Rooten Review

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Can you ever remember a time when scientific research stations, in the middle of nowhere, managed to ever fare well? In the real world, they provide a good working environment, instilling valuable information about natural sciences and the history of our world. In games and movies, they become a stalking ground for all manner of monsters/ghosts/aliens, mostly as members of the team are killed off, one by one, until a hero saves the day and escapes. 

Rooten plays with this premise, all as a research station in the middle of the forest loses contact with the outside world. One man is sent in to find out what has gone wrong… what’s the worst that can happen. 

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Rooten takes place in the middle of nowhere. You arrive at the research station and find it empty and abandoned. The only way in was by helicopter, but you’re now alone as it won’t return for several days. You venture out into the woods and as you travel around the forest begin to discover some strange pulsating pods in the clearings; pods unlike anything else. It’s obvious that something else is out there, stalking, watching, waiting for its moment…

The narrative and story are bewitching, capable of creating a great deal of tension and strangeness as you walk around the small map trying to work out what has happened in this world. It’s the visual storytelling in terms of horror for which this game is categorised, ensuring it plays like more of a slow-burn horror than a jump scare one. Think of The Shining in terms of film, rather than Scream. 

The narrative happens in real time as your daily events play out; walking around exploring and trying to piece together clues. When the day is up you go back to the camp to sleep, all before a new day begins and things have shifted somewhat. It’s a good system and brings with it that sense of dread and impending doom at a very slow pace. The writing is strong and the narrative feels different enough for anything else, even though the set-up itself is very familiar. I won’t talk anymore about the narrative as I am not wanting to spoil what happens. 

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The gameplay itself is quite simple, although it has a very slow pace to it. You move around the areas exploring the world and looking for clues of what has happened here on the base. I think the pacing of the game is a bit too slow at times especially after playing Rooten over a couple of days. The character’s slow gait does get a bit annoying after a while too. 

However, there are some nice little puzzles to work out and there is the odd dangerous encounter you can involve yourself in, enjoying some basic combat or choosing to flee. If you die you wake up unharmed the next day. In fact, Rooten is a game in which – over its 2-hour running time – the choices you make affect the ending, all with multiple versions to discover. You could even choose to do nothing and wait the seven days to finish, discover nothing and go home if you want. But what would be the point of that?

The visual tone of Rooten comes with a very stark muted colour scheme to it. It reminds of those eastern European animations from the 1970s. The world is oppressive and dank with the prospect of danger around every corner. There is a simple soundtrack to go along with it, adding to the atmosphere in all the right ways.

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Rooten feels original with its tone and pace, but still manages to run a familiar narrative strand. The horror roots are a slow burn, yet the exploration and writing are extremely good and well delivered. The pacing won’t be for everyone, nor will the lack of guidance, but this is a game that very much deserves multiple playthroughs. The question will be whether or not you have the stomach to do just that. 

Perfectly priced, Rooten may well entice those looking for an atmospheric narrative, enjoying the interesting, dark story that then plays out.  

Rooten is on the Xbox Store

Gareth Brierley
Gareth Brierleyhttp://www.garethbrierley.co.uk
I am an actor and a writer. I act quite a bit on stage, a little bit on tv and never on tuesdays. I have had some of my writing published and have written for TV and stage. I have been playing games since they begun and don't seem to be getting any better.
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