Horror experiences are two a penny these days, but when one arises with a real life tragedy at the core of its concept, interest levels are naturally higher. That’s exactly what developers Messier Games have in the form of Opus Castle, which is based on a true story involving the mystery death of a wealthy family. They’re also offering Opus Castle for free, so you can potentially get scared to death without spending the cash. Is it worth the time and effort though?
I feel I must point out from the get-go that although Opus Castle is free, it’s actually just the first chapter that’s available, with the rest set to be made available as paid content in the future. It’s a tad deceiving, but that’s not the only reason you may not bother to give it a look.
Back in the 1930’s, a rich Brazilian family resided in a mansion resembling a medieval castle and seemingly lived the perfect life. That is until one day they wound up murdered, with numerous theories about them haunting the place ever since. Skip ahead to 2012 where the main protagonist, architect intern Bruno, has been sent to look at this derelict building. He’s in for a shock however, as the supernatural entities within the little castle seem determined to keep him there.
The storytelling itself is quite underwhelming in terms of detail and explanation of what supposedly occurred all those years ago; then again, this is merely akin to the opening act. To even get an inkling about those involved in the murders, you need to go through the chapter four times to achieve the different climaxes. While that many endings is great, there’s a lot of repetition before the narrative altering choice kicks in for each playthrough. There’s also a slight disconnect from the goings on due to the voiceovers being in Portuguese, but subtitles are in place at least.
As for the gameplay, you’ll play from a first-person perspective and must explore the Little Castle of Apa Street to find items or interact with objects which further your progress. For example, collecting bits of key to unlock various doors and triggering a cutscene by looking at a dining table that’s been set for dinner. It’s all very simplistic in regards to what you need, but even then it can be a chore locating the tiny pieces required.
Unfortunately, exploration is curbed to a minimum; venturing through two small areas is basically the limit for a single playthrough. It’s probably for the best though, with nothing overly interesting to look at within, except for a few photos. That’s mainly because the visuals are pretty bad; the environment around you is constantly rendering while you’re moving, with nearby textures popping in and out regularly.
The dated appearance doesn’t help when it comes to the fear factor either. The simple fact is that the supernatural characters are more likely to make you shrug than tremble with fear, but there are some scary moments. These are courtesy of a few well-timed jumpscares that truly catch you off-guard, which certainly raises the adrenaline levels. Credit must be given for the sound effects too; the eerie noises create a suitably tense atmosphere.
That’s where the credit ends however, with a bizarre design choice at the forefront of irritations. The inventory is hidden away inside an app on an in-game smartphone, thus it becomes a chore on every occasion you wish to access items. Fortunately there’s not a lot to do with the inventory in the first chapter, but it’s already a nuisance.
At the end of the day, Opus Castle is a glorified demo – and, in truth, not a very good one. Everything can be wrapped up in under an hour, including alternate endings and all but one of the achievements. It doesn’t successfully showcase the narrative, test the old grey matter with any real problems to solve, or provide enough scares to be deemed worthy of being a horror. And that’s a shame because the premise is intriguing, with the Little Castle just begging for decent visuals to allow its unique design to be appreciated.
Obviously, with Opus Castle being free, it may be worth a download to grab the Gamerscore on offer, but you won’t enjoy it and probably won’t return for further chapters.
Opus Castle is available to download from the Xbox Store