June 6th, 2013 | By Tom Christiansen
Thanatophobia is an upcoming survival-horror game from developer Death Knell Games. Recently I was able to chat with Andreas Schouten, the Narrative Designer at Death Knell Games about the development team’s overall goals for the game, as well as what players can expect to find within Thanatophobia.
IGM: What sort of experience can players expect to find in Thanatophobia?
Schouten: With Thanatophobia we are striving to pay tribute to what the old-school enthusiasts (including us) experienced from some of the pioneers of the genre, back in the 90’s and early 2000’s. Our biggest inspirations are games such as Resident Evil 1 & 2, Alone in the Dark and the first few Silent Hill games.
In the game, players can expect to tackle a broad spectrum of different puzzles, ranging from simple “use item” situations, to more complex scenarios, which may require a combination of items as well as direct user interaction with different interfaces, in order to progress. A good example of a puzzle with more advanced user interactivity can be seen in the gameplay trailer we recently released, where players must rotate mirror shards accordingly in order to uncover…well, that’s a secret! Of course there’s also a fair share of riddles which may act as clues or the very foundation of the puzzle they are intended for.
Although Thanatophobia will feature combat…there will be a good balance between said combat and puzzles. The presence and features of the game’s enemies will weigh heavily on how the player chooses to play. The player will have to make active decisions whether to spend ammo on taking out enemies, or risk getting cornered while stockpiling munitions.
The storyline is developed in a way that encourages non-linear exploration. Initially the player is given a rough introduction to the storyline through different forms. From then on, many of the story’s finer details will be uncovered by finding various notes, newspaper articles, audio recordings and through different character interactions. Sam Dehaven, Thanatophobia’s protagonist, has always got something to say about his environments in addition to the possibility of uncovering parts of his clouded past and present, making inspecting an engaging experience, rather than a chore.
IGM: What’s the significance of the title, to the game?
Schouten: The title “Thanatophobia” (Fear of death, or fear of dying) has several ties to the theme and setting of the game. Phobias in general are in large part a shaping foundation of some of our gameplay mechanics. Themes of death are always lingering and becoming more and more evident as the story progresses. Much of Thanatophobia takes place in a rundown apartment building with heavy ties to the brutal murders of young girls, which have terrorized the region.
All of the characters appear to be lost souls with dark backgrounds, varying from alienation, abuse, abandonment, mental and supernatural torture to, last but not least, death. Sam Dehaven is no exception, as his line of work puts him through near constant exposure of just that; especially so, as he has become personally invested and obsessed with the series of murders that the storyline is focused on. Although disgusted by it, death has become a part of Sam, just as much as it works as an unforgiving antagonizing exterior force.
IGM: How will Thanatophobia draw from its predecessors/inspirations, and what new things will the game bring to the table?
Schouten: Unlike the old-school survival horrors of yore, we decided to scrap the traditional health system and replace it with a fear based mechanic. Unlike in most games, in Thanatophobia you will find no ampoules, herbs, poultices, or medkits. Sam will react to different events, his surroundings, and to enemies and will eventually succumb to uncontrollable fear. If the source of the fear is removed however, Sam will slowly regain his composure. Having all of this said, there will be methods of controlling Sam’s nerves.
Finally we can mention that we also decided on implementing a decision system. Throughout the game the player will be faced with different decisions. These decisions become relevant as they correspond to how Sam develops as a character in the end.