Warning: Major Spoilers Ahead!
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to playing through this. I tend to stay away from horror games due to an extremely weak stomach and fear of the supernatural, but I was pleasantly surprised by just how much fun I had with Infliction.
Infliction is an unexpected entry to a challenging genre to pull off. It’s engaging, thought provoking and utterly unsettling in all the right ways. Though aside from the jump scares and ever present feeling of dread, what stood out to me most was how the story was told. There’s an element of humanity that needs to be present in horror for an audience to feel connected to its subject matter. This is done beautifully through the use of environmental storytelling and immersive gameplay.
Clinton McCleary is the sole developer at Caustic Reality and Infliction is the studio’s first widely successful release across multiple platforms. It’s incredibly impressive considering the work that went into producing this title and porting it onto the PS4, it was definitely a long time coming!
Creating An Atmosphere
For a game that clocked in at just over three hours, pacing was key in getting the player to empathise with these characters. Piecing together information is a slow burn and there is trust given to interpret the story.
Throughout the game the player is thrust into different environments filled with objects that give more background into each of the family member’s lives. Major plot points and memories are shown through fragmented audio recordings, phone calls and letters and it’s important to pay attention to the details spread throughout each room. There is also a camera mechanic which gets introduced partway through the story and is used to reveal hidden clues that will help in solving puzzle sections. Whilst it’s not essential to inspect every note or object, it’s a game that will narratively reward you for staying curious.
The disturbing sets and sound design feel almost like a background to what the true terror of the game is. As details eluding to Gary and Sarah’s once happy relationship unfold, the player starts to learn more about why they are being put in this situation. There is mention of domestic abuse, addiction and even the death of their baby, which adds quite an emotional weight to the woman that’s been relentlessly haunting you. Sarah starts to become someone you can sympathise with and develop a deeper understanding of as the story evolves, rather than feeling like a clichéd figure in a horror game.
Where It Fell Flat
Porting a game can stir up many issues during development and Infliction was no exception to this. The frame rate tended to lag throughout my play through and there were even moments where the game would glitch and force me to exit completely. Thankfully, my save data wasn’t affected so I was able to pick up where I left off without too much of an issue. Graphically, it stumbled as well. The low rendered character models detracted from the tense atmosphere and scenes came off more comical than originally intended.
There were also times when my objective seemed unclear and I would circle rooms a lot to figure out what I was supposed to do next. This was partly due to colouring in some sections not being prominent enough for me to realise it was an important object and in some cases a solution. Though this may have been a personal issue and not a problem with the level design itself, it’s still something that was a factor during my play through.
Infliction is not developed by a large scale team, which is a huge thing to take into account when coming across bugs like this. As many developers know, getting any game shipped comes with so many challenges, particularly in the indie scene. Being the only person working on and completing a game of this size is a massive accomplishment in itself, despite whatever problems arise during play. Overall, whilst some of these issues did prove to be technically difficult, I felt the pros outweighed the cons and I still really enjoyed my time with the game.
Infliction’s ending is one that rips away your brief and seemingly deserved sense of security. After completing the tasks spread throughout each room, the house you’ve spent the game exploring finally goes back to normal. Before you can even make your way out the door though, you realise you’re trapped and the real fear starts to set in.
As you walk through a basement filled with past memories and people you’ve wronged, you start to come to the realisation that you are the villain in this story. It’s a hard one to sit with and as a player, it’s an ending that feels unsatisfying. As an objective viewer however, it’s completely fitting to the theme of the game and to some, even an outcome that is deserved. It’s a blunt way of saying that this story wasn’t about you but rather setting Sarah free. This is further emphasised near the very end when the message “Exorcise her from yourself” is written all over the walls.
Infliction is a game about penance and self reflection, told in the eeriest of ways. It brutally reinforces the message that you have to pay for what you’ve done, even though Sarah’s spirit has been exorcised and you’ve made your way through the horrors that the game has put you through. You repent for what you’ve done to her and your family by quite literally going to hell. So fun!
If you’re a fan of all things scary, I’d definitely recommend picking up Infliction. It’s a great one to start out with if you’re new to the genre or if you’re a seasoned horror game fan, it’ll make a great addition to your existing library.
Thank you so much to Blowfish Studios and Caustic Reality for the review copy of the game. For more information on Infliction, Caustic Reality is very active on their Twitter account or you can visit the Steam page to experience the game for yourself!