· By Sam Wareing
Mundaun - A Lesson in Survival Horror Brilliance
Survival horror has been popular since the mid nineties, with Capcom's 1996 mega hit Resident Evil even coining the phrase. Entries in this genre have always had a heavy focus on abominable creatures and large arsenals of weaponry. But what if I told you that you didn’t need a majority of these features to create a successful horror experience? Enter Mundaun, a game by Hidden Fields that is a true lesson in survival horror brilliance.
You play as Curdin, a young man who has travelled to the secluded valley of Mundaun after receiving a suspicious letter informing him of his grandfather's death. As he begins to explore the mountain, dark secrets are revealed and the past rears its ugly head. The mountain’s peak is calling and the only way is up if he is to stop the dark forces that are at work.
The first thing you’ll notice about Mundaun is its unique art style. All the textures were hand drawn in pencil and then scanned in and applied to the 3D models, resulting in a strikingly beautiful yet very unsettling look. As you explore, you’ll come across various locales, most of which are a stunning representation of the Swiss Alps. Winding trails lead you to lookout spots where Curdin will take a break and sketch the map you’ll be using, you’ll find your grandfather’s old house and be able to listen to some local radio stations and yes, you can even pet the goats. The finishing touch is the whole game is dubbed in Romansh, Switzerland’s fourth national language. Everything fits so naturally and feels like it belongs; it’s such a treat to wander around and soak in the mountain.
It’s here that Mundaun first shows off that you don’t need to be in a spooky mansion or fog drenched town to be scared. Once night falls over the mountain, strange creatures made of hay appear, and while they’re not overly dangerous, it's Curdin’s sanity that is his own worst enemy. Looking at these creatures for too long causes a strange organic growth to creep over Curdin’s vision and slow his movement. Using the primal fear of the dark, Mundaun creates a terrifying and unsettling atmosphere without needing to rely on constant cheap jumpscares (although there are a couple of very well placed ones that really got me good.)
To combat this, Curdin can brew coffee to increase his mental fortitude which is a very clever way to utilise a sanity mechanic. Besides this, means of defending yourself are few and far between. You’ll find a pitchfork, although it is unwieldy and will break if used too often. Eventually you get a rifle but only in the final quarter of the game, and even then it's an old war relic and acts like one too. Normally this would be annoying, but once again it fits the game and everything it’s built up perfectly. It almost begrudgingly gives you ways to defend yourself which you’ll most likely only use in the most dire of circumstances.
I could go on and on about the freshness Mundaun brings to the Survival Horror genre, but we’d be here all day. If you’d like a more indepth look at Mundaun then I suggest checking out this wonderful video by RagnarRox. Mundaun makes Survival Horror beautiful, from its stunning setting and hand drawn textures to its contrast between the downright terrifying and utterly serene, it’s a game that you won’t forget in a hurry.
Mundaun is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC.