Grave Encounters

It’s very rare for a horror movie to truly scare me. There’s been many that have made me uneasy, or even a genuine sense of dread, but not along the line of thinking as holy shit what’s going on, stop moving, don’t go down that hallway! I would say The Descent and Paranormal Activity have succeeded with that, and the most recent to really make me question what in the world was going on is Grave Encounters.

A reality show host and crew lock themselves in an abandoned psychiatric hospital to try to find any activity. The first few hours are uneventful as they move around, setting up cameras and checking out some weird feature explained by the caretaker.

Once evening comes, the caretaker is filmed leaving along with chaining the doors closed. The crew makes a big posturing stand on camera, but as soon as recording is finished they relax and assume it will be yet another uneventful stay at a supposedly haunted location. It isn’t before long while walking around that the crew starts to hear weird things, and then one of them disappears, starting to create panic for the rest.

Coming up to the climax of the film, more and more weird sounds happen, and even sightings start to manifest. No other members disappear, but the greatest things (to me) that really sets up the tension and feeling of dread is when they start to realize that time is not passing as it should, as well as the layout of the building isn’t following what is shown on the map.

Near the end of the film, panic is at full tilt, with the crew yelling and running around. A few more are attacked and killed, with the remaining starting to think they’re going out of their mind. The last scenes are a mixed bag for me, trying to put too much explanation into things that don’t really need it.

All of that being said, Grave Encounters is one of the best horror movies I’ve seen in a number of years, mainly because it relies more on atmosphere and dread rather than gore. I don’t plan to see the sequel, but I do hope to find more movies similar to this!

Swords & Wizardry Complete 3rd Printing

It’s been quite awhile that I’ve looked at Swords & Wizardry. With so many other OSR games available these days, it can actually be easy to forget the ones that kicked off the whole thing, especially one that has so many variations and printings. I had joined the Kickstarter for the 2nd printing of S&W Complete, but didn’t really pay attention to the one for the 3rd printing. However now it’s available (at least through Frog God Games’ site), and with the PDF only being $1 (the 2nd printing PDF is still available for free) I figured I’d take a look and see how the game is, in its current supported state.

First of course is the new cover. The cover for the 1st printing wasn’t that great, while the 2nd printing had the great Erol Otus cover; for 3rd the artist is Kaos Nest, and it’s quite a drastic change. It’s the most abstract RPG cover I’ve ever seen, and my first reaction was mixed. The more I look at it, the more it does grow on me. Looking at her other work, this still feels like an incomplete work however; her other works have far more color, and the plain black background feels like a cop-out. I also think the S&W logo should be a darker and/or different color, it definitely shouldn’t be transparent.

Along with the new cover, there is a new design and layout in this printing, and mostly new interior artwork to go along with that. While I liked the artwork that was previously in Complete, much of it was either too dark and/or pixelated; in comparison the artwork in the 3rd printing is much better. I’m still on the fence on the new design/layout. The page borders don’t bother me (and having the section/chapter name at the bottom is a really nice touch), but the text is still too small for my eyes. I like the latest character sheet as well. The increased amount of artwork does make this a heavy PDF, as both Adobe Reader and Chrome both had problems scrolling through it.

As far as the system goes, it hasn’t changed at all for this new printing. I still don’t like equipment being listed as fragments of a gp. While it may be more realistic compared to classic D&D’s “everything is 1 gp or higher”, I wish it would just list items cheaper than 1 gp in terms of sp, cp, etc. I also really don’t like that both descending and ascending AC is used/listed; S&W has the balls to replace the classic 5-save system with a single save, so it should’ve done the same and just gone with ascending AC. I do like S&W’s treasure system a bit more than classic D&D and most other OSR RPGs, and there is a nice variety of monsters and treasure.

So looking once again at the available OSR RPGs and Classic D&D, would I choose Swords & Wizardry now? I think it would be a very tough choice between Swords & Wizardry and Labyrinth Lord, so I would be happy to own and play both of them. This printing of S&W Complete is the best release of S&W so far, so I will likely have to eventually order a hardback copy. As a way to showcase the talents of women, most of them newcomers to the RPG industry, I say well-done to them and to Frog God Games for giving them this chance!

Outlast

Another play-through I recently watched on Markiplier’s channel is for Outlast, a survival horror game for PC and consoles. This is a game I certainly wish I could play myself, but I’d chicken out way too early, and also get quite frustrated with some of the chases that require going a certain route. I’ve already watched his play-through twice, and I can’t imagine it will be long before I’ll watch it yet again. And before too long we’ll have the second game!

In Outlast you play a journalist named Miles Upshur, who has come to the Mount Massive Asylum in search of answers regarding inhuman experiments supposedly taking place. Parking at the front gate, it’s immediately clear something isn’t right here. The main doors are locked, the gate guard is dead, and there are armored humvees parked out front. Looking around the perimeter, Miles finds an open piece of fence just large enough to crouch through, and then some climbing results in entering the facility. The atmosphere is already unnerving: lights and sounds playing tricks or making the player imagine strange and horrible things. A neat mechanic is that Miles is carrying a camcorder with him, and along with being able to zoom in it has a nightvision mode, which will not just be handy but will be a necessity at certain points. Of course there are conveniently-placed batteries all around the asylum to keep that camcorder running.

As Miles begins exploring he runs into The Large Guy, who easily picks him up and throws him through the window into the main lobby. Regaining consciousness, Miles realizes he’s locked inside and must escape. Throughout the rest of the game he must navigate hallways, rooms, and more, all the while avoiding absolutely crazy and blood-thirsty murderers. The only options: run, hide, or die.

The game maintains a very suspenseful atmosphere for three-quarters of the way through, and then near the end it just kinda jumps the shark. What was a believable and yet still crazy notion gets ramped way up and includes more conspiracies, technology, and more, and it’s just way too much. The ending, while abrupt and certainly elicits a reaction from the player, is not the one I would have preferred. At the very least, it could have been like Resident Evil 7 or other games where multiple endings are possible depending on the player’s actions.

The demo for Outlast 2, which Mark has played, does show quite a bit of promise. Scaling back the sci-fi and bringing in more of a Satanic/ritualistic nature, I think it shows lessons learned by the developers, and I can’t wait to see what the full game brings!