A Preview of World of Horror
World of Horror, the unsettling cosmic horror retro RPG from developer Pawel Koźmiński and publisher Ysbryd Games, has finally been given a date for full release. The game will be launching just in time for Halloween, with a release date of October 19, 2023, after having been available in early access on PC since February 2020. Since it was first released more than three years ago, the game has only gained in popularity, thanks to its creepy black-and-white art style, created entirely using Microsoft Paint, and its unique supernatural storyline.
What is World of Horror all about?
World of Horror is a text-based horror adventure game being developed by Pawel Koźmiński, an indie developer based out of Poland. The game is set in a small, seaside town of Japan that is being terrorized by otherworldly, grotesque creatures. Old Gods are reawakening, and the residents of this small town are slowly going insane. It’s the end of the world, and the only solution is to confront the terror reigning over the apocalypse. Players must navigate this hellish, roguelite reality through turn-based combat and by making choices using a deck of event cards. The overarching strategy is focused on managing your very limited stamina and reason and keeping an eye on the ever-increasing Doom level.
Inspiration behind the game
The game's storyline and doom mechanic may feel familiar to fans of games based on H.P. Lovecraft’s works; the presence of otherworldly beings and supernatural forces beyond human comprehension certainly point to Koźmiński having been inspired by Lovecraftian themes. However, World of Horror appears to have been even more strongly influenced by Japanese horror comics. The game’s visual esthetics strongly resemble those of Japanese horror manga artist Junji Ito. World of Horror has mined Ito’s full body of work, with images of the seaside town calling back to the spirals that beset the girl in Uzumaki and the hovering eye-planet in Remina, and the game’s black-and-white visual style draws heavily from that of The Enigma of Amigara Fault. World of Horror also references pioneering horror manga Kazuo Umezu’s The Drifting Classroom. But even without the grounding in Japanese horror classics, World of Horror pays off with its own eerie animations and monster designs.
World of Horror storyline
The game contains twenty separate paranormal mysteries, each one a self-contained storyline. The mysteries are set in the seaside town of Shiokawa, Japan and each involve a different human character and horrors the character must deal with. In each playthrough of World of Horror, the player investigates five of these mysteries. Mysteries are randomly selected, so you never know which five you’ll get. Each mystery plays a little differently than the others, giving each playthrough plenty of variety. The horrors vary from case to case, going between home invasion, urban legends, hospital creatures, and, of course, Lovecraftian Entities. At its core, World of Horror is about investigating locations to gain clues and advance the story before eventually facing a supernatural terror. There are also plenty of side locations to visit—stores to buy equipment, hospitals to fix yourself up, a library to seek arcane knowledge—but each detour costs precious time and fills the town’s Doom meter. If that reaches 100%, the Old Gods awaken, and all hope is lost.
The best part of World of Horror’s storytelling is that everything is connected. Mysteries beget mysteries, encouraging the player to try mysteries in a specific order to unlock more content. In the tutorial mystery, the player finds a locker that requires a Tiny Key to open. The Tiny Key is found at the end of an entirely different mystery, so the locker can only be opened if both mysteries are available in the same run and are done in the right order.
Using point-and-click elements, players must build a deck of event cards to use against whatever comes their way. Players will also need to make choices that affect the narrative; given that the game has roguelite elements, each adventure can vary no matter how many times you go through it.
Every time the player investigates a location, a random event will occur based on the current circumstances. This usually involves a choice for the player, a skill check, a combat encounter, or some combination of the three. Combat is dangerous, as enemies deal consistent damage each turn. Conversely, you can have your character take multiple actions, but none of them are guaranteed to work. Of course, you could also try to run away—given how scary most of the game’s enemies are, running is a reasonable choice. However, fleeing causes the Doom meter to tick ever higher, forcing players to face their fears if they are going to prevent the coming apocalypse.
The player character has two health tracks: stamina and reason. Stamina represents physical well-being and reason represents mental fortitude and grip on reality. Both are easy to lose and tough to regain. They can easily be drained by random events, and one bad combat encounter might be all it takes to send your character over the edge.
World of Horror will have 14 playable characters, each with their own story and a different perspective on the events that unfold. Each character brings a unique stat line, potential perks, and starting bonus. For example, Haru, a getaway driver for the Yakuza, is a powerful fighter and can eventually bully shopkeepers into giving him a discount, and haunted teen Kirie can easily decipher eldritch writings and starts with a random spell.
Several characters are unlocked only after completing certain tasks in the game. For example, Miku, a rebellious teenager intent on spreading chaos, becomes available upon unlocking the Soft Side achievement, which involves buying and returning an expensive drug.
The game starts with five playable characters to choose from:
- Kirie Minami
- Aiko Takahashi
- Mizuki Hamasaki
- Kouji Tagawa
Graphics and design
World of Horror looks and feels like a classic adventure game from the days of MS-DOS. Its pixelated, monochromatic art style manages to present Shiokawa’s nightmares in gruesome detail. Players can also change the color palette by accessing the appropriate option in the settings menu, with 2-bit graphics options adding further depth and a splash of color.
Much of the work on the Junji Ito-inspired esthetics occurred in Microsoft Paint. One of the reasons Koźmiński chose to use Microsoft Paint to create the artwork in World of Horror was because he believes the 1-bit art style forces players to use their imagination. “You see just enough details to see what's going on in the scene, but you have to fill in the blanks yourself,” Koźmiński said. “I think that everybody sees what scares them the most, and that’s partly the reason people are pulled into the game.”
World of Horror modding
The game has received several updates since it was released in early access. One of the earliest updates enabled modding of the game, and alongside the release of this update, a modding introductory pack was made available that contained instructions, example art, and multiple events created by Koźmiński and members of the official World of Horror Discord community. Hundreds of fan-made mods have since been released that introduce new characters and events into the game. A lot of these mods can be downloaded from Nexus Mods.
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World of Horror release date and platforms
World of Horror arrives on October 19 on PlayStation 4 and 5, Nintendo Switch, PC, and macOS. For even more games, make sure to check out what's available with an Xbox Game Pass. Furthermore, with the purchase of a new Windows 11 PC from Acer, you can enjoy one month free of Xbox Game Pass.
Ashley is a technology writer who is interested in computers and software development. He is also a fintech researcher and is fascinated with emerging trends in DeFi, blockchain, and bitcoin. He has been writing, editing, and creating content for the ESL industry in Asia for eight years, with a special focus on interactive, digital learning.