War.. huh, what is it good for?
Well, it seems video games is a pretty accurate answer, as we’ve been thrown into warzones from World Wars to intergalactic wars, but Trenches throws up something different as you’re stuck in the Trenches of the first world war, rather than fighting the common enemies, you’re battling your own sanity in the pouring rain.
When you first hit the main menu, you’re given a taste of things to come with the ability to turn off jump scares right under “Start new game”, and once you dive into the trenches, it wont be long before a completely random jump-scare throws you out of your seat.
I never find games scary; I have no problem playing in the early hours with the lights turned off and the audio turned up, but I can’t deny Trenches made me jump far more than I’d care to admit.
Maybe it’s the randomness of the jump scares, and having absolutely zero advance warning, but as terrifying as that might sound to some people, turning them off, takes away the soul of the game, so let’s get things straight, if you’re not a fan of jump scares, this isn’t the game for you, but if you like changing your underwear after a few hours gaming, then “jump” right in.
Upon starting your journey into the trenches, you take control of James Johnson, a young serviceman battling in the trenches in 1917, But the terrors of war and missing his family, James is started to question his sanity, and what better way to do that, than chasing after children’s dolls that cry like a baby.
The main quest of Trenches is to collect 9 of these dolls, obviously that’s completely normal finding what are known as fetal dolls in the middle of a World War 1 trench…
As you’ll see below, the first is pretty hard to miss, but thereafter you’ll rely on using your trench whistle, which will make the nearby dolls cry, of course, hearing young children cry while wandering through deserted trenches isn’t the most settling experience, but you’ll need to rely on these sounds to track down your next doll, without making too much unnecessary noise.
After you’ve collected a few of them, you’ll start to hear footsteps and this is where Trenches starts to feel very similar to the Slenderman game where you’d have to find a number of notes/pages before he hunted you down.
The further you get with your scruffy doll collection, the harder it seems to be to escape the unknown creature that pursues you.
Thankfully you can turn run and hide if you don’t walk into a dead-end, but it’s generally better to crouch and look around corners to avoid the creature, rather than let it know you’re nearby but walking on certain surfaces, running or using your whistle is a surefire way of letting your pursuer know where you are.
It all equates to a game of cat and mouse, sometimes it’s best to avoid getting close, others it might be better to try and sneak around, but with the constant limited vision and the random jump-scares, there’s something appealing about crawling around the muddy trenches to the sound of children crying in your ears.
Sadly there are quite a few weaknesses with Trenches, starting with the graphical performance.
Textures aren’t too bad, but your view is extremely limited by a close fog, and even with such a small area to load, you’ll still notice some blatant pop-in of objects and textures.
It’s almost forgiven considering this has been made by the one-man development team SteelKrill Studio, but it breaks the immersion, a little more attention to detail, maybe some smoke effects rather than a simple fog blanket, could have made things much more modern in video game standards.
Another area of weakness is the overall setting, the large, intertwined trenches are monotonous and too familiar, there’s little to tell one corner from the next, and while you will find a map on your travels, oftne it’s a puzzle in itself trying to work out where on that map you are, you’re likely to waste multiple playthroughs wandering around the maze, hoping to come across the next fetal doll.
My final complaints are both minor “effects” which are overdone, firstly your character will blink (extremely slowly) which make a distinct and distracting effect, It’s a nice detail to be included, but it’s just a little too much and ends up detracting from the overall experience.
Likewise the distant lights that shine over the trenches, often leave a blinding glare on screen.
Again, it’s a nice added touch, but it’s just too much, and too often, which ends up taking away from the game of cat and mouse.
Audio is strong, and while it’s not really advanced, it does exactly what you expect. No music to distract you, the constant patter of raindrops or your own footsteps, and the sound of the predators’ footsteps and the crying sounds, are more than enough to guide you to or away from an area.
Costing only £9.99, Trenches proves to be a worthy 1gb download for fans looking for a jump-scare, and while the setting is a little bland, there’s enough to recommend if you’re looking for something good if you ever need a reminder to change your underwear.
It’s definitely not as good as games like Outlast, or as deep as a title like Monstrum, but if you played Slenderman, you’ll have an idea of exactly what to expect, just in a more closed, maze-like setting.
I really hope the developer expands on the idea, because the mechanics are in place, and a more appealing setting (such as being stalked by a serial killer in a small street), combined with a few quality-of-life improvements would make for a fantastic step-forward on all the work he’s done with Trenches.