Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Slender: The Arrival

Post-Launch Review
Slender: The Arrival (PC)
Developer: Blue Isle Studios
Released: March 2013 (PC) / September 2014 (PSN/XBLA)
Played: complete in 1h:40min


Lauren's friend Kate has gone missing, and Lauren visits the house to investigate. Inside, she finds scribbled drawings and warnings about a tall faceless man. It seems that Kate is still nearby, so Lauren rushes into the woods to find her friend, following a trail of clues. But something out there is following Lauren...

At Launch

Slender: The Arrival received mixed reviews, with scores averaging 65%. Reviewers praised the soundtrack and atmosphere, but criticized its length and repetitive gameplay.

Post Launch

Several patches have been released to fix issues with the game. The ending was greatly expanded for the Steam release. Additionally, three free bonus levels have been released (included in the Steam version, but the GOG version is not up to date):
  • Genesis: a remake of the original Slender: The Eight Pages, now canonically Kate wandering the forest
  • Homestead: CR investigates the Matheson farm.
  • Memories: Charline Matheson Jr's disappearance.

I had written a whole review, but it got eaten by Blogger's autosave after a typing accident. Since I'm upset about that, and I also have a (long) playthrough video (my first!), this will be mostly just a summary.

Here's my full play and commentary of the GOG version, which at the time I did not realize wasn't up to date. As a warning, the video is an hour and forty minutes.

So, to sum up my thoughts:
  • First two levels are excellent. Strong visuals, strong audio. First level expertly builds atmosphere and tension, and the second level brings it to a head. Extremely well done.
  • Zombies confused me. The first time I saw one I guessed it was Charlie, but the game didn't really confirm or explain. I had to look up what was going on after finishing the game. It turns out they're something called "proxies" that act with the will of the Slender Man, but I didn't see this information anywhere in-game, which didn't help at all. It just left me confused as to why zombies were chasing me instead of the creature the game is actually supposed to be about.
  • The camcorder goes all fuzzy when the Slender Man is nearby. This is very effective at letting you know you're in danger even when you don't see the threat. The distortion is more severe when you're looking at the Slender Man, which is a great way to discourage you from looking at him and preserve the fear factor.
  • After the first level in the forest I found that the "run around and find X number of things" gameplay got repetitive and lost its impact. It wasn't really scary anymore.
  • In the video I complained about the ending as coming out of nowhere and presenting no explanation of what happened. Now that I know the "zombies" are proxies of the Slender Man, the ending makes a little more sense, but I still find it unsatisfying, especially since the Slender Man pretty much disappears after the first forest challenge.

Recommendation: play the first half.

And get it on Steam, not GOG, because the GOG version is several patches behind and missing content.

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