The Shore Lighthouse Level
The Cthulhu Mythos has been around for years in the world of literature, movies, and gaming. Indie developer Ares Dragonis has released its first game set in this horror lore steeped with excellent adaptations in The Shore. Combining exploration, puzzle-solving, and a first-person narrative, The Shore takes players on a mysterious journey to find their lost daughter who went missing on an island. Everything seems normal enough until the protagonist begins finding cryptic letters scattered all around the island, leading them deeper into the Lovecraft-world of monsters and madness.
The overall gameplay of The Shore consists of players searching the island for clues and trinkets to unlock other areas of the game. It feels and plays very much like any other classic exploration game. Here is where issues begin to rise out of the depths much like a slumbering monster shaking off sleep: invisible walls are everywhere, and it is never truly clear visually where the player can and cannot go in the early levels of the game. When getting started, players can only walk at an incredibly slow speed, or hold the shift key to walk slightly faster. This certainly helps players take in the visual environment of The Shore but becomes increasingly frustrating when navigating through its world.
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The Shore does begin to ramp up a bit once players get through the initial Lighthouse level, offering puzzles that range from overtly obvious to incredibly frustrating. There are never many clues at where to go next and the constant invisible walls created some solutions requiring players to "find the gap" that allows them to continue. Eventually, The Shore allows players to jump using the space bar, but this ability only unlocks at the point the player needs it. That seems to be a common thread in this game - players start with practically nothing, then when an ability is needed to progress the game simply unlocks it.
The Shore Cthulhu Awakening
The Shore isn't all puzzles and walking , as there are creatures out to kill the player, and they will almost surely die many times. Almost every creature reveal is done to create a jump-scare, and with zero knowledge of what to do to combat, or run away from, the abominations, there's a cycle of every creature reveal essentially forcing at least one player death. The Shore relies on trial and error from the player but doesn't pull it off in a positive way like Super Meat Boy or Little Nightmares 2 does.
Where developer Ares Dragonis' project truly begins to shine is in its visuals. The island and outer worlds of The Shore are amazing landscapes to see. Nothing ever feels like cheap repeated textures, and even the rocks that make up the island all look unique. The overall creature design is spectacular and truly creates the feeling of giant Elder Gods coming to destroy the Earth. This game is a nightmare-scape that truly pulls off the look of Lovecraft design.
Aesthetic aside, it's hard to forgive The Shore of its many downfalls. Slow pacing and unintuitive puzzles really hurt this beautiful game and turn it from horror exploration into a horrifyingly frustrating walking-sim. The lore of the Cthulhu Mythos is well represented, and the story is an interesting one, but getting over the hurdles of bad gameplay is a road into madness that should be reserved only for those who love the universe this game was built upon.