Gloomwood is described as “Thief with guns” and that’s a pretty fair description. You sneak around a dark, Victorian city and dispatch your enemies with a sword to the back, or a shotgun blast to the face.
“Thief,” of course, refers to the classic stealth series by the same name. If you ever played either Thief: The Dark Project or Thief 2: The Metal Age, you’ll recognize the series influence on Gloowood immediately.
Be Very Very Quiet, I’m Hunting Guards
Gloomwood is first and foremost a stealth game. At least that’s how it’s marketed. After playing through its recent demo on Steam, though, I’m more convinced it’s a game WITH stealth. It’s also a game with one, very loud, shotgun.
I started playing the demo as I would any other stealth game. I snuck around the city streets, avoiding guards or stabbing them in the back with my fancy cane sword. Why am I sneaking around this weird Victorian city? I’m not sure. The demo doesn’t give you any context whatsoever, but you don’t need one. All you need to know is that if anyone spots you, they’re going to try and kill you.
Sneaking around is pretty basic. You stay low, stick to the shadows, avoid noisy surfaces. There’s an image of a moon at the bottom of the screen, which tells you how visible you are – the fuller the moon, the easier you are to spot. There’s also a button dedicated to sneaking, which makes you walk a bit slower so you’ll make less noise.
But unlike most other stealth games, Gloomwood doesn’t encourage you to avoid confrontation – just to do it on your own terms. You can sneak behind at least I assume their guards, though they don’t seem to be guarding anything in particular) and use your sword to stab them in the neck, insta-killing them swiftly. You can then grab their bodies and hide them in the shadows, or use them to lure or distract other guards.
If you are spotted, don’t worry – your cane sword is a pretty formidable weapon and can kill most guards in three-four hits. You can also block virtually every melee attack, so if you want to play the Gloomwood demo as a hack and slasher, you probably could. Developer Dillon Rogers already said that the melee combat is going to be reworked, so hopefully, you’ll have to bit a tad more careful in the final game.
This Is My Boomstick
If stealth and swords aren’t your thing, you can also try to play Gloomwood as an FPS, which is where the “but with guns” aspect of the game comes in. I myself did that for about a third of the demo, and it was quite fun.
In addition to your slick cane sword, you’re also packing a revolver and a shotgun. On normal difficulty, I found plenty of ammo for both while exploring the level, so I did use both weapons more than I probably should have.
The shotgun was especially useful towards the end of the demo when you explore a creepy sewer system. The sewers are home to terrifying monsters called the Crowmen. After learning the hard way their immune to stealth kills, I busted out the shotgun and took care of the infestation. I”m glad to report the city sewers are now safe. Safer, anyway.
Gloomwood doesn’t punish you if you choose to go loud. It has a couple of cool mechanics that make using the guns a more calculated choice than you’d think. When drawing a gun, you don’t get a special HUD display that tells you how many bullets you have left. The game doesn’t have a HUD at all, as a matter of fact. You have to check your ammo manually, either by going through your backpack or checking the gun’s chamber, and both actions don’t pause the game.
Stealing From the Best
If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear Gloomwood was a long-lost stealth FPS from the early 2000s. Everything about it is designed to play, look, and sound like one of the classics. From the blocky, low-ploy graphics, the brain dead guards, and the very familiar sound effects, this game simply screams Thief. And I love it for it.
The original Thief trilogy is arguably the best stealth games of all time. So if you’re going to make one – you can’t pick a better inspiration. Developed by Dillon Rogers and David Szymanski nailed the look-and-feel of the genre, and managed to add enough horror elements to it to make you feel vulnerable even while carrying a shotgun.
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