Review – Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel
As a sucker for horror games, I’m always looking for that next fix. Luckily, I’ve been able to play a few somewhat recently, from the fantastic new Resident Evil titles to the terrifying Visage. When I first noticed Fobia – St. Findna Hotel from Pulsatrix Studios, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. However, what we got is a pretty surprising survival horror title that is a glorious love letter to the genre’s past, but it’s not without its issues.
You play as a journalist who is investigating the disappearance of people in the area. His investigations take him to a local hotel, which is rumoured to be responsible for the disappearances. Of course things go horribly wrong and you awaken weeks later in a hotel that is destroyed. Not only that, some weird things begin happening as anomalies start occurring when the hotel shifts between two time periods.
It’s pretty standard as far as horror game stories go, and it won’t do much to bring you in. Although, it does do a decent enough job of setting up the gameplay and the mystery behind the hotel. The characters are pretty forgettable- so forgettable in fact that I can’t even remember any of their names. As a whole, the story is fairly unremarkable. Thankfully though, the rest of the game has plenty more to offer.
As you explore the hotel you will be treated to a relatively large and mostly explorable hotel, with plenty of rooms and secrets to find. Fobia‘s unique gimmick is with its camera, which can see through different time periods in the hotel. Can’t find where to go? Pulling up the camera might reveal a secret passage way or hole that wasn’t there before. You will also be able to find more resources this way, so make sure to scour each room thoroughly.
Much of Fobia is spent exploring this desolate hotel and solving its many puzzles. Ranging from simple puzzle boxes to riddles and something a bit more environmental. The puzzles themselves are well-designed. They force you to pay attention to environmental details and use the aforementioned camera to uncover clues, or even the puzzles themselves at times. The level design and puzzles really are the highlight of Fobia‘s gameplay. They showcase some old school survival horror designs, and let you go without needing much guidance.
However, you are not alone in the hotel. Monsters roam the hallways, but thankfully you are armed with a gun very early on. Unfortunately, the combat is the weakest part of Fobia. Enemies barely react to gunfire and it just feels unsatisfying. I will say that it’s at least serviceable enough to add some much needed variety. Boss fights are pretty standard bullet sponges, designed to soak up your precious and rare resources. There is also a giant Nemesis-style enemy that follows you around, but thankfully they are usually kept to scripted chase sequences. I am happy about the addition of combat, but I wish more effort was put into making it feel polished.
Being a survival horror game…. how are the scares? Well, if you played any of the first-person Resident Evil games, you pretty much know what to expect here. It’s fairly tense throughout thanks to a well-designed level layout that has you guessing what’s around the next corner. Running through the hotel to grab a key item, I did get jumpscared by an enemy that spawned nearby. The hotel itself is a wonderfully creepy. Is it the most scary game of all time? Not even close, but it does a solid enough job.
Visually, Fobia is actually much more impressive than I initially expected as well. Running on Unreal Engine 4, Fobia manages to pull together a nicely detailed hotel with plenty of environmental story telling and little details. Its presentation isn’t perfect however, often lacking in first person animation. Sound design is a different story and will fall into the forgettable category with voice acting that ranges from barely passable to just plain bad.
Fobia: St. Dinfna Hotel is much better than I expected it to be. The tense exploration of the hotel calls back to the good old days of Resident Evil. It’s a wonderfully designed location that is easy to get lost in thanks to the little direction, yet still doesn’t feel too obtuse. Unfortunately, the game is let down by some weak combat and a story that is completely forgettable. Even with its shortcomings, it’s still an engaging and tense adventure. If you are looking for a classic survival horror experience, Fobia can provide just that.
The St. Dinfna Hotel is wonderfully detailed with plenty of environmental story telling.
Fobia‘s weak combat isn’t enough to bring down a solid horror experience.
With mediocre voice acting and an un-noteworthy sound design. Fobia drops the ball here.
Fun Factor: 7.0
The St. Dinfna Hotel provides a fantastic horror backdrop that was fun to explore, but occasionally let down by a weak story and combat.
Final Verdict: 7.0
Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel is available now on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S/X.
Reviewed on PC with an RTX 2060, Ryzen 5 3600X and 16GB RAM. Installed on SSD.
A copy of Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel was provided by the publisher.