Over the years the gaming market, as with any entertainment market indeed, is constantly flooded with games concerning the events of the First World War and Second World War. Such entertainment media serves to remind us of the horrors that men and women went through during such testing times, in the hope that we’ll learn from our mistakes and ensure such horrors are not doomed to be repeated. 1916 takes us into the world of the First World War, pitting us in those infamous trenches as we are tasked with finding the ladder to escape, all the while trying to survive being hunted down by mysterious pursuers. War is hell and this game won’t make you forget it.
Created within a month, don’t expect 1916 to be a long gaming experience with deep insight and thoughts on the brutality of war instead 1916 tries to capture as much as it can the dread and feel of being in the trenches. From the start , in your first person perpective, you’ll walk down these trenches, as sounds of guns, yells and occasional shell explosions , the sense of claustrophobia and dread will sink in.
You’ll walk through these trenches, coming across corpses, each one you can interact with, as you’ll remove pieces of their flesh which you’ll need to use later to protect yourself. It’s actually a great way to show the player how in such desperate times, even from a horror point of view, how human life is treated with little regard as everyone tries to survive. You’ll come across notes, which are all written in German, just as the rest of the game is besides the main menu, to keep the authenticity of the game even stronger and though not collectables, they add more to the game as the parallel to the real life wars grows stronger.
The bleak and dark colours really set the tone and the effect makes it have a vintage feel. So now let’s move onto who the pursuer in this game and it is…dinosaurs.
Now the idea of dinosaurs chasing you in such an environment at first seems like one of the strangest combinations ever in gaming but I will admit I was surprised just how well the game manages to pull it off and it sounds crazy to say, they actually feel like they do belong in this world. To be clear there is only one dinosaur type, the Raptor and they even seemed mechanical but as said before they fit well and you’ll dread the cries and swift movements up ahead when travelling around the five different areas. The game takes a more run and hide approach though there are other ways to deal with the dinosaurs which I’ll leave for you to figure out.
Now as said before the aim of the game is to find the ladder to escape. Though at first you may find yourself lost among the trenches, this is a game that needs you to remember the signs and paths taken and yes though there is a map this isn’t collectible and you’ll have to keep on your toes as if you were to fail, that’s it, your back to square one. Sometimes minimal storytelling and guidance can be a good thing as it allows the player room for exploration and such though some people may find themselves genuinely confused once they first start the game. It can take a little while to get a hang of it and understand how to approach this game, so while there is some praise for the minimalist approach, it ultimately hinders gameplay at first, though later there won’t be any more concern.
There is also a point in a game where you must collect an essential item to continue through and the sense of winding trenches and having to memorize your way brings the tenseness to a whole new level as once you retrieve this object, two raptors will start chasing after you, making it a nerve shattering event. The reason I state this is due to the fact that the game requires you to remember the route taken and backtracking will probably be commonplace as you seek to find what you need to continue in your goal or find the right path which’ll lead you closer to the ladder.
A moment which struck me in the game, was one of my very first runs through. After running around amongst explosions and firing, hunted down by these raptors and close to death, I found a Bunker before me and rushed inside. Here, an old tune was playing on a phonograph and though the raptors were visible through the iron bars on the door of the bunker, I felt safe. A corpse was seated on a table beside me, holding a rifle which I wrestled from his grip and loaded up with two bullets before I turned back to the door. Here I wasn’t sure whether to go back outside for now and wasn’t sure what to do once I was outside.
This is a key element in horror and combined with the war, where many men weren’t sure what waited for them outside on the battlefield and whether they would survive, 1916 is a brief but meaningful experience within the horrors of the trenches.
Pros – Unique combination of two elements, feel of trenches, genuine frightening moments.
Cons – One life which at first can be frustrating, understanding different object mechanics,.
Fear – War, closed spaces, raptors, corpses, darkness, war and horror combined in one, what could be more terrifying?
Sound – The sounds of war really drag you in, jump scares and dire sounds bring the horror of the world closer to you.
Horror – Putting players in a war zone inside the trenches would be terrifying enough but with pursuers after you and minimal guidance, this experience is fresh and different.
World – At first the idea of Dinosaurs could be laughable but you won’t be laughing after your first encounter.
1916 is a game that takes a commonly explored (horrible) time in our history and combines it with the very last thing you would ever expect, even for horror standards, in such a place. It works though and very well too, so even though the experience may be on the short side, there is no other game that takes a dark them adding what seems to be a humoristic element and combining it so that though not a long experience, when have you ever heard of such a combination which takes the grimness and darkness of the trenches, making them even more frightening?