PC Gaming

Hunt The Night Is Survival Horror Meets The Legend of Zelda

Hunt The Night - Windows PC

Hunt The Night

Developer: Moonlight Games
Release Date: April 13, 2023
Available as: Digital

Making several valid points in becoming one of the most atmospheric games I've played this year, Hunt The Night is an enthralling experience that I've met several hours in so far. After slaying several hunts and handling a variety of interesting creatures, Hunt The Night's world is massive. This was expected from a game that shares much of its inspiration from the classic The Legend of Zelda series and most of its tempo follows the same rhythm. You play as a silent protagonist whose task is to vanquish evil from a world wrapped in chaos. While Vesper prefers a sword over one paired with a shield, most of the gameplay is "touch and go" like a Zelda title from the 16-bit era.

Vesper is a lone wolf yet a member of "The Stalkers," a group of humans with the power to fight against unspeakable horrors in an attempt to save humanity and take back "The Night." Because Vesper is a silent protagonist, most of the plot is unraveled through NPC dialogue which deems Vesper as the daughter of a "traitor" who turned their back on humanity. She has access to the same dark powers that she fights again, an entity that takes the form of Umbra. Umbra is the source of Vesper's dark powers and she uses Umbra when the gameplay calls for it. Early on, Umbra's power to phase in and out of reality can be used to traverse over toxic sludge that would otherwise be impassable.

Never accept an invitation to a weird banquet.

The game begins in an abandoned chapel overrun by demons, with the first two bosses, known as hunts, there to greet the player. The first one is a giant wolf that has easily telegraphed attacks, yet can deal huge chunks of damage to Vesper if the player isn't careful. Vesper has two weapons, her melee weapon, and her firearm, that she can use alternatively when the situation demands it. Vesper has access to three firearms, each with three upgrades, ranging from a revolver, a sawed-off shotgun, and a repeating crossbow. Of these weapons, in its current state, the shotgun is the weakest of the three.

Hunt The Night encourages players to use a gamepad and I've been using my Xbox One pad as I usually use it for PC games. Aiming is done with the right analog stick, which is usually accurate in terms of firing shots. When it comes to using the shotgun, however, for some reason the direction in which the gun is aimed doesn't match where the gun fires. If I point the aiming reticle north, I wound up firing directly west. The shotgun is the only issue I've had this with and I'm aware this is a pre-release build. Hopefully, the developers can fix this issue because there's nothing preventing me from using the default handgun with its various upgrade paths.

On the rare occasion the shotgun fires in the right direction, it's powerful. Otherwise, this happens.

Returning to the first level in Hunt The Night, the chapel serves as the best prologue level the game could ask for. It has the right balance of enemy diversity. Some enemies are weaker yet swarm the player if they aren't careful. Other enemies attack with projectiles while some have a wide range that requires proper timing to dodge and leave unscathed. One thing Hunt The Night is not is that it's not a "Soulslike. Dying in Hunt The Night resets the player to the beginning of a dungeon or at the last save shrine the player touched. The in-game currency is used to buy gear and health potions from the various vendors the player comes across once the chapel is seized but stats come in the form of "better weapons" the player finds overall.

There are several weapon types, each with its own weaknesses and strengths. The one-handed sword is the most balanced in speed, range, and damage. The two-handed greatsword is the slowest but deals the most damage with considerable range. The spear has the highest range and decent speed yet average strength. Lastly, the daggers and claws are the fastest weapons but have the shortest range and weakest damage. I've had more luck in using the daggers and claws to restore bullets in a timely manner as melee attacks replenish ammunition. Slower weapons won't accomplish this nearly as fast, but it deals more damage over time than the other weapons.

Most bosses require something extra to defeat them, like eliminating their healing sources.

The various potential weapon load outs, along with the various armor and moonstones, means that there's always a build suited for each player. Players who wish to distribute poison and hemorrhaging debuffs can focus on a build dedicated to applying debuffs. Being a tank and using equipment with high health can help Vesper soak up blows as she swings a powerful greatsword. There isn't a right or wrong way to fight the various demons so long as Vesper survives. In more intricate dungeons, the enemies are the least of the player's concerns as treacherous traps and gaps await the player.

As expected from a Zelda-style game, there are a lot of dead ends and backtracking, some of which are mitigated through exploration. One room is locked by two keyholes, shaped like skulls. In the overworld, the player will find two skulls marked "I" and "II." These skulls are actually meant to be slotted in the keyholes and the player reward is an outfit that has a 10% chance of absorbing a single hit. Exploring the macabre world of Medhram also rewards the player with loads of flavor, the most I've seen in a game in a very long time.

Guess it was a party to the death

An example is an invitation to a house party to which all of the big names in Medhram are invited. Upon going to the house, the player is greeted by the slaughter of various guests and the remaining demons who have taken over the house. Defeating them gains access to the courtyard, where more demons await the player. The reward for cleaning the unfortunate house of demons is a shrine that increases Vesper's permanent health. A mandatory puzzle reveals a location known as the Bowels Of The Earth, yet the elevator that leads to the Earth's depths has run out of power. Fortunately, there's a backup generator at an abandoned hospital that was once used to house patients who have shown signs of turning into demons.

Upon arriving at the hospital, the demons have indeed taken over and after some puzzles, the player reaches the generator room. In this room, many powerful demons are locked in cells, which were arguably once human before they transformed. Taking the generator opens the cells as well as dims the lights, causing the player to fight their way out of the abandoned hospital alive. Hunt The Night is not a "horror" game in the way that most survival horror games are experienced. There are no jumpscares, but there are unsettling imagery and deaths that leave a lot to the imagination due to the sprite visuals of Hunt The Night.

Umbra can be used to travel across unsafe environments.

It's a good thing that the game is massive in scope, as leaving the confines of the chapel paints a bigger picture as to how messed up Medhram is. Enemies respawn after entering and exiting certain locations as well as touching a save shrine, meaning that most fights can be avoided if the in-game currency isn't really needed. The player doesn't lose their drops, so it's best to avoid conflict unless you're in a room where you're forced to fight.

Hence the "survival" horror aspect as once the player uses all of their health potions, they are tapped out until they reach another save point. Sometimes, running away is the best option. Overall for a first impression, Hunt The Night is one of the most atmospheric games I've played without relying on cheap tricks to instill a "scare factor." It's not a "roguelike Metroidvania" nor is it a slow burn filled with forced lore.

The abandoned hospital section was a neat touch on modernism mixed with the overall Gothic Fantasy of Hunt The Night

The environment, notes left by several NPCs, and the dialogue themselves do enough to invoke a feeling similar to how it was when I played Diablo 3 for the first time many years ago. It's often a challenge to make a world that pulls the player in while using the voice of others to convey emotion through a silent protagonist. Vesper does have internal monologues with Umbra, but this hardly counts as this is within her mind. Even scenes like this offer context for the mystery that Hunt The Night entails. Who is Vesper? Why is she a traitor? Can others be trusted? All of these answers plague the mind of the player as they try to desperately avoid death from an invisible monster for the tenth time in a row.

Hunt The Night releases on Steam on April 13th, 2023.

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