The sea terrifies me, The Shore, not as much. You could trace that to a bad memory, and you’d be right. Experiencing a major tsunami firsthand affects you, but irrespective of that, it’s a bit like the paranormal in the unknown.
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Lovecraft connected with the sea, among other related vices, and his depiction of these sea dwellers only makes the concept even more frightening. Merpeople are comical, but scratching the surface on the creatures of Ib or the more famous The Shadow Over Innsmouth make The Shore a title that has an immediate atmosphere.
You play Andrew, a fisherman trying to reconnect with your estranged (aka dead) daughter. Before you know it, the island is playing tricks on you, making you believe she’s talking directly to you. Well, something is talking to you, that’s for sure. Or is that for shore?
The Shore Review (PC)
The Shore is a stunning walking simulator at first. The tides that rock back and forth are beautiful, but they aren’t the best. This isn’t a ‘The Shore review in the context of a benchmark’. We all have different setups and a little irrelevant in this approach. While the 3D modelling and textures are gorgeous, it’s the game’s mood that makes it.
Like Lust From Beyond, developer Ares Dragonis has a penchant for Lovecraft, and in my limited knowledge, does the works a great justice. The initial bleakness shifts to doom and terror as you notice these behemoths within the first ten minutes, Gantz-like black orbs, and tentacles galore.
With the walking simulator components, you do come across some very easy puzzles and the usual spin an object on its axis, albeit, there thankfully aren’t that much here. They almost all serve a purpose.
As for the Lovecraft elements, there’s no doubt the developer knows their onions. There’s plenty of references to the collected works of H.P. Lovecraft, and in that aspect, it’s superb. If there’s going to be anything that will undo all this hard work is the gameplay experience.
Cutting One’s Eyelids
While cutting one’s fingers and eyelids is far from appetising, as revealed in the message in a bottle notes you find scattered across the shore, there is a consistent menace throughout. However, initial gameplay is just so…dull. With the rocks on the shoreline, it isn’t clear what you can step over and what you can’t until put in practice. The Shore isn’t about invisible walls, but invisible steps – despite the open landscapes, it’s very restricting where you can go.
There are no shortcuts in the game, and while you’re getting your steps in, not having any interaction or clues on what to do gets frustrating. If I had a £1 for every time I reached a dead end then had to retrace my tracks, I’d have made about £7. New areas will open up – where there were rocks is now a welcoming path, but follow it to the end, and it’s another dead end unless you have ‘the thing to use with the thing to do the next bit’.
You’ll also have access to an artefact that keeps enemies at bay (though expect to see instant respawning in The Shore).
This element of gameplay hurt the experience for me. When you know the paths, it’s easier, but you’ll incur some repeat deaths from overpowered eldritch enemies there are relentless in their assault. There are no health, stamina or magic gauges; you can only take a handful of hits until it’s all over and you have to repeat. It’s such a polar opposite of the early wandering that it feels like a different game.
Short And Bittersweet?
You can’t have your cake and eat it though, especially with gamers so hard to cater for. Think of playing Mortal Kombat then halfway through shifting to Gran Turismo. That’s an extreme example, and The Shore doesn‘t use Gorilla Glue to stick them together, but it could have worked better with one or the other. You can’t please everyone.
Short games are often seen as a negative – perhaps that’s testament to wanting more as the game is so good, but after the four hours or so it took me to complete (mixing in sightseeing with multiple deaths), it was enough to put me off for a repeat play to sift out the trophies, regardless how much I adored the presentation aspects.
Does The Shore capture the Lovecraft universe? Undoubtedly. Is it well presented? Hell, yeah. It’s the fundamental mismatch of walking simulator and run like hell factors that made this an experience well worth having, but not one for revisiting. The storytelling is on par with Lovecraft in that it isn’t all Hollywood fairytales, and in that aspect, I was satisfied with the conclusion.
- Breathtaking art.
- Sublime score and ambience.
- Caters to a Lovecraft palate.
- Not keen on the combat/run away element.
- Dialogue is off in places.
- Puzzle are way too easy.
- Repeating areas due to cheap deaths.