The Early Access banner is a bit of a double-edged sword for developers, but it does serve a purpose. Whether or not we do so consciously most people approach Early Access games with a different set of expectations than games that are marketed as full released. UndeadScout‘s new first-person suspense/horror game, Husk video game, could sorely have used that extra layer of protection against criticism, but baffling seems to have bypassed it. The game has been patched three times since its launch date (February 3, 2017), and while they have undoubtedly improved the game the fact that they were necessary at all is telling.
Husk tells the story of a man on a train where every other passenger, his wife, and daughter included, have mysteriously disappeared mid-journey. The game starts well enough with you disembarking from the train and entering the city of Shivercliff, which is also oddly vacated. The atmosphere is well developed and the graphics are surprisingly effective, but only when the frame rate isn’t stuttering, which is frequently. For the first thirty to forty-five minutes of the Husk video game there are several instances of general creepiness that caused goosebumps to shiver up my arms. Doors closed in rooms I had just left, shadows and apparitions appeared just out of reach, and every hallway was a potential deathtrap. And then, quite suddenly, that bubble of spine-tingling creepiness popped.
I can place exactly when it happened for me, although other players may experience it at different points. I was in a diner looking for keys to get into a locked room and I’d been hearing whispers, seeing things out of the corner of my eye and so on. As I’m creeping around worried over what might jump out at me I look outside the diner’s back window and catch a glimpse of some horrible monster standing on the roof of a car. For a moment it’s a little scary because I have encountered nothing like this so far. But then the monster just keeps standing on the roof, doing nothing. The longer I stared at the more absurd it became, and the game never recovered from that. Shortly after that, I had my first combat encounter in the game, and the lack of any feedback in the game to my wild flailings with a pipe killed any remaining atmosphere following that. I played for another few hours, but it just wasn’t the same anymore and even things that should have been creepy weren’t. It’s like when you watch a horror movie and they finally reveal the monster they’ve been building up for an hour, and it’s a dog in a cheap Halloween costume.
Final thoughts on the Husk video game:
Husk is a game that needed a bit longer in development before full release. If it had come out as an Early Access title I’d be more inclined to be forgiving on the understanding that it was not marketed as a finished product, but it wasn’t marketed that way and it is not a finished product. To their credit, the developers have been hard at work patching the game rapidly and communicating with their players, and so there is hope that this may one day be worth recommending. Right now it is not, and unfortunately for UndeadScout, first impressions are the most important impressions for games in the current market. It is not all bad, by any stretch, and the story itself heads in directions you probably won’t expect. The technical side is just not up to telling the story the writers want to tell. By the time we get around to the Steam Summer Sale this might be worth looking at, particularly at a discounted price, but unless you are absolutely hard-up for a horror/suspense game right now I would give this a hard pass.
Husk on PC
- The story tackles some interesting subjects
- First 30-45 minutes have genuinely creepy moments
- Developers are quick with patches and listen to community feedback
- Frame is highly variable, even on medium/high end systems
- Poor combat
- Technical problems limit the impact & scope of the story
- Atmosphere falls apart once the monsters appear