Developed by Movie Games Luminarium, Lust For Darkness will doubtlessly shock you. It is not afraid to expose the player to un-censored sexually explicit scenes, and then juxtapose this with gore. In some of its final moments, it tries to push that juxtaposition to the extreme. There is a question as to the quality of this shock. Is it intelligently delivered? Does it have the desired effect? For a game that only lasts around two and a half hours, it had better.
Lust For Darkness is available now exclusively for PC
The start of Lust For Darkness’ story begins in the typical way you would expect of a horror title. We wake up dazed and confused, having been unconscious for some time. In a dark and dingy wine cellar, a note can be found from the kidnapper, talking about a “first date.” Standard creepy kidnapper stuff, for sure. Cliche as this opening moment may feel, the mood has been handled brilliantly thanks to Luminarium’s keen eye for detail. A polished aspect to Lust For Darkness that we will move onto later in the review. As we make our way upstairs an into the light we find ourselves in… a sex room.
Lust For Darkness makes its bold intentions known from the get go. There are sex harnesses lying around, giant dildos attached to pneumatic drills… the list goes on. Eventually, after being sufficiently creeped out, the player is set upon by a naked chap in a mask. We black out, hear uncomfortable moaning and skip forward a year to to the player’s husband, Jonathan. Receiving an anonymous letter through the door, he gets a tip to go and save his wife from the Yelverton mansion, conveniently a short trip down the road. What follows is Jonathan exploring the mansion, walking through orgies and all sorts of debauchery. When things get even more odd is when he stumbles into Lusst’ghaa, a demonic realm that is apparently the reason for the sex cult’s existence.
The entirety of the story is fairly linear and sadly appears to be another element that falls back on Lust For Darkness’ reliance on shock tactics. There are documents that Jonathan can find throughout the mansion and Luust’ghaa that explain more about the cult leader and the history of the mansion. These explain more than any of the gameplay attempts to in the entirety of the game.
This optional mechanic serves the game up with a little replay value and in fairness, a lot of effort has gone into the writing of these documents that sometimes come with corresponding artwork. It is a shame however, that the player must actively seek these letters out to truly understand what is going on. In my preview several months ago, one of my complaints was that NPCs throughout the mansion are totally silent, giving off a feeling of lifelessness. Thankfully, Luminarium resolved this but only to a small degree and the opportunity to give players added context remains wasted.
Without going out of your way to get these letters, Lust For Darkness’ story becomes a straightforward and underwhelming plot of “determined husband getting his wife back.” This plot’s simplicity can throw the player’s expectation of what comes next. For example, Jonathan made it back from his first trip to Luust’ghaa and gave a monologue that became increasingly psychotic. He was filled with anger and hatred to such hyperbole that I thought the demonic realm had changed him and some interesting twists were on the way. Alas… it was just a bit of an over the top speech. Nothing more.
At a meager two and a half hours (or thereabouts) of play time, there was a distinct feeling that Lust For Darkness needed more time to tell its story. While the relentless onslaught of terrors found in Layers of Fear almost wore out their welcome by the end, Lust For Darkness’ brevity gives the entirety of the game an odd sense of pacing in hindsight. As I reached the final moments of the game and it was clear that it was about to end, I’d seen some odd stuff in Luust’ghaa that I felt still needed explaining. That explanation could well be in those little context letters but with Lust For Darkness being as short as it is, I felt strongly that Luminarium’s efforts would have been better spent putting these explanations directly in plain view.
Similar to Lust For Darkness’ story, its gameplay can trick players into expecting something that won’t happen. Upon arriving at the mansion, Jonathan must sneak around and avoid detection. This would give most of us the impression that stealth segments would play a role later in the game. Unfortunately, this was not the case and it appears Luminarium have wasted another opportunity to offer demon dodging segments in Luust’ghaa similar to Agony. This could have added a layer of gameplay depth to Lust For Darkness that it was frankly in dire need of.
There were a few moments early on the game where it appeared the mansion was changing around Jonathan. One moment, we’d turn around to see a corridor, the next, something else altogether. It was an interesting allusion to Jonathan slowly losing his sanity and something that reminded me of the brilliantly designed Layers of Fear. In total, we could have had the stealth from Agony and the mind bending level design of Layers of Fear. The combination of the two would have made this game a real standout. We see a repeated instance of this freaky level design only once in Luust’ghaa but it sadly adds to a feeling of wasted opportunities as Luminarium failed to commit to ideas done better by their competitors.
The puzzles, though few and far between are satisfyingly designed. Most of them are twisting pattern puzzles and rarely difficult. In fact, players are highly unlikely to be stumped by any of them, although they are satisfying to complete. Trips to Luust’ghaa are a part of a linear sequence of events and offer exactly the same gameplay in a totally different environment. It was refreshing to escape the claustrophobic mansion hallways and enter the colourful Luust’ghaa to switch things up a bit.
The only variable is the occasional demon that can one hit kill Jonathan. Like I said, Luminarium couldn’t seem to commit to stealth segments and there’s only a total of three run-ins with these demons for the entirety of the game. Strangely, the player is expected to get the demon to see them, run away in a kind of a large circle around Luust’ghaa and back to where the demon was to get past it and continue. These were frantic moments of panic that, while odd, were executed well. Another wasted opportunity for a mechanic that deserved to be a in a longer game.
Graphics & Sound
If there’s any redeeming feature about Lust For Darkness, it's the graphics and world design. Luminarium have done an excellent job of making an almost photorealistic game world. While graphics settings were disappointingly limited, putting them all on high led to a crisp an atmospheric environment. Lighting appears to be one of Luminarium’s strong points as Luust’ghaa oozes with atmosphere, doused in the sexual colours of red and purple. While the mansion enjoys a glistening sharpness. It is evident that character models were a difficulty to design and if I spotted it in the credits properly, I believe they were bought assets from a third party. We see Jonathan and wife Amanda’s faces in a picture back at their home. They do not look good. So Luminarium were smart in covering the faces of the cultists with masks.
Sound design is at a perfectly acceptable standard but there’s nothing here to blow your socks off. Don’t expect Triple A standard things like ambient echos or variation in footstep sounds.
Lust For Darkness looks fantastic. If you’re a graphics junkie and love decent world design, the game’s misgivings may just be worth $15 entrance fee. Although, if Lust For Darkness does anything to please you, the problem is that it won’t be doing it for long. Fans of the walking simulator horror genre should definitely check this out but it may be best to wait for a sale. Thoughts of what this game could have done to truly stand out will nag at you from start to finish.
|+ Great world design||– Damagingly short|
|+ Good atmosphere||– Poorly told story|
|+ Satisfying puzzles||– Several wasted gameplay opportunites|