Unforgiving-A Northern Hymn: Grimm Swedish tale
First person horror games are a dime a dozen on Steam. Ever since the rise of Amnesia, Outlast and Slender, just about every indie studio has tried their hand at being the next big thing.
Most of these are complete rubbish (Walden and the Werewolf for example). But sometimes you get a special standout like SOMA. Unforgiving- A Northern Hymn is in the middle ground in terms of quality. Not terrible but not remarkable either. A perfectly decent title one could expect.
Linn wakes up in the back of her brother Lukas’s car. She is bound and gagged in an apparent kidnapping. Linn is able to make the car cash (a swift brother kick). Which results in both siblings stranded in a spooky Swedish forest. Things go to hell very quickly. Unforgiving is rather light on story.
Despite having such a limited cast, characters are rarely given any time to grow or develop into complete characters. Linn spends most of her time screaming or panting, she comes across as rather weak and forgettable (more on that later).
Lukas too is given very little time before he is taken out of the picture all together. It is rather disappointing as a result.
Because the siblings are so weakly developed. A lot of the suffering Linn undergoes simply doesn’t stick with the player. It might provide a visceral punch short term. But fades from memory shortly afterwards as a result.
A tale of addiction (?)
The reason why Lukas kidnaps Linn is because of her drug addiction. What drugs she was using is never explained. You’d think that Angry Demon Studios might be setting up a theme of sorts. A theme on the self destructive usage of drugs? Maybe implement a game mechanic around having to manage the addiction or experience the come down. However the addiction flaw never comes up. The game doesn’t focus on the possible theme of addiction.
It is merely an excuse for Lukas to kidnap his sister. Once the brother is out of the picture Unforgiving simply sails Linn through a series of torturous set pieces. I have to ask why Linn and Lukas are even siblings in the first place when the game could have done perfectly well without it.
All this and spooky children’s drawings
You will find a number of creepy children’s drawings. There is no real reason behind it asides from shock value. It might make sense in a children’s home, it does not make sense in a mine shaft.
Why are there disturbing drawings in a place where it would make no sense for children to be in? This might be an attempt to give Linn a tragic past. But the spooky drawings are so generically horrific. And Linn barely a character that it doesn’t hit any marks. It is moderately disturbing and somewhat cheap in all honesty.
If you have played any first person survival horror game on steam then you have played this. You have to sneak around the spooky scary monsters in order to proceed and complete puzzles (none of which are partially difficult). Levels are quite linear and straight forward (asides from two moderately open ended), nicely paced and well made. There is not much wrong with Unforgiving’s gameplay. It is just totally unremarkable in implementation and execution.
Watch the light
For your limited light source you have matches. They are scatted around the various levels. This encourages and rewards exploration. The problem is that while you have a limited amount you never even come close to running out. There is no risk to using too many matches as the game gives far too many. This reduces the sense of tension as losing a match will only occur a minor inconvenience.
One of the more original gameplay mechanics is Freyja’s harp. In order to process you have to play a sequence of strings while under pressure. It is interesting little mechanic that does add some tension to the levels. When you are struggling to play the right notes as a ogre is about to eat you, it is remarkably effective as a result.
Sadly it is rather underused. Only twice will you have the imminent threat of death looming. The rest of the game simply allows you to play the cords in piece. The harp is interesting if not disappointingly implementation.
Art style and Graphics:
Considering it is a low budget title Unforgiving does look pretty good if sometimes rather cheap. The environments are delightfully creepy (as with any fog shrouded forest in Europe, no personal experience) .
However animations are rather janky. Having to watch Lukas stiffly move like a wind up toy was somewhat distracting. Despite our protagonist being a women. I swear Angry Demon studios used the same character model as Lukas. But threw some nail polish on it. I understand that it is a budget title and corners had to be cut.
However I kept thinking, if they could not afford to create a female model. They could have just turned Linn into a man. Angry Demon Studios should have worked with their limitations instead in spite of them.
Minor stuttering but otherwise:
Unforgiving-A Northern Hymn is a decent game, I do not regret playing nor will I not recommend it. Considering how cheap it is as well as the short length. It provides a decent (modestly scary ) snack to enjoy for newcomers to the genre. It will also be enjoyable for fans, who might want to get chased by something remarkably Swedish. Give it a shot and see what you think.
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