Dagon Makes Squalid An Impressive Yet Terrifying Feat

Free to play, Dagon faithfully captures H.P. Lovecraft's short story, with excellent visuals and sound production.

Dagon isn’t a game about inventory and choices – as explicitly stated in a disclaimer of sorts at the beginning of the game. It’s neither a visual novel nor a walking simulator – it’s somewhere between – an experience on rails, and in some way, a slow-paced rollercoaster for fans of H.P. Lovecraft.

That’s not exclusive, as anyone with a keen ear (and eye) for storytelling will relish in Bit Golem’s accurate recreation of the beloved short story. You don’t have to be a fan of Lovecraft at all, as this is a self-contained, thought-provoking tale that lures you in from the first sight of dilapidated wallpaper.

As a game, there doesn’t seem to be that much to work with as interaction is minimalist; you move the mouse to view the surroundings only. You’re rooted to the spot, and even a 360º view is a big ask. So we’re at the mercy of the developers on what we get to experience, and fortunately, it’s a powerful one.

Dagon Review

Dagon is as synonymous with the author as Call of CthulhuThe Shadow Over Innsmouth (see The Innsmouth Case and Chronicle of Innsmouth Mountains Of Madness) and for film fans – Herbert West – Reanimator. Despite its impact, it’s a brief piece in his vast collection, and if I’m candid, it’s not one of my favourites.

Dagon PC Review - An omen
An omen. Source: Screen capture

It’s not a bad story at all, but in my mind’s eye, I can’t escape into the text like some of his other short stories. The Terrible Old Man is probably one of my favourites – coincidentally made into a short by Cloak and Dagger Games. But with this version of the story, it was much more engaging than the text. No doubt due to the visuals and sound production.

You’re looking at an approximate playtime of about 30 minutes. If alarm bells start ringing, this won’t cost you a penny. The developers are a small team of two and want to test the water and see what the audience wants. We want Lovecraft! On that basis, I won’t talk about the story here as that’s predominantly what this is all about.

On Face Value

As there’s not much to work with in the game mechanics, you’ll likely notice things you don’t usually pay attention to or mind. So let’s focus on the presentation side of things as interactions aren’t typical and more like skipping a track on a Blu-Ray.

I’m a font whore and often frustrated with the fonts visual novels deploy and their presentation. The text here is perfectly suited, but it’s all in uppercase. I appreciate that there’s some consistency for authenticity, but I wasn’t a fan. While I’m not insinuating that it’s shouty, I found it to be a bit ugly. See, looking for stuff now.

Dagon PC Review - Signs
Signs. Source: Screen capture

That’s the only negative criticism I have, and it’s trivial. Visually it’s beautiful, and dare I say – terrifying! But the stand out here is the audio production, notably the narration – sounding like a disgruntled Geralt. Just keep an eye on the volumes levels as the sounds can blast out his rhetoric. I encourage you to play this with headphones.

Fans Only?

Dagon is ideally suited to fans of Lovecraft, and considering the back catalogue of games available, there are more and more converts. If the author (and text) is new to you, you might be pleased that some optional trivia pieces are located in the game to interact with.

Not an achievement seeking feat, this added feature is a good one as you’ll uncover some thoughts about the original story, history and the author. That H.P. Lovecraft was a peculiar fellow, and despite writing some fantastic stories, many of his viewpoints are archaic in today’s environment. The lack of dialogue found in his texts seems to rub some people up the wrong way, too. 

Dagon is not a challenging game in the slightest – it’s more of a storytelling showcase that I highly regard. If you’re looking for something more dynamic, being able to move around and interact freely, then it might not be for you. It is effectively a passive adventure, so if you’re not prepared to digest the tale and likely to click through text, give it a miss.

Dagon PC Review - What's behind the door
What’s behind the door? Source: Screen capture

For anyone else willing to try something different, Dagon is a beautifully grotesque experience. It’s free, too.

Perhaps saving that element until last is the motivation to download, but this is worth purchasing if it was listed. If you think the devs did a good job (they did), you can opt for the DLC content, which includes the Dagon ebook and its alleged inspiration, Fishhead, by Irvin S. Cobb.

Perhaps Dagon will provoke you to read more of his works?