Dark Fall: Ghost Vigil

 

 

Genre:    Adventure 

Developer:  Darkling Room

Publisher:    Darkling Room

Released:   January 10, 2020

Requirements (minimum):

  • OS: Windows 7, 8, 8.1, 10 
  • Processor: 3.0 GHz Intel Core i3 or equivalent or better
  • Memory: 8 GB RAM
  • Graphics: 1 GB Geforce GT 460 or equivalent or better
  • Storage: 6 GB available space  
  • Sound Card: DirectX compatible
  • DirectX: Version 9.0c upwards
  • Additional Notes: Widescreen monitor required. Mouse controlled. Keyboard Control. Controller Control Compatible

 

 

By flotsam

Dark Fall: Ghost Vigil

Darkling Room

This is a deeply satisfying adventure game, and one that you should play.

You have recently joined the Oxford Paranormal Group, currently engaged in an all-night vigil at Harwood House. Built in 1747 as a country manor for Lord Harwood, it has seen life as a hotel, a maternity hospital and a children’s home. Stricken by tragedy over a lengthy period, and empty for the last 40 years, what better place to try and find evidence of the paranormal.

The rest of the small team is already on site when you arrive. Retrieve a walkie talkie, then a number of other ghost-hunting gadgets, and head for the attic. Examine your tablet, access your emails and messages, and chat with your fellow OPG members. Your initial tasks will help you settle into things, but its apparent early on that there is more here than meets the eye.

The gadgets will assist your endeavours. Night vision goggles will enable you to see things not otherwise visible, a voice recorder will capture voices which can be analysed on your tablet, and a thermal imager will identify possible points of interest. You will need to choose one from the inventory in order to use it to search a room or other space, although night vision goggles can be used in conjunction with one of the others. There are other pieces of equipment, including cameras and laptops throughout the mansion, and whilst some are more useful than others, all will be utilised to some extent. Indeed, many will be used not to reveal, but to satisfy yourself that there is nothing there to be revealed.

How thoroughly you search and examine, and with what gadgets, is up to you, and not everything needs to be found. Ditto how meticulously you read all the notes, papers, journals and other records, or how assiduously you take notes and make sketches. You may simply miss some detail about what went on here over the life of the building, or an interesting tit-bit of local news. But you may also miss a clue to a puzzle, or fail to find a physical item that can only be found with the correct apparatus. While there is far more that need not be found, it is all part of a rich tapestry, woven with a number of must find threads.

Your wits are what you will need most. Some of the puzzles and conundrums are reasonably straightforward, but many have a number of facets that must be teased out, interpreted and joined up in order to be solved. The time shifting in the greenhouse stands out, and was probably my favourite, but others were almost on a par. I made copious notes, took screenshots which I saved, and then spent time outside the game going over what I had gathered for more than one puzzle. I overcomplicated some puzzles (as if they weren’t tricky enough) and needed a prod here and there, as well as the way forward for one of them, but satisfyingly solved most by hastening slowly. The game requires, and indeed deserves, persistence and patience.

I liked the fact that there was a level of mundaneness about some activity. I have never been on a ghost hunt but I imagine sitting quietly, monitoring equipment and analysing any identified activity in the hope of catching something is part and parcel of any such investigation. So too it is here. Indeed, all the bits and pieces made it “feel” like I imagine a ghost hunt would, and is certainly as close as I will get to the real thing.

There are some musical puzzles, although a recent update has added descriptions to assist with those. I mention these because I know there are gamers who do not like such things (I confess they aren’t my favourite either).

I will also mention the snakes and ladders game, which doesn’t have to be solved, but needs to be endured until you “win”. I say endured as it is an outcome over which you have no control, and even though I only had to play twice (which was one time too many) I am aware that a fellow gamer played eight times before being able to move on. Perhaps a future update could introduce a skip button for this one.

You will find all manner of inventory items, but don’t expect to find everything you might need close at hand. You will also gather a lot of things which can’t be used immediately. While not everywhere will be open to you at first, and initially your access to the mansion and its outbuildings is quite restricted, the game quickly opens up, although there will be locations you can’t go until quite late in the game. There are also secret passages and tunnels to find, and a drone that becomes available during the game will enable you to explore to some areas otherwise inaccessible.

At times you will find yourself trapped inside a dark memory, and you will also trigger some flashbacks to earlier times in the mansion, where you spend time in the particular location as it was once before. In the case of the greenhouse there are two such time shifts.

I haven’t mentioned every gameplay aspect – collect and listen to cassette tapes, converse with apparitions, trigger Ouija board sequences, fiddle with the radios to... ?? and some others – there is a lot going on here.

I played on the highest graphic setting and the game looks excellent. Not as sharp visually as some games, but there is an incredible amount of detail throughout. It sounds good too, from the ambient sound to the mood setting music. It’s a dark place, so your never ending flashlight will come in handy, and while it isn’t a scary game, all the elements produce a suitably spooky environment.

Most of the game takes place inside the mansion, although the grounds and some outbuildings are part of the exploration. There are some key things to find outside, one in particular depending on the recipe you are required to make. Why you can’t take that item when first found is a little odd – as far as I could tell you can take everything else when found whether you know you need it or not.

The recipe puzzle is one of several in the game that randomise, in that e.g. your code could well be different to mine. It adds another layer.

There were times when I wasn’t sure what to do next, but generally had a reasonable idea or at least some options. The chatter on the walkie-talkie provides guidance, and keeping track of places you can’t go yet, or where the icons indicate something must be done, may provide a possibility for advancement further down the track.

There are three possible endings, one of which involves having completed a particular puzzle (which I hadn’t the first time through). According to my Steam achievement I got the bad ending (which seemed right given what happened!). It’s worth making sure you have a save point near the end so you can try and get all three.

Ghost Vigil plays in the first person and except for a small number of keyboard actions, and is point and click throughout. You move from point to point, as opposed to being able to walk anywhere, and at each point you can explore the scene you are looking at with your mouse. You can also change your perspective by 90 degrees to look at what is to your left or right. Keep turning to look back the way you came, and eventually all the way round. Moving the mouse to the edge of the screen will generate the arrow icon to turn (and now and then might indicate you can look up or down, or even move in that direction), and a little footstep icon will show a path (and sometimes paths) forward. Repeat the process to explore thoroughly, and to move around the environment. It sounds fussier than it is, and it will be familiar to most adventure game players.

Other icons might pop up as you explore the scene with your mouse. A magnifying glass will indicate something to look at more closely, a set of gears that there is something to do in that spot, and a hand that something can be picked up and possibly taken. The “I” button brings up and puts away your inventory, and “F” toggles your flashlight on and off. Select inventory items to use in the game with a left mouse click, or examine them with a right. Save at will (yay!!), and there are multiple save slots (possibly they are unlimited; I never used all of the ones available at the save screen).

The menu enables you to fiddle with sound and some other settings, including whether to have subtitles, and you can choose your resolution and graphic level each time the game launches and tweak it at the menu as well. There are no action sequences (which is not to say there is no action!) and no dying.

Finally, it’s a very decent length. I would be surprised if it wasn’t 20 hours at least for every player.

As I said upfront, you should play this.

 

I played on:

OS: Windows 10, 64 Bit

Processor: Intel i7-9700k 3.7 GHz

RAM: Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB DDR4 32GB

Video card: AMD Radeon RX 580 8192MB

 

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