience you can have and the fact that it can do this with a multiplayer only game is truly an astounding achievement in and of itself.
You control (in first-person) any one of four stereotype survivors found in a haunted house scenario, A Priest, School Jock, Scene-Girl or fabled black-guy-who-dies-first, each armed with only a flashlight and your dwindling nerves. Who you choose to play as, is completely arbitrary as no one survivor has any type of skill set or play style to help aid your team, as all players can equally carry any amount of keys, safe combinations and interact with the environment. As the Survivors, it is up to you to help your colleagues escape the nightmare you have found yourselves in by scouring through cupboards, desk drawers, iron safes and anything else, in order to search out your ways to freedom.
On the opposite end of that spectrum sits one other player who is in control of the ghoul/ghost for any chosen scenario and their objective is to simply wipe out all survivors before they can reach the end, the unique twist is though, that the monsters come in three variations and each variant of ghoulish terror requires a different strategy to conquer and overcome as you (the survivor) cannot deal any damage or defeat this player in any way. I will break down the Survivors versus Monster like so:
Mary is a scary Asian ghost girl who has the ability to randomly teleport anywhere in the vicinity of the survivors, but not close enough to be within immediate visual range, this can be initiated either by the player or automatically if they spend too long searching for a victim. She can open doors, stalk the hallways slowly and calmly, sobbing with tears; the best strategy for survivors is to run the hell away because simply gazing directly at Mary or being too close in her proximity will trigger the hunter players ability to send her into a screaming rage, who will then run at you and eviscerate you from the inside out. Bar the doors and do not let her in. When she teleports, best to check behind you….
Looks a lot like Pumpkinhead or a really tall guy who decided that wearing his birthday suit was too much effort. This Ghoul can move between Spectral and Material realms much like Raziel from Soul Reaver, only with a cool down timer and while spectral, cannot see the survivors but can move at speed, pass through locked doors & rig sound traps so if someone stumbles past, say a grandfather clock then it will chime triggering the Ghoul to materialise and slowly, VERY slowly chase after the unlucky individual.
Is omnipresent, this ghost can move through any locked door and drift around at terrifying speeds. The only way to avoid this one is to remain silent and move slowly through the level, keeping a visual on it at all times where possible. The only way it can detect a survivor is by sudden noise, such as turning the flashlight on and off or by getting too close to it, thereby lighting that survivor up in an aura that only then can the Phantom detect a presence, other than that it is essentially blind, but the hardest to compete against. Stay away from the centre of the rooms.
If any of these creatures manage to catch you it is a one hit kill with no coming back and if you were the one carrying all the keys, you have just made everyone else’s day a whole lot worse.
Now, not that I mean to end on the negatives but there are some issues that need to be addressed. Firstly, there are no dedicated servers as it is only a peer-to-peer service meaning that game sessions can range from stable to downright jittery with latency playing a big part of that problem.
The game itself is already ill-optimized and framerates can differ heavily depending on what kind of hardware your rig is running. You can have a budget six core processor or a monster expensive processor, you will still see many of the same issues so I would feel terrible with anybody ‘meeting’ the actual specifications required to run this game as opposed to surpassing them and I mean, it is not exactly the most demanding game out there, regarding hardware requirements. It doesn’t even LOOK all that spectacular to begin with. It absolutely is not horrible, but the fact it has issues, requires some serious attention from the Developers if they hope to iron out these flaws and beef up the stability of this product.
The animations for all characters border between offensive and hilarious as many, if not all of them look like non-posable action figures, with the bare basics required to call them ‘high-poly’ models. They portray little to no emotion, physically, the audio doing all the work it needs to do and thank christ there! Because when you are trudging through these dank environments which are so beautifully, crafted and rendered, to see John the Priest, complete with missile launching action, running out of a room then being chased by the Lurker who looks as stiff as super glued lego you cannot help but either smirk or run in the opposite direction terrified of either the animations or the monster chasing you at the forefront of it all. It pulls you almost straight out of the experience and the immersion of it all but not enough to justify it as truly terrible.
With a little more time spent developing and fine-brushing some animations and textures, Damned can be a lot of things that many games are not and you can really sense the quality under its garbled hood. However, right now, there are a lot of things it is not and given a lack of content and game modes you really see all there is to see within the first ten to twenty minutes of playing. It is really only saved because with friends, it can be an absolute rioting good time full of scares, tension and laughter.
Get this to experience it with friends, because finding a server where it is stable or the lobby leader will not kick you out come few and far between. Damned is an enjoyable if not, short lived package that deserves your support and with that, will with any luck come a much better game down the line.
[ 76 / 100 ]
– Daniel Kerr Spendlove
Damned on Steam