Warning: Gray Dawn contains a lot of taboo subjects including suicide, child abuse and rape. It also includes heavy religious undertones, and gore in plain sight. It is neither for the light of heart, nor those who may take issue with the above. Personally, I found the game hard to play at first due to these.
Become a priest, haunted by demons and accused of killing innocent orphans at the orphanage where you were based. Gray Dawn takes you into a strange and cursed world, flipping between your reality and a strange paradise, as you try to piece together what happened to you and the children you were responsible for.
Less than a year ago, I was able to play the first few chapters of Gray Dawn. These chapters ended on a cliffhanger, giving you just enough information to intrigue you and make you demand more of the story. In the early chapters you are left with a small, mystic artifact after performing an exorcism on a representation of a young altar boy. I wrote about my experiences in a hands on piece that you can find here.
The full game has now been released, and I had the chance to give it a go. Gray Dawn isn’t a game for those who don’t like horror, who don’t like religion, and who don’t like unsettling feelings while playing a game. It’s also described as a religious horror game, something rarely attempted.
You play as a priest, Father Abraham. The radios around you talk loudly about killing a boy, David, recently, as well as six other orphans. You don’t believe you have killed these innocent children, however The Devil and people in this world, seem to want to convince you otherwise. As you try to piece together what happened to these children — and to your own life — you will come to find two very different worlds exist around you.
For a start you have your world: your large house and estate. This house isn’t normal — statues are covered in blood, areas of the home have giant octopuses gripping blood-soaked beds, crosses are turned upside down, drawers are full of water and grass. Pictures in old cameras show moments in your life, in the rooms you stand in — moments that sometimes don’t even make sense to you. Everything in this world is creepy, touched by demons, demons which want you to perish. Occasionally you need to relive past moments, talk to voices which aren’t there, and pray to keep the demon’s voices from consuming you. This is just a part of your horrifying world.
Then you have David’s world. The place that David is trying to show you — a place for people who are pure and holy. Walking through doors sometimes puts you in this world, suddenly, as you have no control over it, sometimes it will happen when Abraham thinks of David’s murder. It is unlike the house you are seemingly trapped in; there is grass, flowers, water, and a calm voice telling you snippets of story. It is full of light, color and butterflies. David’s world is full of games David has set up for you — puzzles to solve, religious icons to collect and, hopefully, your friend to find. These icons do not need to be collected, but if you are able to get them all as David instructs then you are presented with a gift later in the game.
Moving between these two worlds you will need to separate reality from fiction to understand what has happened so you can start moving forward with your life. Gray Dawn has a lot of cinematic scenes — moments where you must stop to watch the story and listen to the things being said around you. Taking the time to listen to everything will help you better understand the story, piecing together the various, strewn parts.
It is beautifully voice acted with an array of different characters, both mundane and demonic. The story grows as you go through the game, and if the story is something you are interested in then you can collect sound recording to listen to more of it. These recordings tell you intimate details of your relationships and of your life before this point. Some are quite hidden, forcing you to really look around and be aware of anything you might come into contact with.
David is a very special child — he came with an artifact that he then left behind for you. This heart-shaped music box allows you to move time forward and backwards slightly when in David’s world. Changing between winter and summer will change the environment around you, helping you see new scenes and solve puzzles. This strange thing has no such use in your world and is simply held close and treasured.
Various puzzles feature in both of the game’s worlds — some feature religious themes while David’s start out more innocent. These puzzles mostly consist of finding objects and then using them in the right order to progress. Some, however, require a bit of thinking to figure out the way something is turned — others come complete with their own instruction manuals. Finally, some are physical puzzles, putting instructions and bits of paper back together before moving on.
I find it difficult to talk about Gray Dawn without spoiling a lot of the game, so here is your spoiler warning.
You are Abraham. There is blood on your hands — these children have had something to do with you and you have something to do with their death. Now, some of the accused things may be untrue, but you have to go through a lot of horror to get there and discover the truth.
After spending some time in David’s beautiful world, releasing children to the afterlife and solving puzzles in a temple, you are told to dig up the graves of the dead children and claim their hearts, and then you do just that. These children are in an underwater grave — one full of teeth and blood — and you have to open up their graves and perform a ritual to fix them and take their music-box heart.
You will find yourself surrounded by horrific creatures, voices, and things. The screen often turns red and ‘glitchy’ as you are taken over by things you can’t control. You want to be free of this torment, free of the guilt, but you also want David to be back — he plays a more important role than you may realize, in your life.
David also didn’t share everything with you when he was a part of your life. You learn far more about his childhood, the orphanage, and about his brother — someone he had never mentioned before. You start to understand why David is an orphan and why he ended up in your house.
After finishing Gray Dawn, I am left with a lot of questions. A few parts of the story didn’t make sense to me as it all came crashing down. Suddenly, as the game started wrapping up, some things made sense while others just went… bizarre.
If Gray Dawn isn’t enough to keep you frightened, you can check out our other article on 5 Free PC Horror Games You Can Play Right Now!
Gray Dawn is available now on Windows PC.