Mirror Forge is a horror game that wears its inspirations proudly on its sleeve. It draws from the venerable Silent Hill series when it comes to visuals, atmosphere, and puzzle design. The central story has a lot in common with Stranger Things and recent trends regarding parallel universes. While the game does lack some technical polish, the central core manages to feel more than just hollow references and imitation.
The main story of Mirror Forge centers around Thomas Jackson, a disgraced doctor in the middle of a deep depression. After getting news that his ex, Jill, has gone missing after investigating a mysterious phenomenon in an area called Devil's Womb, he hops into his car to find her. But things take a dark turn as Thomas' very grip on reality is thrown into question. He keeps slipping in and out of disturbing industrial rooms made of rusted iron and twisted flesh and hearing the whispers of a dark god. The past and the present begin to blend and intermingle, telling a fragmented tale of Thomas' tragedy, and the aftermath of some doomed science experiment regarding parallel universes.
My first impressions of Mirror Forge's were lukewarm. The game opens up with Thomas being thrown into a hellish nightmare dimension of rusted iron and twisted flesh...while he's looking through his apartment. I was worried this would set the tone for the game as a whole: a bunch of familiar horror tropes and cliches with very little in the way of explanation. But once this little vignette ended, more of the game's personality began to shine through, telling a dark tale of ancient gods and human ambition.
But the introduction does let you know that Mirror Forge is from an older school of survival horror. You'll be spending most of your time moving from place to place, collecting keys, figuring out number codes, and pushing forward to the next area while avoiding monsters. The closest thing to combat in the game is a special relic you can use to stun monsters temporarily. Hands down, the best sections of Mirror Forge are the puzzles and key-hunting. There is an honest attempt to make each of these areas brim with atmosphere or inform Thomas' character in some way; invoking the kind of surreal dream logic that works great in interactive horror. Furthermore, maps are small but easily navigated, cutting down on backtracking or losing forward momentum. Finally, each of these sections is given just enough ghoulish life with several different scripted scares: both subtle and overt. When it comes to keeping you engaged, Mirror Forge knows when to hold your hand and when to let you get lost.
If there is an area where Mirror Forge's gameplay falls short, it is when it tries to do anything other than slow-boil puzzle sections and escalating horror vignettes. There are a small handful of chase sequences that are more annoying than frightening due to you having maybe half a second to react. You will die a lot in these sections and when you succeed it will only be through trial and error. There are also stealth sequences peppered throughout the second half which are a bit dicey due to inconsistent patrol patterns and questionable lines of sight. Thankfully these sequences are brief and used sparingly.
Good game design can only hide so many underlying flaws. While Thomas' dark journey through Devil's Womb dodges hokey cliches around mental illness, the small supporting cast are completely forgettable. There was an actual plot cul de sac where you leave the nightmare dimension just to get exposition from a scientist character in the real world, then you go back the way you came. The information could have literally just been a bloodstained e-mail. Despite the craftsmanship of puzzles and frights, it doesn't hide that the enemies you deal with are extremely generic elongated humanoids. There are a few more creative creatures tied to stealth and chase sequences, but even those barely register in my mind in terms of visual design.
Also, Mirror Forge is packed with technical issues. These range from minor and annoying like dodgy item physics to several hard crashes to desktop. There were even a few situations where the game softlocked, causing some frustrating reloading.
Despite Mirror Forge's issues and shortcomings, the clear passion and craft on display kept me engaged. While the game shows its affection for Silent Hill at every turn – there's even an easter egg tucked away in the early levels – it doesn't just rehash the beats of that series. The story on display is a dark tale about regret, self-destruction, and unhealthy coping mechanisms. Even with the uninspired diet-cryptid creature designs, I still jumped, screamed, or sweated bullets running away from them thanks to great pacing, framing, and sound design. In other words, this experience might just be the definition of scrappy indie horror. It's made on a small budget, uses readily available materials and resources, but keeps the focus on where it counts.
Mirror Forge | Final Thoughts
Despite technical issues, generic enemy designs, and a familiar set-up, Mirror Forge does have some survival horror merit. If you have been craving an experience in the style of classic Silent Hill, or if you can't wait for the next season of Stranger Things, seek this title out. Just be ready for some jank throughout your eight-hour trip through hell.
TechRaptor reviewed Mirror Forge on PC with a copy provided by the publisher.
Disclaimer: Our reviews editor, Sam Guglielmo, works at publisher Dread XP but did not edit or view this piece prior to publication.
- Solid, Frightening Atmosphere
- Clever, Enjoyable Puzzles
- Ambitious Horror Story
- Technical Issues and Bugs
- Forgettable Monster Designs