Fobia: St. Dinfna Hotel Review
Survival horror fans have been enjoying a relative renaissance these past few years in gaming. With Resident Evil remakes dominating the landscape, and a new Dead Space (and Calisto Protocol) on the horizon, there hasn’t been a better time to get that terrifying adrenaline rush. From Pulsatrix Studios, Fobia: St Dinfna Hotel enters the fray and wears its genre on its sleeve.
It’s a first-person, survival horror game that places a strong emphasis on puzzles. As a journalist who is investigating the mysteries on several missing persons, you’re quickly engulfed in a paranormal mystery while trapped in the very hotel you went to investigate. The hotel begins to play with time and space, and your job is to solve puzzles, shoot baddies and survive.
Fobia’s Story is a Struggle
It’s immediately clear that writing and acting are not Fobia’s strong suits. The story is bland and what’s there is poorly expressed by the voice actors. Not in the cheesy, fun way that you’d find in a game like Resident Evil. The things characters say seem so forced that it breaks a lot of the immersion, reducing the fear factor and making you hyper-aware there’s an actor reading lines. Your character also has a tendency of way over-explaining his thoughts so often that you start wishing he’d be quiet and just let you react to stuff.
At its worst it’s distracting, at its best it’s forgettable. After many hours I don’t remember the characters, who was trying to do what, or why. I do remember the jump scares and the girl in the gas mask as she was used somewhat effectively to draw you forward.
The majority of Fobia is spent exploring the horrific hotel, uncovering and solving its puzzles. You’re equipped with a reality-shifting camera that shows the hotel in a creepy and different state. This lets you do things like pass through walls that you can’t in the normal world, and find items you wouldn’t see also. While some puzzles are interesting, most of the time Fobia relies heavily on fetching a McGuffin.
Find a keycard. Look for the passcode. Find the key to get to another key to find another passcode. It’s not so much that this is a bad way to do puzzles. It’s just oddly paced, relying on your ability to spot things both in the world or with the fancy camera. I often found myself stumped not because I couldn’t figure out what to do, but because I couldn’t spot the thing to interact with.
Monsters do little to rectify the constant hunt of the next key. At first, I was elated to have a gun in my hands so quickly. This feeling didn’t last after I shot a monster, to only see it barely react. There was no satisfying recoil, no thud, and everything I encountered just felt like the best way to defeat it was to unload a lot of bullets. Bosses were the worst offender, requiring a lot of spray and little in the way of strategy.
There’s a Mr. X-like chase sequence from a certain enemy that did help ratchet up some tension as I was exploring the dilapidated hotel. I’m a sucker for a good cat and mouse situation.
The one other bright spot is the game looks really good and the developers do much with the hotel setting to really showcase the art direction.
Unfortunately though, it all adds up to a survival horror experience that is hard to recommend. You may enjoy some of the puzzles and how the game looks. But other indie games have done it better. There’s promise underneath all the cruft, and I do hope there’s another crack at this from the team, but I can’t say I enjoyed much in Fobia outside of the visuals. Fobia reminded how hard it is to pull off a tight survival horror experience. I kept waiting for something to truly surprise me or show me a twist I hadn’t seen before. Ultimately, I wanted something more.
***PC code was provided by the publisher***
- Good graphics
- Lots of puzzles
- Reasonably priced
- Forgettable story
- Bullet sponge enemies
- Poorly acted