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Darkwood

Game review by
David Chapman, Common Sense Media
Darkwood Game Poster Image
Creepy, violent horror game will make you keep lights on.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

You’re trapped in the woods and fighting only to survive and escape. While you occasionally help a small number of characters out with their requests, it’s usually not becuase of altruism, but because it gets you a step closer to leaving.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The few characters you run into that aren’t trying to kill you are either a bit insane, a bit self-serving, or both. There are one or two characters that seem to genuinely try and help, but even their motives are in question.

Ease of Play

Although the controls are relatively simple, the game’s mechanics can make it easy pass over key items. The game also has a high level of difficulty, with players getting defeated/killed with some regularity, either through bad planning, trial and error, or plain dumb luck.

Violence

There's a lot of violence, death, blood, and gore packed into these woods. Blood splatters appear onscreen as you take damage, corpses litter the landscape, and a host of other disturbing and nightmarish imagery appears regularly.

Sex
Language

There's occasional use of strong profanity, such as “f--k,” in the game’s dialogue.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Pills, alcohol, mushrooms, and other substances appear as items or in images within the game. Some, such as moonshine alcohol, are generally used for crafting other items.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Darkwood is a survival horror adventure game available for download on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch. Players are trapped in a supernatural forest and attempt to survive and escape by exploring their surroundings by day and taking shelter to defend against evil swarms during the night. The game's filled with violent and disturbing imagery, including rotting corpses, blood trails, and dying animals. The violence extends to the gameplay, with infected people and creatures constantly attacking the player, and the player forced or choosing to kill in return. The game’s dialogue does occasionally make use of strong profanity, and there are occasional references to and images of alcohol and drugs as well.

User Reviews

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What's it about?

DARKWOOD is a tale of survival, challenging players to face their fears and to break free from the sinister forces that lurks in the shadows. Trapped within the confines of a supernatural forest, you may be abandoned, but you’re not alone. A dark plague has turned those that once lived here into dangerous creatures fueled by frenzied bloodlust. To survive, you’ll need to explore your surroundings by the light of day, scavenging essential provisions and seeking out clues to aid your escape. But as darkness begins to fall, you’ll need to seek out shelter, barricading yourself within your makeshift haven to hold back the encroaching evil until the break of dawn. Do you have what it takes to find the road home? Or will you be consumed by the nightmares of the forest once and for all?

Is it any good?

This game crafts a menacing atmosphere filled with hair-tingling chills and a healthy dose of paranoia that terrifies on a deeply psychological level. Darkwood brings enough material to fuel your nightmares long after the game ends … and it’s all the better for it. At first glance, its top-down view and smaller scale might not seem too imposing. But it’s not long before that fallen tree you didn’t give a second thought to looks strangely like a decomposing arm waiting to snare you in its clutches. Or the loud snap of a twig shatters the silence and you’re left to wonder if that came from you or from some “thing” just outside of your field of view. The tension and terror builds to the point that can almost feel yourself choking on the fear.

Darkwood’s take on survival horror isn’t exactly unique. But it does have just enough twists to the formula to stand out. You’re constantly trying to use the daylight hours to explore further, sometimes foregoing essential resources to seek out key items or clues that might get you closer to escaping. You may find yourself far from your home base and have to hole up for the night in an abandoned house you discovered along the way as a temporary haven from the dark. It’s during these nighttime encounters that your nerves are really put to the test, as there’s little you can do but hope you’ve barricaded yourself in well enough to survive ‘til dawn. This is also where the game can get a little frustrating, since there’s a lot of idle time just waiting for all hell to break loose. And when it does, if your traps and barriers fail you, that’s when you learn that combat isn't your friend. Fighting is awkward and unresponsive. Even if you manage to get in a few good whacks before your weapons fall apart, you’re usually overwhelmed by swarms too big to fend off. It’s all the more incentive to avoid a fight whenever possible. With its randomly generated maps and branching plot paths, even if you escape Darkwood once, you likely find your way back in its clutches again.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about violence in video games. Is the impact of the violence in Darkwood affected by the fact that the enemies you face are mainly monsters and humans driven insane by this setting? Would the impact be intensified if you couldn't tell who was safe and who was dangerous? What would the intensity be lessened if you were only fighting monsters?

  • What's the appeal of horror in movies and video games? What are some of the reasons that people like to get scared?

Game details

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