by Johnathan Irwin
reviewed on PC
It is hard to believe that just a few years ago there was a severe shortage of horror titles. Now, the industry is full of them! Remember that time period where we had too many World War II first person shooters? Well, now we're in a time period of too many horror games. It's not so much the amount that is the downside - I'll never shy away from a good quality horror game. But, with over saturation comes a mix ranging from gems such as Amnesia: The Dark Descent, to decent titles such as Daylight, to... not so great installments such as Kraven Manor. The potential was there, and in those first few minutes I found myself playing a game I was certain was going to at the very least make a place for itself in the horror genre; I was right, but for the wrong reasons.
Enter Kraven Manor
A stormy night, the player enters the double doors and into the massive entrance hall of Kraven Manor. Despite being supposedly abandoned, the power is on and the building appears to be very lived in. Searching around, I run into several locked doors and then one opens to me; the library. Something moves around the corner of one of the shelves, tossing a book towards the lit fireplace... but when I look, nothing is there. It's a positive start to a horror game, not giving away the haunts right away. Looking through the library, I read the notes, books, any clippings of information I can. I have no idea as to why my character is here, but what I do know is that William Kraven, the owner of this manor, was a dark man. That much is very clear.
I find something peculiar, a piece of a model of the very same manor that I'm exploring. This seems to be of a wine cellar. I quickly take it back to the main entrance, remembering the outline of a model and slide it into place. The room shakes, there is a low grumbling noise... I go back to the very same door I just came from; the library has been replaced by the wine cellar. The manor's layout changes based on where the pieces are set.
It was so promising, I found myself terrified twice in the next ten minutes... and then never again. While the atmosphere was superb, the haunt that chases you simply loses luster after the first few encounters. It becomes a simple matter of keeping your eyes and your flashlight on it constantly because of how quickly it moves. In that sense it is unlike other games - where running or hiding are options - you just have to slowly backtrack. What should provide an element of fear simply devolves into a chore that only lasts a couple moments at a time. The two scares I had were amazing and memorable, and two of three good memories I'll have of this game.
The unique ability to change the layout of the manor is ultimately short lived. In the end you will essentially have made a straight line to make it to the goal with very few puzzles along the way and all but one being rather easy if you are good at thinking under pressure. So I pressed onward, diving deeper into the morbid past of insanity. It started picking up pace, I started feeling the intensity of the game once more and then...
The game has an ending that comes so quickly, I was surprised. Horror titles aren't generally known for being extremely long, but I was bothered by how short this game was. 61 minutes exactly from start to end. "I had to have missed something, maybe there are other endings." I said to myself. So I dove back in again, and again, only to beat the game even quicker each time. I kept on search for a alternate ending or extended length, only to discover none there.
It really is a shame, as Kraven Manor had such potential. In the first few minutes I found great scares that made me jump, throughout the hour the atmosphere itself stayed relatively consistent and eerie, there was enough backstory to read through to keep the player interested... and it all just fell apart. Before the game has a chance to become frightening again, it's over. Rather than ending with a sigh of relief, I ended with a sigh of disappointment. This was less of a game and more a whiff of a game, at most a tech demo of what could have eventually taken shape to become a great game. But the fact is, it's not a tech demo. This is the final product.
In fairness, Kraven Manor was made by passionate people who dared to dream. They had their minds and hearts in the right place, they have the creativity to come back and make something that surpasses this title. I truly believe that, I'm not trying to lessen a blow. But this title itself is proof that a game is not necessarily worth the sum of its parts. The game has the overall atmosphere, the beginnings of a terrifying enemy, and the story conveyed was one of the darker ones I've seen. But if the pieces cannot come together properly, it misses the mark by miles. Kraven Manor has made itself known as what a horror game shouldn't be; an unfulfilling experience.
Atmosphere, early scares are great, very dark story.
Absurdly short length, predictable chores.