Lust For Darkness contains sexual themes, some of which will be addressed in this preview.
We all know the quintessential gaming experience: playing Amnesia, wishing that there was less story to follow and more boobies to ogle. Thankfully, someone has finally stepped up to the task of making this dream a reality.
Lust For Darkness, a first-person psychological thriller, combines a duo that few would have ever thought to merge, and even fewer would ever want to see: Cthulu-like horrors and limitless sexual bacchanalia. Developers at Lunar Cult Studios staged an immensely successful Kickstarter, amassing over 500% of their original goal for their game centered around “erotic and occult themes.” Taking clear inspirations from Amnesia: The Dark Descent and amateur pornography, the pre-release demo for Lust For Darkness is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, a video game.
Regardless of how it was put into effect, the definitively unique storyline behind the thriller has potential to be a conceptually-interesting premise.
The demo consists of two discrete sections: a prologue and the main story. Set long before the main events begin, a woman wakes up in a dirty and dimly-lit cell with no clue as to how she got there, or where “there” is. Following a trail of candles, she ultimately arrives in a svelte and sensually-prepared bedroom where she is jumped by a disfigured man and is lost to the mansion forever. A year later, after receiving a mysterious letter signed by the missing woman, her husband arrives moments before an enigmatic cult ceremony. As he explores the mansion, he sees a figure that resembles his wife, but before he can track her down, the ceremony begins, and the world begins to shift with it. The man is suddenly surrounded by a renaissance orgy that doesn't faze him in the slightest as a Lovecraftian version of Rule 34 escapes from another realm into his own.
Lust For Darkness plays similar to other installments in the genre. You are thrown into a world of mystery and set out to explore the mansion, examining everything you find along the way, searching for clues as to what is going on. While the ability to examine items you come across is great in moderation and serves to set the scene and foreshadow what is still to come, it quickly becomes clunky and boring when games are oversaturated with it among few other mechanics. Instinctually, players feel the need to pick up each and every shiny object that pops up in front of them, but in this case, nothing is gained: no new details are revealed, no hidden messages, no hints of anything at all. As the game progresses, after an average amount of banging your head against the wall, you will finally piece together that the game wants you to pick up items in order to progress the story. There is no meaningful interaction with these items, nor is there any marked difference from any of the other items that did nothing at all, but without selecting them, the plot comes to a standstill. By the time these mundane objects begin to have any weight, players have been taught that examining items they find is entirely unimportant. Despite the moderately low bar set by the story, the gameplay itself falls short of doing it justice.
By far, the most jarring aspect of the game is its voice acting.
One way or another, every line delivered seems to have been forced out of a sedated party at gunpoint. The background cultists all seem to be putting on accents of indeterminate and incongruent origins, and their lines are delivered with a focus every bit as clear. The protagonist’s voice actor, however, delivers an even more confusing performance. Despite finding evidence that his missing wife might, in fact, still be alive and just within his grasp, he speaks with the excitement of a man who has just been told that the sky is slightly bluer than at the same time the previous year. Threads of a story are strewn about in this game, yet the voice actors simply can’t find it in themselves to pull them together.
The one aspect that does shine through in Lust For Darkness is the imagery it employs, even though it comes through very hit-or-miss.
The most prominent from the start is also the most troubling: through minimal changes, the developers converted the symbol for transgender identities into a demonic cult sigil. Whether an intentional statement of the gamemakers views or simply a decision to repurpose an already meaningful icon, this is a strongly thoughtless message to be displayed so overtly throughout the game. Beyond that, the simple image of a vagina is attached to intensely negative themes. The motif they nailed, however, is that of masks. Masks have been a cultural sign of new identity and anonymity for millenia. From Kabuki theater to The Lord of the Flies, they have been used to represent freedom from cultural influences and the dominance of the psyche’s id. Given the true purpose of the mysterious cult, their intricately decorated masks make perfect sense and serve to intensify the changes they have brought upon themselves. For better or for worse, Lunar Cult Studios show a masterful grasp of imagery.
Lust For Darkness is truly a shining example of how a video game can exist. To their credit, the developers clearly had the idea to incorporate softcore porn into a horror game, and this is very possibly the best vehicle to do so with. The run of the demo is severely lackluster, cutting off just before the slightest hint of interest, so realistically it is not worth your time unless you have several very specific kinks. Of course, as this is just a pre-release demo, this thriller will likely be worth revisiting upon completion, as well as when the full game is released. Anyone interested in seeing how this trainwreck of potential and penises turns out should stay tuned on Kickstarter for further updates.