Review: Dread X Collection

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Horror has always been something that is particular to every reader, viewer, and player. Since no two people fear quite the same things, in quite the same ways, that leaves the most terrifying creations as those which best capture and express the fears of their creators. Indie horror is a fertile (if crowded) field for such creations to blossom, and so we celebrate every new title that can bring us closer to those primal terrors. The Dread X Collection is one of the most exciting recent efforts, bringing together some absolute luminaries of the genre to thrill and chill players in their own ways. As with any anthology there are highs and lows, but the highs are so high and the lows are so few, it’ll be well-worth any horror fan’s time.

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Dread X is a collection of ten mini-horror games, each created in seven days by a different indie developers. The minds behind such titles as Dusk, Faith, and Northbury Grove contributed to this project, which challenged them to create a prototype for the horror game of their dreams. It’s all tied together with a slick interface and moody voiceover that sets the grim tone for the anthology. Each game has its own scope and challenge, of course, but all together the collection will take you about four to five hours to experience fully. I won’t spoil what any of the individual pieces do, but we can talk about the many things that worked and the few that didn’t for me.

The biggest hits of this collection are the most unique, and chief among them is SUMMER NIGHT. This one is posed as one of those old LCD handheld games, and displays some absolutely masterful command of tension and expectations. Another gem is Shatter, a truly remarkable vision of a future wasteland ruled over by digital gods. Hand of Doom is my choice to round out a top three, hearkening back to the days of 2.5D dungeon crawlers and coupling it with a charming incantation system. Don’t Go Out and Carthanc are two more titles that are certainly unique in their execution, but your mileage may vary based on how you find their difficulty tuned.

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This isn’t to say the remaining titles in Dread X are bad, only that they might not have hit the same high notes for me. The Pony Factory is a very effective blend of first-person action and horror, for example, but the pacing did drag for me near the end. Mr. Bucket Told Me To was mostly worth it for the ending, being a bit rough in its execution, but still covered a very compelling concept with its horror. Outsiders is a familiar sort of explore-the-house horror sim that I imagine many people love, but I personally am very much not a fan of. As for the last two games to mention, The Pay Is Nice is more a proof-of-concept than anything as it ends right when it seems real gameplay is starting, and Rotgut was a bit of a technical mess for me that really hurt what creepy potential it had.

Even if only half the games in this collection hit the mark for you, though, they’re going to be very solid hits. The heights of Dread X as found in SUMMER NIGHT or Shatter are absolutely stellar, offering deeply affecting frights and glimpses into brilliant alien worlds. And as I said, the lows I found won’t be lows for everyone, and aren’t even what I would call bad games on their own. You can’t expect consistent quality from any anthology, and even with that in mind this is one of the most consistently satisfying ones you’re likely to find on Steam. Not only did I have a blast playing through the whole thing, I’m thrilled to see what these developers come up with next, based on these tantalizing glimpses of their nightmares I’ve had.

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