Dementium: The Ward Impressions

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You know, I do not really like it when after playing a game for a few hours, I do not want to beat it and can’t even force myself into doing it.  I think my breaking point is not when a game is bad, but when the design just baffles me to the point where I can’t convince myself that the product can be redeemed.  A wise man once said that if something keeps getting worse, it will likely not pull a U-turn and go into something great.  Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning was one of the least simulating globs that I even feel ripped off for getting it for $40 at launch.  While Bayonetta was just not fun for me after 2 hours, and was going to be too repetitive if I tried to play it the proper way.  

Before constructing an FPS that I sold as soon as my review was done, Moon, Renegade Kid made a first person “Survival Horror” Title for the DS, Dementium: The Ward.  Since I am batty and need to give my opinion on everything rather than create things of value, I’m just going to break down why I did not bother beating this title and do not want to.  

Dementium: The Ward Impressions
Platform: DS
Release Date: 31/10/2007
Developer: Renegade Kid
Publisher: Gamecock

With survival horror, it is probably best to keep the plot light, and Dementium does just that.  You are some man trapped in a Hospital and there are zombies coming after you along with medusa heads, slugs, and thunderous acid tossing spiders… Horror!  You’re on the top floor, so you need to work your way down to the lobby and leave this place while getting as much PTSD as you can.  I actually can get behind this premise fairly easily, but if the enemy designs signified that this was trying to not really be horror, the gameplay does that as well.  

I don’t like guns in a setting that is suppose to inspire fear.  I don’t even like guns in general.  When it comes to picking a melee weapon or a gun, I’ll go with the sword that shoots lasers when you have full health.  Maybe due to my fear of running out of ammo, which is very irrational considering that I never came close to it in any game, or how I didn’t play a game where you used a real firearm, nothing space age that fires lasers, until I was 14.  But if I was told that my survival horror game needed guns, I’d make them a pain to aim, reload only while standing still for 10 seconds, and be hard as nuts to find ammo for.  Also do the Condemned thing where you need to check your ammo count, and reloading discards your current clip. But you know what I would do above all else?  I would make them rarely used so there is a weight to every bullet fired and the sound of it will be loud and screeching.  In short, it would be a rare and uncomfortable occurrence that the game would not be centered around.  

In contrast, this game has you use non reloadable weapon that range up to freaking sniper rifles!  Oh, and don’t get me started on the electric buzzsaw, which suffers from a very iffy aim, being overpowered, a pain to hear, and the most useful item other than your flashlight.  Yes, this is a survival horror game where you get what amounts to a miniature chainsaw with infinite ammunition, before the two hour mark!  However, you can avoid most enemies and it is encouraged by the fact that they do respawn, but you are in small corridors and there is no real element of stealth.  I can have my ear wrenching buzzsaw out and the zombies will not even notice how things got a lot louder until I am three meters near them.  You can shine your surprisingly bright and infinitely powered flashlight on them and they will just stand there.  

Stealth and Survival Horror are both genres that emphasize that you are weak and the world is strong.  You need to be smart with your limited resources, rely on pattern recognition, and run when shit hits the fan.  But as playing games like Bioshock and Deus Ex Human Revolution showed me, it is far more rewarding to be stealthy than brutish in any given situation.  Now, both games punish you for being an idiot, but if you are careful you can manage to avoid combat, which actually makes it all the more enjoyable.  While here, I am given several instances where I cannot run away, and need to go out and try to hit zombies in their weak spot, their chest, with my machine gun.  

It is very disconcerting, since if the flashlight was a flickery ponce and the very nice heartbeat feature reacted to the danger you were in, the atmosphere would be nearly perfect.  Even though the textures are crap, the game actually does a good job at making the world look grimey and has an excuse to look the same and be blocky as crap.  This is a prime example of using limitations well and to your advantage, they actually go to the point where they apply a grimey filter, but it actually makes it look better.  But then we get to the models, which really suffer from the DS’ 3D capabilities, to the point where I was avoiding to look at them, because the models made the game less scary.  

And yes, the game actually started off pretty scary, with low resolution sounds that sound alien, the main character’s steady heartbeat, and the lovely sound of a storm occurring in the background.  It is ambiance done well, but they apparently said nuts to the good environments by pulling boss battles out of their bums.  In the beginning, you see a woman getting cut up by a big stack of meat with a cleaver.  After you get a shotgun, you are sent to put some bullets into the big sack person’s brain, while he exposes how bad his model is and slugs try to bite you to death.  And don’t get me started on the old man with a gas mask and a minigun, who is also in a wheelchair.  

If you want to do this kind of thing in a silly setting, that is fine, but you this wrecks the mood even before you get to the room covered in slime and mouths in the wall.  Horror needs subtly and force the consumer to go through something uncomfortable.  It is the type of stimulation that people are lacking due to how cushy most lives have gotten.  And even after the whole aesthetic coming down on itself, the game is really not all they enjoyable.  A horror title with bad aesthetics is just a game where everything is awkward for no good reason.  I mean, this is a first person game where I can complain about the camera due to how I can’t see the slugs half the time.  

I am open to new ideas, but when playing a game where I am suppose to be weak, you really don’t need to get silly in order to make tension.  Despite some great atmosphere, the gameplay just does not mesh well with it, or really anything.  The game wants to be an FPS in addition to survival horror, but games like, say, Resident Evil 4, Dead Space, and Left 4 Dead are not survival horror titles, they are action games where you are startled and things are tense, but are in control of the situation.  I think it is trying to be that, yet the shooting feels like they did not want people to use it very often.  Oh, and if you die, you need to restart chapters, even though the game autosaves after you enter every door… Good game design right here!  It is a mix match between aesthetics and gameplay that create a product worse than both of its sums.  I knew I should have picked Condemned or something along those lines… See you on Saturday with the series where I review Kirby games.

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