Withering Rooms – PS5 Review

From Seattle-based developer Moonless Formless and publisher Perp comes asylum-em-up Withering Rooms. Set in the Mostyn Private Asylum in Monmouth, perhaps modelled in part on the real-life Pen-y-Fal Psychiatric Hospital in nearby Abergavenny. Though given the fact the devs are from the Pacific North-West, perhaps not. There’s also a Mostyn House in Llandudno, but that’s a mere coincidence.

You play as Nightingale, a teenage girl who finds herself admitted with symptoms that aren’t clear at the outset. Bear in mind that asylums were often used if someone was deemed to be wayward or flighty, so it’s entirely possible she has no issues at all.

Billed as a 2.5D horror adventure set in procedurally generated Victorian mansion that changes each night, we got an air of familiarity. Partly due to the crafting system that apes many an RPG as well as reminding us of Resident Evil, Gregory Horror Show and any number of grimy explore ‘em ups. More contemporary comparisons can be drawn from the Little Nightmares we suppose given the hiding mechanic and female protagonist.

Nightingale herself doesn’t talk with the plot exposition left to the myriad NPCs scattered throughout the asylum, chiefly Mostyn’s daughter and the head witch. The former you’ll encounter fairly frequently and the latter acts a bit like a campfire in a Soulsborne game, in that you upgrade via interactions with her. Unlike the From games, your currency is coins and body parts from the enemies you’ll have see off as you explore.

To begin with if you die, you’ll be in trouble and lose all your items. But as you progress, you’ll be able choose what items you retain upon your inevitable death. In our case, we chose a handy hatchet that sees off most of the early enemies you encounter. Just don’t go to the lefthand exit of the main corridor lest you fancy dying almost immediately.

There’s roguelite elements here in terms of your retaining items and abilities upon death, so while you’ll lose your money, death isn’t so terrible as in a Soulsborne. You don’t have a run to retrieve your items for example.

Instead, when you die the dream begins anew with items and enemies reinstated. The only time you can escape death and start again is when you find a crypt with coffin where you can start a new night if you wish for a cost.

Getting down to the combat itself, Nightingale is quite adept at dispatching the lowliest of enemies. It’s when you face tougher enemies that a bit of wit and guile is necessary. You can dodge, with the payoff being an increase in your cursed level. More on that later. You can also use a particular magic item to evade enemies altogether. This is more pertinent when you face behemoths who can end you in a couple of hits. Though in our case we capitalised on the fact that we could hit them, run away through a doorway they couldn’t follow through, then cheese it and whittle away at their health.

The minimap, accessed via the touch bar, shows each room and whether you’ve uncovered all the collectibles and secrets in said room. It’s a really fun implementation and makes it easy to see what’s going on at a glance and whether you need to backtrack or not. You can also peek through keyholes to see if any enemies are lurking on the other side. It’s handy to work out whether you can see off whoever is in there too.

There’s an interesting crafting system that you’ll be picking up ingredients for as you progress, you can make all manner of consumables such as a magic shield or a cursed doorway that stops enemies from following through a doorway. Or if they do they will be afflicted. That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to crafting anyway.

Once you’ve seen off the somewhat annoying first major boss, you’ll be let loose in the maze that lies in the grounds of the asylum. It’s here the cursed aspect comes into play. If you try to play by keeping your cursed level down, you won’t get very far. So you have to get your cursed level up to see hidden exits to the next areas that would be otherwise hidden.

This is a double-edged sword, as while you might have a lot of health and be otherwise hail and hearty, your being close to the cursed limit mean that all it takes is an enemy hit or two for you to reach the limit and succumb. It’s a bit harsh, but you’re given a hint upon entering the maze. You can reduce your cursed level by using a candle to do so. You won’t get far without taking this advice on board.

We found Withering Rooms mostly fun in the early stages, as succumbing to an enemy didn’t feel too punitive. But once you get to the maze and beyond it feels like you’re very much on the back foot after dying. The shrines that let you retain items help a bit and at least you don’t have to retrieve your items otherwise.

Ultimately, we didn’t mind Withering Rooms all that much, but neither did we find ourselves particularly engaged. Admittedly this reviewer had a marathon coming up so that took precedent a little, but a game needs to get its hooks into us a bit more for us to play more these days.

Withering Rooms is a fair 2.5D roguelite exploration game. We quite liked it and will probably return once we get a bit of downtime. It’s alright. It’s OK to be alright. At least it’s not mediocre, too many games are these days.

Withering Rooms
7 Overall
+ Good sense of place and scenario
+ Lore is filled out well by finding artifacts
+ The cursed mechanic works well
+ Combat is satisfying
- Didn’t massively get its hooks into us
- Another mute protagonist with no apparent backstory
- The cursed mechanic can make for cheap deaths
- Can be a bit harsh on death
Withering Rooms is a fair 2.5D roguelite exploration game that we found interesting enough at the outset, but it didn’t really get its claws particularly deep into us. It’s very much a game to while away a wet afternoon with, but if it’s sunny out you’ll find something more fun to do, like fixing your Flymo for example.


About Ian

Ian likes his games weird. He loves his Vita even if Sony don't anymore. He joined the PS4 party relatively late, but has been in since day one on PS5.

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