The horrors of the first World War are fairly familiar to the gaming community. From the first-person shooters of Battlefield and Verdun, many times we have been thrown into the real battles and encounters from that moment in time. But there have also been reflective and poignant games like 11:11 – Memories Retold, retelling and examining the effects of war on the average soldier, delving into the chaos it causes to all around them.
Trenches uses that same backdrop, along with an actual trench, to create something a bit different; something much more in line with a horror game. Think Slenderman meets Silent Hill and you might get a bit closer to what’s going on.
It is worth noting that Trenches has been put together by one sole developer, SteelKrill Studio, passed on to the prolific Ratalaika Games to publish. It’s also worth considering the inclusion of an option to play the game without any jump scares. Don’t do this – Trenches loses the experience and, in my opinion, the essence of the game. Brave up, turn down the lights, and jump in.
The year is 1917 and WW1 is in full flow. You are placed behind enemy lines, left to escape with your sanity attached. This is not a normal story but rather a surreal horror experience. That is hammered home in terms of the narrative, as you are left to collect nine dolls scattered around a maze of trenches. Bits of narrative will appear and clues will arrive across the course of this game, all adding to the lore. The story – to be fair – isn’t the main thrust of the game though and instead the atmosphere and survival horror elements are key, keeping Trenches moving along.
You play in the first person, but unlike most war games, you can’t do any attacking of your own. What you can do is walk around the trenches, picking up items to examine them. You have a whistle that you can use, making you able to hear a baby crying and following this sound through the maze will lead you to one of the nine dolls you have to collect. But here is the kicker – the noise also attracts a horrible monster that stalks you throughout. Further to that, if you run or walk across floorboards you could also alert the creature. And it seems as if the more dolls you find, the more you get hunted. As you’d expect to hear, if you get caught, the game ends and you start again.
There are things to help you get through Trenches: a map which is very handy indeed; and also wire cutters that open up different routes. There are also hiding spots throughout the game, allowing you to take a breather if the monster is getting too close. In terms of gameplay mechanics it does follow the same sort of pattern as Slenderman, but with a whole different location and period. There are also loads of jump scares; things appear for a second and beings scatter across corridors. Honestly, these are brilliant and add to the tension and atmosphere – remember what I said about keeping the jump scares on?
Visually the game isn’t going to win any awards, but for the budget and the fact that it is just one developer, I think it does a brilliant job. The jump scares themselves are heart stopping and the world is atmospheric; creepy even though it gets very familiar quite quickly. The monster is horrific and the added features of putting real photographs from the era throughout works superbly. Sound adds to the tension and atmosphere as well with some great effects from the strange scratching noises to the cry of the monster. The baby’s cries are something that will stay with you for a while.
Trenches is a short but good little horror experience. It plays with an interesting premise and setting, mixing horror, fantasy and reality. The jump scares are excellent and the tension is good, but the world is very limited and there’s a chance you may well get tired of the trench maze trek after a while.
On the whole though, if you are a fan of survival horrors, Trenches might be worth a try.
Trenches is on the Xbox Store from 20th Jan 2023
- Jump scares
- Good atmosphere
- Serious tension
- Visuals are okay
- Gets quite samey
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to – Ratalaika Games
- Formats – Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Switch, PS4, PS5
- Version reviewed – Xbox Series X
- Release date – 20 January 2023
- Launch price from – £TBC