First impressions of Dread

More proof that the most innovation in horror gaming is happening on the fringes.

Hello, Mr Horror Gaming snob here again. As you all know I appreciate a decent horror romp so when I chanced upon Dread purely by happenstance I had to check it out, and the fact it’s completely free didn’t hurt either. The last properly scary top-down horror game I played was Fiend, one of Amnesia developers Frictional Games’ little-known early titles, so I figured it was past time I indulged in some overhead spookyness. I’m also ashamed I never heard of Dread sooner so I figured it was only proper to rectify that mistake as soon as possible.

Dread is a top-down survival horror type affair from a chap called Berick Cook strongly influenced by Doom, with the twist that you can only see what your character sees. The lighting is straight out of Doom 3 in that everything’s absolutely pitch black except for the walls and you can only see whatever’s illuminated by the small cone of light from your flash light. Thankfully unlike Doom 3 you don’t have to keep swapping between your flash light and a weapon for some stupid arbitrary reason. Firing is controlled by the mouse or keyboard and the combat, best described as “constant fighting retreats”, gave me nice warm fuzzy nostalgic flashbacks to playing Alien Breed: Tower Assault. A game that also featured a flash light mechanic incidentally, albeit only on some levels.

As you progress through the game’s demo level, or one you made yourself using the included level editor, your surroundings are gradually revealed and remain visible even when you wander off. It’s a very stark, minimalist look that contributes hugely to a constant sense of tension, as any number of monsters could be skulking in the impenetrable void between those monochrome walls. As you can only see what it’s your cone of vision you might blunder into a room thinking its safe, only to turn around and see a horde of nasty little ankle-biters swarming towards you from the recess they were all hiding in. I ended up resorting to a SWAT-style tactic of scanning as much of the room from the door as I could can, ready to beat a hasty retreat from any monsters inside.

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Some changes have been made between the version shown in the above trailer and the one I just played. For instance your character now has a little circle of light around him so you can see any critters that sneak right up on you from behind. Speaking of critters, the green RPG Maker escapees in the trailer have been replaced by scuttling blood red crab-like buggers that bear a passing resemblance to the Corruptors from Starcraft 2, minus the gribbly tentacles and ability to fly.

Dread is in a very rough and ready pre-alpha stage at the moment, and it won’t get under your skin like Silent Hill or Amnesia, but it’s showing a lot of promise and potential. Berick’s also got some big changes planned for the next release including limited ammo with ammo pickups, the ability to melee enemies to knock them back and changes to the way they deal damage. Like indie space sims I can never have enough indie horror titles so this is one I’ll definitely be keeping a wary eye on.

You can find out more about Dread and download the latest alpha version for absolutely free at Berick Cook’s development blog.

Matt McDermott

About Matt McDermott

Matt is the irresponsible degenerate behind bitscreed.com.