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Darkwood cover.png
Developer(s)Acid Wizard Studio
Publisher(s)Acid Wizard Studio
Composer(s)Artur Kordas
Platform(s)Microsoft Windows,
Mac OS X,
ReleaseAugust 18, 2017
Genre(s)Survival horror

Darkwood is a top-down survival horror video game developed by Acid Wizard Studio. The game was released through Steam Early Access on July 24, 2014, and supports Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, SteamOS and Ubuntu.[1] The full game was released on August 18, 2017.[2] It is set in an isolated forest somewhere in the Soviet Bloc where the main characters have been trapped for an unknown amount of time.


The game features a semi-open world, with the player unlocking new areas as the storyline progresses. It also features a crafting system, a day/night cycle, trading and NPC interaction, a skill system, stealth and combat, as well as multiple storyline branches which alter several aspects of the world.

During daytime, the player can explore the world and scavenge for supplies at several locations scattered around each biome, the player may also spend this time repairing doors or barricades around the hideout and crafting new items and upgrades at the workbench. During the day the player can also "cook" certain items at his stove in order to gain access to various skills, any beneficial skill that the player chooses requires a detrimental skill to also be chosen. During the night the player cannot leave the hideout and must defend against possible intruders until morning. Planning a defensive strategy is key and players have the opportunity to lay traps and barricade doors or windows to slow down any intruders.

Should the player survive the night, they will gain reputation with the trader which can be used to trade for more expensive items. If the player dies during the night, they will wake up in the next morning without receiving any bonuses. Should the player die while out scavenging, they will suffer a loss of half their inventory which is then marked on the map for later collection. Higher difficulties have higher penalties for death such as the loss of lives or permanent death.

The storyline is shaped based on how the player reacts to the requests and actions of non-player characters. Aiding different ones will lead to different endings, and sometimes influences sub-plots relating to several other NPCs. The game switches to a different map in its second chapter, with the previous regions becoming locked and several new gameplay elements and NPCs being introduced. Different characters from the first chapter may appear too, depending on the player's actions. The game features two different main endings, with each-character's subplot being defined by other, smaller actions as well as which of these endings the player has achieved.


Setting and Characters[edit]

Darkwood is set somewhere in the eastern bloc in the late 1980's where a mysterious forest has occupied a large amount of land and is continuing to expand. Many people have been left trapped by the forest and a strange plague is ravaging the survivors, killing and causing victims to transform into monsters and abominations. A group named "The Outsiders" consisting mostly of government officials and soldiers was sent to investigate the woods, setting up the hideouts and a tunnel system to get in and out of the forest. By the time the game takes place most of the Outsiders are dead or evacuated from the zone.

In the prologue, the player takes control of an apparent doctor as he searches for supplies. The Doctor seems to be disillusioned with his job of helping people and is hellbent on escaping the forest. After the prologue, the player takes control of "The Stranger", a man who is searching for a key that will lead him through an underground passageway out of the forest. Other characters include the mute Trader who helped the protagonist in the prologue, the half-man half-wolf hybrid known only as "The Wolfman", The cyclist drunk known as the "Bike Man" and Piotrek, who is mesmerised by space travel and wishes to build a rocket.



The game begins with The Doctor rambling about the forest and how it has consumed all exits and trapped its inhabitants, his inability to treat the plague and his devotion to escaping the woods before he perishes. The Doctor awakens and prepares to scavenge the surrounding area for gasoline, noticing his dog is dying from a fatal wound. The player can optionally choose to euthanise the dog. As the Doctor moves through the distorted and twisted landscape, he comments on how the woods have cut off all roads in and out of the zone and that the trees are growing at a rate so fast that he cannot cut them down fast enough.

While scavenging, The Doctor comes across the Stranger, injured and unconscious after an unknown accident. After looting a large key from his body, the Doctor theorizes that the Stranger is a member of the Outsiders and possesses knowledge on how to escape the forest. He then brings the Stranger back to his cottage where he bounds the Stranger before sedating and later beating him, demanding the location of the underground tunnel. The story focus and controls switch to the Stranger as he engineers an escape from the Doctor's house. After exploring the cottage, the Stranger investigates a voice behind a locked door and is attacked by a man, apparently driven insane by the Doctors experiments. After a fight, the cottage is broken into by several monsters and the Stranger blacks out.

Chapter 1[edit]

It is implied in cutscene that the Trader stumbled across the Doctors cottage and rescued the Stranger, bringing him back to a hideout in the Dry Meadow (The first biome in the game). The Stranger first explores the underground entrance to make sure the Doctor hasn't gone through with the key, but finds that the door hasn't been opened in a while. A few days after the Stranger's encounter with the Doctor, the Wolfman offers a proposition to the Stranger: he will help him locate the Doctor, if the Stranger can prove his toughness by advancing to the Silent Forest, where the Wolfman will be waiting for him. Once arriving in the Silent Forest and meeting with the Wolfman, he explains that the stranger must provide him with a key from the "Chicken Lady" as she has allegedly stolen something from the Wolfman.

Upon finding the Chicken Lady in a decaying village, she recognizes a plastic chick as belonging to her brother Janek whom the Stranger killed in self defence during the prologue, The Chicken Lady begs the Stranger to find Janek. After speaking with the Chicken Lady, the Stranger comes across a child known as the Musician, who plays the violin outside a window on the Chicken Lady's hut. The Musician reveals that the Chicken Lady keeps her sister, known as the Pretty Lady, behind lock and key and that he loves her and wants to free her. The Musician tells The Stranger that he may be able to find a spare key to the room in Janek's house, which can only be accessed through the village well. The Musician also informs the Stranger that he can aid in locating the Doctor in return for the key.

At this point, the player must progress either by siding with Wolfman or the Musician, or by his own devices.

Once finding the Doctor in the train wreck (either by exploring his house from the prologue, or getting an appointment from the Musician), he will attempt to resist the Stranger. If the player followed the Musician's path, the player will enter a dream sequence with several different outcomes: if the player dies in the dream sequence the Stranger will wake up and find the Doctor gone, and once the Stranger checks the underground entrance he will find the armoured door wide open. If the player survives the dream sequence, the Doctor will be at the mercy of the player who can kill him and take the key, take the key and leave the Doctor or allow the Doctor to accompany the player through the underground passage. One way or another, progressing through the armoured door leads to the end of chapter 1.

Chapter 2[edit]

As the Stranger leaves the tunnel he finds that it no longer leads out of the forest and instead leads to a swamp (the fourth and final biome). The Stranger will also find the beheaded corpse of the Trader after the first night. The Doctor, if he accompanied the stranger, flees the tunnel after an encounter with a seemingly undead man who pushes a soft bullet out of his skull. Chapter 2 is where many choices in Chapter 1 affect the outcomes of certain characters, for example, if the player did not aid the Wolfman then he will steal items from the player and lure them into a trap. If the player killed the Sow in the pig shed, which was the only source of food for the village, the villagers that did not starve to death cut a path through the forest until making camp at the Quarry.

The Stranger finds a large talking tree that blocks the exit of the forest, which indirectly asks the Stranger to explore the Radio Tower, which was a building used by the Outsiders to communicate with the outside world before it was knocked over. Both the Talking Tree and the Radio Tower offer exits paths from the forest and ways of reaching the Epilogue.

Burning the Talking Tree[edit]

If the player follows the instructions of the Cripple, they can burn the tree to the ground which reveals a passage to the "Road Home" referenced by several other characters. Progressing on the road will lead the Stranger out of the forest and into the Epilogue.

Exploring the Radio Tower[edit]

The Stranger will remember the code to the Radio Tower door, with further exploration revealing another large metal door. If the player attempts to open the door they will fall unconscious and enter a dream sequence that recreates the ending of the prologue. The player will be told they have only one chance to escape. The dream sequence recreates the end of the prologue and tasks the player with escaping from the monsters attacking them, if the player manages to escape they will find the large metal door open and can progress to the Road Home. If the player fails the dream, they will not be allowed to progress and must burn the Talking Tree in order to progress.

Both choices have the Stranger walk along the Road Home until they reach the epilogue.

The Epilogue[edit]

The Stranger pushes through the forest until reaching a town and their old apartment, after meeting with former neighbours and exploring the apartment block the Stranger returns to his flat, hangs up his jacket and hat, has a nice meal, greets his dog then settles in for a long sleep. The fate of all the characters is revealed and minor things can change depending on actions taken in the game. However, careful exploration reveals this ending to be an illusion which the player can uncover, if they spot the odd things in the apartment block such as an infant creature behind a closed door and the pulsating floor gore through cracks in the wall. The Stranger eventually finds roots growing under the floorboards and a hole under his bed. Crawling through will have the Stranger wake up naked, with his clothes discarded nearby, in a passage overgrown with roots.

The "Road Home" did not lead home, and indeed may be entirely illusory, as the player awakens in a chamber filled with thousands of people curled up around a strange being, sleeping and muttering in bliss. The being attempts to entice the Stranger by making him feel warm and tired, if the player does not resist then they will fall unconscious and be back in the apartment with only one course of action available: bliss and ignorance. If the Player resists, then the Stranger will find a flamethrower among the sleepers and burn the being and all those around it to death. The fire spreads so rapidly that the Stranger is unable to escape, with the flames quickly spreading and consuming most of the forest. The game then ends with text blocks detailing what happened to the characters after the fire ended.


The game's reveal was made through the release of a Pre-alpha gameplay trailer on YouTube, on March 5, 2013.[3] A page for the game was created on Steam Greenlight on March 11, 2013, with the following months seeing the release of a campaign on the popular crowdfunding website Indiegogo which funded the game's initial developing. The campaign collected over US$57,000, totalizing 143% of the established goal ($40,000 USD).[4] On July 24, 2014 the game was released to the public in an Alpha stage, with updates being released ever since. Support for 32-bit Linux systems, although present at first, was dropped mid-development, as a survey done by the developers showed no players currently using such a system. On June 6, 2017, the game was pushed out of Alpha, and into version Beta 1.

A live action trailer produced by polish-based FILM FICTION was released in July 19, and the full game was released on August 18th 2017.[1]

On August 25, the developers released a blog post on image hosting website Imgur, telling the story of the game's development process and releasing a free torrent of it, asking the players to buy it if they enjoy it[5]. This move was motivated by two reasons, as they wanted some players who couldn't afford the game to be able to play it, and also received several e-mails related to theft of game keys. They stated that they preferred to give the game for free to some people than feed the leeching key-reselling websites.

On January 22, 2018, the developers released the 1.2 update, bringing Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese and German translations to the game[1]. The translations were worked on with the help of the community. They also stated that more language localizations are in development.

According to the developers, Darkwood was inspired by:

"The works of David Lynch, Strugacki brothers, Stanisław Lem. Games like Fallout, Dark Souls, Project Zomboid, Teleglitch. Slavic folklore. And, well, life."[6]


Critics wrote positive pieces regarding the game prior to and after its public release.[7][8] It has a score of 80% on Metacritic based on 15 reviews, and a user score of 84%. Metacritic also included it in their "top 100 best videogames of 2017" list.[9]

The game was nominated for "Most Fulfilling Community-Funded Game" at the 2018 SXSW Gaming Awards.[10][11]

Amy Josuweit, writing for The Mary Sue, praised the game for not relying on jumpscares, creating what she calls a "PTSD-inclusive horror experience".[12]


  1. ^ a b c "Darkwood on Steam". Steam. Retrieved July 20, 2016.
  2. ^ http://www.acidwizardstudio.com/?p=723
  3. ^ "Darkwood". Darkwood General Discussions. Retrieved July 28, 2016.
  4. ^ "Darkwood on Indiegogo". Indiegogo. Retrieved July 20, 2016.
  5. ^ Acid Wizard Studio (August 25, 2017). "We're afraid to play horror games, so we quit our jobs and made one, with no jump scares. It's called Darkwood, and it's our debut. Here's our story". Imgur. Acid Wizard Studio. Retrieved November 22, 2017.
  6. ^ "Darkwood FAQ". Darkwood. Acid Wizard Studio. Retrieved July 20, 2016.
  7. ^ Matulef, Jeffrey (March 9, 2013). "Darkwood is a promising top-down horror roguelike that has cult classic written all over it". Eurogamer. Retrieved July 20, 2016.
  8. ^ Smith, Adam (March 7, 2013). "Fear And Roaming: Darkwood". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved July 20, 2016.
  9. ^ "Darkwood". Metacritic. Retrieved 2018-06-22.
  10. ^ McNeill, Andrew (January 31, 2018). "Here Are Your 2018 SXSW Gaming Awards Finalists!". SXSW. Retrieved January 31, 2018.
  11. ^ IGN Studios (March 17, 2018). "2018 SXSW Gaming Awards Winners Revealed". IGN. Retrieved March 18, 2018.
  12. ^ Josuweit, Amy (October 12, 2017). "How Darkwood became a horror game that is PTSD-inclusive". The Mary Sue.

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