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Withering Rooms Review – Night Fever

The indie horror space is beginning to flourish with plenty of new and creative ideas. Withering Rooms from developer Moonless Formless perfectly exemplifies why it’s a space to keep your eye on. Borrowing elements from a variety of popular survival horror games and melding them with RPG elements, the game dares to be bold and different in an era where it has become increasingly rare for fresh concepts to break out in the gaming world.

Withering Rooms tells the story of Nightingale, a girl who finds herself lost in the dream-like corridors of a Victorian mansion called Mostyn House. Trapped in a literal endless nightmare, Nightingale must battle her way through zombies, mummies, vampires, witches and demonic creatures lifted straight out of your worst nightmares.

The story is straight-forward but thoroughly engaging from beginning to end. Withering Rooms uses the element of surprise to boost its narrative, throwing enough twists and turns at you to make you dizzy. It can get a little muddy in spots but overall, it will constantly keep you on your toes. A large part of the story’s gripping nature has to do with the unique style of the gameplay.

Withering Rooms is, basically, a side-scrolling roguelike survival horror RPG. That’s honestly a lot of genres to juggle but the game strikes a surprisingly great balance of scares, role-playing elements and the addictive restart-and-go runs of your typical roguelike. In terms of inspiration, it borrows heavily from games like Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Little Nightmares and most importantly, Clock Tower. However, it’s also able to carve out its own identity in the process, delivering a game that can truly stands on its own as unlike anything else out there.

To be completely honest, the gameplay didn’t click for me until the midway point. Combat felt a tad bit clunky and the game throws a lot at you at once when you start out, leading to some confusion. You got crafting elements thrown into the mix too to make things a bit more complicated, though how all of your weapons, items, outfits, rings, amulets and accessories can make up specific builds really impressed me once I dug deep into the mechanics.

As a result, Withering Rooms is certainly not going to be a game that everybody will enjoy. It’s not a walk in the park either as it poses a decent amount of challenge when it comes to its terrifying, unexpected encounters. There’s an ebb and flow to the gameplay that demands you to be mindful of your stats and resources at all times. It’s easy to find yourself cornered in a tough fight once you realise that your build isn’t as refined as it should be – this is a compliment to the gameplay, let me explain.

Withering Rooms evokes a very real, primal fear of being utterly helpless against nightmarish foes. While Nightingale is perfectly suited to deal with situations given her arsenal of melee or ranged weapons, there’s always the chance that you might not make it through a particular run and lose vital progress, forcing you to restart due to the game’s roguelike nature. In fact, it boggles my mind why there aren’t more roguelike survival horror games out since Withering Rooms proves that the genres complement each other really well.

For the most part, you’ll be navigating the maze-like corridors of a Victorian mansion and surrounding areas completely lost in this fever dream world. Progress is made by exploration, overcoming difficult enemies or unlocking new paths and key items to give you more options on your next venture into the nightmare realm, levelling up as you go. If you run into something that you can’t quite deal with yet, you can simply turn around and find another solution the next night.

The various RPG elements give Withering Rooms a few great layers of depth and complexity too. Apart from your standard melee or ranged weapons like cleavers and guns, you can also equip spells – yes, there are spells in this game too, in case you thought it was missing something. Spells are fantastic for going on the offence or defence. With magic, you can create a mimic decoy of yourself as a distraction, enchant suits of armours to aid you in fights or cast hex traps. Use too much magic and you become cursed, essentially transforming the world into an even more nightmarish hell.

I opted to go for a sorcerer-style build that let me cast spells with items that buffed my magical abilities or limited the harsh repurcussions for using too much magic, summoning minions to fight alongside me. Each night (or run), I tried carrying my progress over by performing rituals that let me keep everything I picked up in the last run, meaning I was never unprepared for the next night’s journey.

I’ve barely touched the tip of the iceberg that is Withering Rooms‘ incredible customisation options. With so many tools at your disposal, there’s room for you to experiment with a lot of different builds that may result in unique outcomes, making each playthrough feel constantly unpredictable and fresh. Considering that it was made by such a small game studio essentially spearheaded by one person, it’s remarkable how much content was crammed into the final game.

There are a couple of downsides worth mentioning, though. Withering Rooms is a pretty short game. It took me around six hours to complete my first playthrough and that included getting used to all the mechanics, constantly dying from silly mistakes or painstakingly mapping out paths in my procedurally generated nightmare world. You can expect repeated playthroughs to knock at least a couple hours off the top, though this can be forgiven considering that it’s an indie game with such a complex concept.

The other complaint comes down to the presentation. Withering Rooms doesn’t have the most distinct visuals. Some enemies seem to be quite derivative of games like Clock Tower or Silent Hill. If a sequel were ever to be made, I hope Moonless Formless creates more unique and wildly creative monsters deserving of the game’s nightmarish premise.

If you’re looking for a deft blend of many different genres packaged in a remarkably dense, customisable experience that pays homage to Clock Tower and other survival horror games of yore, Withering Rooms is absolutely going to check all of those boxes for you. It may not last as long as I was hoping but for what it delivers, it knocks out of the park. There’s room for improvement in a sequel but as it stands, Withering Rooms is an exciting, intense indie horror that’s not going to cater to everybody, but it will make a specific subset of fans very, very happy.

This Withering Rooms review is based on a code sent to us by Perp Games. The game launches on 24 May on PS5 (also available on Xbox Series X/S and PC). It retails for R899.

Withering Rooms Review

Summary

Withering Rooms pays homage to survival horror classics like Clock Tower while injecting fresh roguelike RPG elements to create one of the most unique indie horror games we’ve ever played.

Overall
8/10
8/10

Writer
Editor-in-Chief of Nexus Hub, writer at GLITCHED. Former writer at The Gaming Report and All Otaku Online. RPG addict that has wonderful nightmares of Bloodborne 2.

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