Gray Dawn is a horror exploration game, one which touches on sensitive subjects such as religion and child abuse, all done through beautiful and terrifying worlds. These worlds are full of little details, small effects, and curious wonders that make the entire game captivating and whimsical to play through. All as you unravel the tangled story around you.
You play the role of a Priest, devoted to your God, who has recently helped a sick altar boy. This young boy was very ill, acting in inhuman ways, so you made the expert decision to provide an exorcism in the hope of curing him. The boy did not react well and ended up jumping out of the window of the building, however, his body was never found. As a result you are now the key suspect in the murder of the missing boy.
You don’t seem to be quite well yourself that said — falling into visions clearly conjured up by The Devil — reliving memories which cause you fear, before praying to your God to escape them. Each time you remember the boy or hear about being accused of murder, you go into a trance fueled by fear. These moments of madness depict gore, repulsion towards your God, and sometimes even come with the voice of The Devil himself, trying to convince you of things that are clearly lies. Figuring out what is real and what isn’t will take a lot of persistence, discovery and focus as you explore around your home. You will need to find various objects to perform rituals and find paintings to pray to, so that the visions don’t stick in your mind. In between sections filled with the horrors of your home, you will also get to explore a secondary world, one which isn’t so scary after all.
This is the world of the altar boy — looking for you to solve puzzles and cast light on what is going on with him. Unlike your home, these are calm moments — scenes in nature, with religious idols and references dotted around. You are able to listen to the voice of the young boy, hearing what he needs help with. As you explore, the bright, captivating new world dances around you; light wisps fly into the sun, goats dance and race around, flowers sway in the wind. Once you have helped the boy, you can enter into a doorway, one which returns you to your own world.
I found myself captivated by the world around this priest while exploring Gray Dawn at the Bucharest Gaming Week in Romania. The voices of each of these characters — from the fearful priest being possessed to the innocence of the child looking for help — stuck with me as I explored. Each world is unimaginably beautiful, complete with details that left me exploring for as long as I could before moving on.
A major feature of Gray Dawn, for me, is the clever use of graphics — in tiny details — to hide simple items in plain sight; cassettes from loved ones, pictures showing your life, and graffiti written across walls that help you understand the world. Every object you see, every graphical decision each carries meaning and depth behind it in a way I’ve not seen before. Many of the puzzles actually play off of this getting lost in plain sight. With all of the wondrous, horrifying, and just bizarre aspects of the game, it’s easy to get lost in the details and miss what is right there in front of you.
Gray Dawn has come a long way since its failed Kickstarter back in 2015. The first few chapters, which were on display at the Expo, show so much skill and attention that I simply can’t wait to play more. These developers have continued developing the game despite the odds, and even gained a publisher along the way. The full game will have 23 chapters in total, with hours of story filled gameplay and is currently being developed with a view to being released later this year for both PC and PS4.