It's Time For a Return of the Horror RPG

25 May 2011

As something of a tribute to Ravenloft: Strahd's Possession and its sequel, Stone Prophet, Digitally Downloaded editorializes about the lack of horror-themed titles in the current RPG market and why a well-made role-playing horror game would fill an empty but desirable niche. I've been saying the same for years (though Bloodlines filled the gap quite well), so it's great to hear someone else voicing the same opinion:
But even if the Ravenloft setting isn’t resurrected to in the world of videogames, is there room for a horror RPG? I’d like to think so. While the horror genre has slowly but surely moved towards the realm of action, that shouldn’t be a prerequisite for the genre. And likewise, the traditional RPG approach to game design hasn’t disappeared completely yet. So it’s easy to think that someone, somewhere might decide to bring the two genres together again.

Indeed, this hybrid genre would benefit greatly from modern technology. High definition polygons and stereo sound would make it that much easier to build some atmosphere. Moral choices and branching story paths could be used to good effect to alter the hell that the players end up in. For developers, a horror RPG wouldn’t need to be a 40+ hour epic, and could be a more self contained, and therefore cheaper production.

Mind you, making a horror game is not just about making a game ‘hard’ or ‘difficult to survive.’ A horror game needs to build a sense of hopelessness and entrapment. It’s what Strahd’s Possession and Stone Prophet did so well, and games like Resident Evil 5 have all but forgotten.
Perhaps Dead State will be the next game to do the subgenre justice?