Survival horror games have seen a sort of mighty resurgence in popularity as of late, and titles like The Quarry and Dead Space Remake have provided some incredible experiences while upcoming games like Alan Wake 2 and Silent Hill 2 Remake look set to revitalize long lost franchises. But if you look past the barrage of these upcoming AAA releases, there’s also a slew of promising indie games that showcase some incredible potential of rivaling even the biggest of blockbusters.
This feature series is dedicated to putting a spotlight on some of these upcoming projects, and today we will be looking at Pine Harbor. It’s a survival horror game that might not bring something revolutionary to the table, but it’s looking like a mostly solid experience and one that should be on every survival horror fan’s radar.
Vision Forge Team is the development studio behind Pine Harbor, and this is the studio’s debut title. As you can obviously guess by now – it’s a pretty ambitious project which is all the more surprising once you consider that it’s all being made by a small team of developers. Of course, the team is really passionate about this project, and from what we have seen so far – the team does seem to have a great understanding of what exactly makes a survival horror game tick.
Coming back to the game itself, Pine Harbor takes place in a remote fishing town on the shores of the North Atlantic Ocean. The town itself is surrounded by steep cliffs and dense forests, which separates it from the rest of the settlements. A situation has struck this town which has turned the majority of the town’s residents into mindless husks who hunt for anyone unaffected by this massacre, while the remaining citizens continue to cower in fear of these hulking beasts roaming the town. As the protagonist of this tale, your job is to explore these desolate environments and become the hero of Pine Harbor as you try to dig deep and uncover the many secrets that led to this disaster, and ultimately find out if all of this reckoning can be undone.
The story looks to be simplistic in its scope, and the narrative setup borrows familiar elements from genre contemporaries. Of course, it isn’t anything surprising considering that the game has cited Resident Evil and Silent Hill as its inspirations. That said, we do hope that the game does the needful when it comes to crafting a story with memorable plot revelations and characters that evolve over the course of the journey.
Moving over to the gameplay side of things, it’s evident that a lot of effort and resources went into creating a gameplay loop that seems like it is going to be consistently engaging. As you can observe in the gameplay footage, the game is played in the first-person perspective which will make for an intimate experience. The moment to moment gameplay loop will revolve around exploring these environments and overcoming the many threats that lie in your path as you try to reach the bottom of this mystery.
Having a compelling atmosphere is one of the most important aspects of any great survival horror experience, and Pine Harbor excels in creating an ominous vibe that’s sure to make you uneasy in the bones. The game makes great use of thick fog to mask detail in distant areas and play on the fear of the unknown, which is also a clever nod to its inspirations from Konami’s Silent Hill. Apart from that, the abandoned houses and other surrounding areas are mostly dimly lit with cramped indoors and dusty set props that make tiptoeing around these environments a constantly frightening experience.
Resources are obviously going to be scarce, so you will have to be really wise and thoughtful when it comes to choosing which fights to take and when to pull back and save up on precious ammunition. The combat is rather simplistic with you having access to common weapon types like handguns or shotguns, but Pine Harbor seems to keep players on their toes through the use of excellent enemy placement. As can be seen from the available gameplay snippets, there are many instances where enemies lie waiting around blind corners and other unassuming spots – ready to punish anyone who hasn’t properly checked their corners.
There are more than one instances in the available gameplay footage where the player finds an enemy approaching them and turns around to find another trapping them from both sides. Such encounters definitely look terrifying to witness in first person, and things will only intensify as the night approaches. Players will have to find shelter in indoor locations like abandoned homes or warehouses where resources are relatively plentiful and use them in a judicial manner to face the many enemies that will come in waves.
On the topic of enemies, we have only seen a couple of enemy types in the gameplay trailers – so we’re expecting that the final release will have a lot more variety. And as you can probably observe in the trailers, enemies in Pine Harbor go down rather easily; common enemies take only a couple of shots from the regular pistol before they get neutralized. As such, the team might have to rebalance the combat to keep it more interesting and add a bit of challenge to the whole affair as well.
Switching gears over to the visuals, we have to say that Pine Harbor looks really beautiful. Vision Forge Team is making use of Unreal Engine 5, and the graphical features of this engine have been put to great use in this project. The game punches well above its weight in terms of production quality, and everything from the asset work to the animations and enemy designs looks impressive. There’s generous use of volumetric fog in the environments as mentioned previously, and it’s appropriately dense and reactive to other elements. Furthermore, the lighting implementation is also equally fantastic – and it does a lot of the heavy lifting in bringing this scary world to life.
Over on the release front, Pine Harbor is currently slated to release in Q4 2023 for PC. At the risk of sounding like a pessimist, it seems pretty likely that the game will end up getting pushed to next year since we’re already two quarters into 2023 and we still have no concrete release date and little in the name of marketing or promotion surrounding this otherwise promising game. Also, no console ports are planned as of yet, but it’s pretty likely that the game might end up on these platforms if it garners enough success at launch.
But all that does very little to dim the excitement that we have for Pine Harbor. Vision Forge Team seems to be on the right path with this project, and it definitely has the potential to be one of the biggest surprise hits of the near future. The stage has been set, and all that remains for the developer is to take these impressive concepts and reach the finish line without any compromises. We really hope that Pine Harbor ends up surpassing expectations and anticipation from fans, and we’re keeping our fingers crossed until then.
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