When I first laid my eyes on the reveal trailer for Dawn of Fear I was immediately enthralled by the concept. Developer Brok3nsite makes no bones about the fact that Dawn of Fear is a love letter to the old days of PlayStation with games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill but at what point does a tribute to a classic overstay its welcome?
You play as a man named Alex who receives a phone call about the passing of his stepmother. During the conversation it is explained that his stepmother could not bear the deaths of both her husband and her son who were involved in a tragic car accident along with Alex. The result of the accident left Alex as the sole survivor and his stepmother committing suicide after spending some time in a psychiatric hospital. Alex is asked to return back to his childhood home to collect paperwork and figure out what to do with all of his belongings but quickly finds out that something sinister is brewing in his home.
Upon gaining control of Alex I immediately felt that sense of nostalgia. A creepy looking mansion oozing with atmosphere and fixed camera angles to enhance that sense of tension that the original Resident Evil games delivered. It didn’t stop there because controlling Alex was almost identical to controlling Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield. If you’re looking for those “tank controls” look no further than here. After getting my bearings together I start to explore the mansion. I was shocked at how quickly the nostalgia started to wear thin when one of the very first rooms I entered was a dining room. A dining room that looked like it was literally ripped out of the Spencer Mansion and inserted here with minor tweaks.
It didn’t stop there. Exploring a little deeper into the mansion led me to a room that was filled with blood and my first enemy encounter, a zombie. With no weapon handy I left the room and upon exiting I was startled with a gunshot in the distance. Now where have I experienced all this before?
Now I have to say that while I adore the effort put into recreating one of my favorite video games of all time, it was at this moment where my excitement for the rest of the game was almost gone entirely. Dawn of Fear is a game that is borderline a beat for beat recreation of Resident Evil. This wouldn’t be bad if there was some semblance of originality included in this and it pains me to say that there isn’t. The worst part of it all is that on a mechanical level it is not even on par with the original survival horror game of 1996.
Combat is ham-fisted. Shooting zombies with your pistol offers very little feedback to the player and I often found myself wondering if I hit anything. Knife combat is slow and feels extremely ineffective due to the lackluster sense of contact whenever you hit the button. The funny thing I noticed about knife combat is that while it feels ineffective, it actually tends to be most effective. If you manage to actually hit a zombie with your knife, the zombie literally spazzes out due most likely to animation glitches and allows you to continue striking it without worry of being attacked.
Beyond the combat is the puzzle solving and it is just what you would expect. They are essentially puzzles from different Resident Evil games but remixed a bit. They’re serviceable and of course tickle that nostalgic bone in your body but it leaves much to be desired.
Visually Dawn of Fear is average. There is decent lighting and Brok3nsite does do a great job of creating the atmosphere that is necessary for a game like this. It’s just unfortunate that any sense of tension is diminished by non threatening enemies, wonky camera work and glitches that occur. The music is decent though.
On the topic of glitches, bugs, an exorbitant amount of grammatical errors due to translation and an overall lack of polish I did notice a few interesting things. If you’re stuck in a combat encounter with an enemy or a boss that is annoying you, bring up your journal menu. When you exit the journal you’ll find that enemies become frozen for what feels like 2 seconds. This gives you all the opportunity needed to avoid any danger headed your way. The icing on the cake? The trophies don’t work! Blatant actions such as defeating a boss and actually completing the game have resulted in me having none of the tropies unlock. Awesome.
I understand that Dawn of Fear is part of a program in Spain that PlayStation is at the helm of to help nurture indie talent and for that I commend everyone involved. With more polish and more of a focus on crafting something original around the design blueprint of what made Resident Evil special, I can see potential there. For now it is unfortunately a game that is technically flawed and more concerned with being exactly what it loves rather than pushing to transform that love into something it can call its own.