Mirror Forge Review (PC) – Silent Pills

It must be pretty tough making a horror title in the modern age. There’s very little creative leeway left in the genre to innovate or tell a story that hasn’t already been told. Whether wholesale copying of giants like Resident Evil or piggybacking the successes of horror darlings like PT, it’s a pretty saturated field. Mirror Forge chooses Silent Hill as its inspiration and boy does it seep out of every possible orifice of this game.

Which, I’m going to be honest, isn’t actually a bad thing. Mirror Forge borrows a helluva lot from the iconic town blanketed in fog. Yet, while it borrows extensively, it does so with a certain amount of care, using it more as a jumping off point than just trying to create a straight up copy.

Mirror Forge is a first person horror game that wants to bring back the atmosphere and foreboding sense of creepiness of an environment, rather than straight up terrifying scares. Does it fully capture the sense of dread or melt away with a timid gasp?

Violence and Goreburg

Mirror Forge follows the Silent Hill 2 amnesia trope with regards to its story. You awake as Thomas, a regular every day guy who suddenly has banging migraines and a loosening grip on visual reality. Popping more pills than Max Payne, Thomas sees a video from his partner Jill and quickly finds himself transported into an entirely new reality. Not a happy new reality mind, a grotesque, industrial, horrifically warped new reality.

The basic premise of Mirror Forge is relatively cliché: you’re piecing together Thomas’ past, which of course is more involved than first appearances would suggest. You’re searching for more information about Jill and you’re trying to figure out what the hell this other plain of nightmarish existence is about.

Thomas will travel across the town and landmarks of Goreburg finding clues, listening to audio tapes and finding notes left by those who are of course no longer not kicking the proverbial bucket. Mirror Forge spices this up very similarly to Silent Hill 3, whereby you transport yourself between current, non-fleshy and horrific reality, to the absolutely-do-not-want-to-be-there alternative reality via mirrors, who’d have guessed it?

I’m not going to reveal too much more as there are twists, turns, deities, manifestations of evil, mixed allegiances and obvious character baits galore. A lot of it is fairly predictable if you’ve played basically any horror game before, but it’s relatively coherent and has some interesting mysterious hooks. The Mesopotamian influence and history is excellently interwoven and while the writing and voice acting are suspect, it kind of fits a lower budget, indie horror game.

It’s nowhere near as cheesy as say Resident Evil 1, but Thomas and co do their best to sell the universe, which is impressive given how confusing and messed up most of Mirror Forge is.

Resident Hellholes

The most striking and well-developed Silent Hill inspiration in Mirror Forge is the environments themselves. MystiveDev have done a superb job in capturing the creepy and disturbing architecture from the iconic series and it really stands out throughout the story.

Travelling across realities greets you with endless amounts of disturbingly fleshy tentacles, masses of organic matter covered in vile eyes, metallic hallways dripping in blood, bodies and faces. There’s an industrial touch to many of the environments that immediately invokes the nightmares of the other realm in Silent Hill games to a powerful degree, but Mirror Forge makes a lot of these areas feel unique to its own personal night terror.

You’ll constantly be accosted with tense metallic noises, like something is clanging just out of sight. The more regular areas of Goreburg are a bit more mundane but are well-realised, with a good amount of detail to make them believable and they have enough of the usual blood and gore to sell this place as a real hotspot to avoid on your travels.

If there’s one criticism, it’s that the environments and areas don’t make a lot of sense thematically. They feel a bit random and don’t add much to the story itself. The best of Silent Hill used its locations and terrifying areas to reflect some kind of turmoil and psychological trauma of the characters themselves, but Mirror Forge more just has them because they look grim.

Having said that, the level designers and environment concept artists should be getting a raise. Or better yet, hire them to make a Silent Hill game. They nail the environmental look here.

Mirror Forge Review

A Man of Few Talents

Surviving the terrors of dimension hopping and Silent Hill-esque locations means Thomas has his work cut out to solve the mystery of why he can hear a strangely ominous female voice in his head.

Though, he’s not the most well-equipped video game protagonist, it must be said. Thomas can walk, sprint, crawl, press things and pick up items to awkwardly carry them about. He has a light source always available (which switches between flashlight and lighter when required) and acquires a handy ancient artifact called the Seal of Anu – a powerful device that helps him both survive and progress through puzzles.

See, Thomas has a marker on his hand that allows him to use the Seal to generate a surge of… um, light? Energy? Blue-ness? Whatever it is, it can stun enemies in place for a short period, reveal snippets of memories of the past and can activate certain objects, for example to build a light bridge.

The basic gameplay loop of Mirror Forge can be broken down like this as a result: run through corridor or linear path, crawling under things or avoiding fleshy environmental hazards, come to a small but open-ish area, figure out what the puzzle is and then try to solve it. Occasionally, you’ll need to evade or run past groups of enemy creatures to do so.

Puzzles are fairly basic and none are especially taxing. The biggest issue you’ll have is working out exactly where the thing is you need to interact with. Mirror Forge doesn’t do much signposting for you which works in terms of immersion but it does have a couple of sections that’ll have you scratching your head or running about aimlessly for a few minutes.

I wouldn’t say it’s the most enjoyable gameplay loop in the world and your interaction with the game itself is fairly limited, but it works for what this game is trying to achieve. A combat system certainly wouldn’t have provided any real benefit to Mirror Forge so I’m inclined to say it’s decent if unspectacular.

Mirror Forge Review

Hideous Reflection

The creatures in Mirror Forge are as about as grotesque as looking into my own mirror at home. Unfortunately, just like with my own reflection, you can’t do a damn thing to fight the monstrosities you face in Mirror Forge. (Editor note – Miles is actually very handsome, don’t let him tell you otherwise.).

A standout couple of sections involve you needing to gather 3 batteries or 3 limbs to progress through an area. Sounds easy, right? Well, Mirror Forge has an invisible creature roaming about these halls, requiring you to use your ears as opposed to your eyes to successfully evade them. In these moments, the feeling of helplessness and the inability to fight back really works wonders to raise your heart rate.

But for every great section like this, there’s an area where you’ll be “chased” by zombie-like beings are A) too slow to really be a threat and B) can be stunned using the Seal, making them a non-starter as a threat. Zombies, spiders, crawling… things are all pretty weak as enemies and have nothing of the distinct threat of say, a Pyramid Head or a Resident Evil hound.

While the environments and landscapes look amazing, the enemy design is pretty lackluster and uninspired, which sadly undercuts the actual fear of Mirror Forge. None of it is explicitly scary, more just creepy. I never really felt on edge or like I was getting an adrenaline rush, owing to how you can just outrun most threats or plow through the “scarier” sections.

Occasionally, you’ll be asked to do some platforming, which straight up sucks with a clunky jump system and first person perspective. Mirror Forge also isn’t especially challenging, as it’s easy to stockpile health restoring painkillers, which is probably a blessing to prevent a lot of frustration.

Mirror Forge Review

Multi-Verse of Grossness

It would probably be a fair comparison to call Mirror Forge a creepy walking simulator. Most of your time is spent picking up objects, finding the one unlocked draw/locker/room with a key to unlock the next draw/locker/room to rinse repeat and so on. Yet, it never really gets dull.

The lack of challenge and real sense of threat means you won’t feel overly hesitant about playing through the game, but this kind of allows you to just soak in the atmosphere and the wonderful sense of gross creativity that’s been poured into Mirror Forge.

There are some niggling issues and bugs too. For example, having to restart when I went down the correct ladder but before the game had planned for me to, requiring me to restart as apparently Thomas was incapable of re-climbing the ladder he just came down from. There was the odd bit of sticky geometry that would trap me in a chase sequence, bringing me to a rather gruesome death too. Honestly though, I didn’t mind these hiccups all that much. There’s enough to like about the game that makes it easy to overlook.

I would have liked to see a bit more narrative justification and more intertwining of its various elements, but I think MystiveDev have done an excellent job creating a compelling, if grim, world to immerse yourself into.

Mirror Forge Review

A Worthier Downpour

Mirror Forge wears its influence proudly and without remorse. In some ways, I’d even say that MystiveDev have done a better job capturing Silent Hills’ sense of atmosphere and place than a few of the entries in the Konami series post Silent Hill 3.

The 5 hour story wraps up at just about the right place to not become tiresome and arduous. While the story has mysterious and interesting elements, it is rather cliché. However, it does tie up its narrative well and there’s something in this that’s probably worth the investment if you’re into horror stories or survival horror games of old.

If you’re happy to jump into a relatively linear, combat-free and largely unthreatening game, you’ll get something out of Mirror Forge. The developers clearly have a lot of passion for creating vile, uncomfortable imagery, as well as a real penchant for Mesopotamian history. They just haven’t quite cracked true nerve-shredding horror or psychological torment just yet.

Mirror Forge will creep you out and make you uncomfortable with its superb Silent Hill inspired environments. The gameplay is unthreatening and the story is predictable, but there’s something about this indie horror game that’ll have you soaking in its grim and disgusting dimension-hopping universe.

Mirror Forge is available now on PC (review platform).

Developer: MystiveDev
Publisher: DreadXP

Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.

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