I think it’s been established already that I’m not amazing at horror games, and yet I still love them. Stairs, by GreyLight Entertainment, was inspired by a game I refuse to play ( SCP 087), and contains elements of urban legends, while exploiting the exploration horror that games in the past have implemented (Amnesia, Outlast). While there are some things that definitely need improvement, Greylight is hoping to fund them with Kickstarter, tweaking elements to make the most skin-crawling experience possible. The campaign has 12 days to go, and is at kr54,588 sek (Swedish Krona – or $6,530) of kr250,000 sek ($29,908.60), which is a fairly standard goal on Kickstarter for a game of this type.
As with SCP 087, the player (as Christopher Adams, an investigative reporter) starts in a stairwell, with a note saying that he’s locked in, and the only way is down. Instructions pop up on the screen telling you how to walk (WASD), run (left shift) and crouch (ctrl). There is a door at the bottom that denotes that the area about to be entered is a type of shelter (the sign is in Swedish). You have a camera (similar to Fatal Frame and Outlast) that helps you to discover new places, as well as record information that is vital to later gameplay. (The camera, incidentally, provides a better light source than your flashlight, but you lose FOV by holding it up, so you must decide which is more important. I played through twice, and both ways were equally difficult to navigate.) A series of tape recorders will be usable in a later version to reveal additional information.
Graphically, Stairs has a few surprises, but as of right now there’s a sameness to it that seems as though it’s meant to disorient, but that I found tiring after a short period of time. It’s not that the graphics are bad – quite the opposite. It’s just that there are some kinks to work out, and this is a pre-Alpha build, so there are definitely issues expected. For it being the version it is, it’s impressive to see how far the game has come (even though this is only one chapter of a larger story – the final game is supposed to be more expansive, with more characters and stories within). Each story is inspired by true events, and knowing that somewhere, someone came close to actually doing the things that are depicted in-game is disturbing enough on its own. The potential for this game’s visual creep-factor is great, is what I’m trying to say.
There are sounds that disturb, startle, and even encourage the player (either by causing them to run where they need to go, or telling them when to retreat, though there are some false flags too), and the various recordings scattered around by the researcher (because, you see, there were human experiments occurring) hint at terrible things to come should the player continue, though you must continue in order to find out what, exactly, happened. This is easier said than done, at this point, and players of the demo on Kickstarter may have noticed some inconsistencies on the map – for instance, I came out of a room, took a turn that should have led me to storage, and ended up appearing an entire floor up, and completely trapped. This is where I stopped, but I have no doubt that continuing would have led to some startling events.
The bottom line is that Stairs is looking at a lot of potential, and I am looking forward to seeing what they can do with the great tools they’ve already got. The Kickstarter campaign is partially to help pay salary for the developers to finish the game more quickly – they have said they’re finishing the game no matter what, but progress will be significantly hampered by their eventual need to do development in their free time. Since Stairs has already been Greenlit, it stands to reason that people want the game to be completed. If you’re one of those people, head on over to Kickstarter, download the demo on GameJolt, and kick them a few bucks if you like what you see. GreyLight is also participating in Kicking it Forward, which promises to pledge to another Kickstarter project when theirs is completed, in order to encourage future game projects.