The most disturbing eldritch creatures from the bestiary of World of Horror

World of Horror is one of the most original horror games of this year. Strong of a peculiar art-style, important references to horror manga, and a system inspired by retro text-based RPGs, World of Horror created a unique and disturbing universe for modern horror-RPGs. The cosmic horror typical of Lovecraft meets the aesthetic and the creatures of Japanese horror manga, such as the works of Junji Ito or Kazuo Umezu, creating the perfect melting-pot for creepy and disturbing creatures.

Grotesque ghosts, cursed cultists, unthinkable abomination, and ancient eldritch gods surround the small town at the center of all the events of the game. There are bosses and random encounters, and the battles occur using a classic turn-based system. The entities can hurt the player’s Stamina or Reason, based on their background, while the stronger abominations can damage both. Cryptic creatures will not damage directly the player, but will increase Doom, a doomsday counter, difficult to reset, which will awake the Old Gods when reaching 100%, causing of course Game Over. Worth to specify that ghosts and other intangibles entities are immune to physical damage, and can be mainly defeated by guessing the correct ritual. World of Horror is a rogue-lite game with a heavy random component. To face all the monsters, the player needs to finish the game multiple times.

In the following article, I will describe the most disturbing, grotesque, and interesting creatures from World of Horror. The game is still in Early Access, so more creatures will be added in future updates. However, even now the bestiary is very generous, with more than 50 disturbing enemies. Probably this article will also expand and update following the final release of World of Horror, including even more twisted and eldritch abominations.

  • Scissor Woman

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The first boss of the game and one of the most amazing designs, the Scissor Woman is an innovative interpretation of a classic Japanese urban legend. Three faces are vertically fused, with a giant and grotesque smile working as a bridge between the heads. The rest of the body is just a normal woman dressed in a long coat. As the name suggests, she fights using long and sharp scissors, a dangerous foe able to inflict an insane amount of damage.

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The Scissor Woman has 3 different forms, each more difficult than the other. The human form can be faced by performing the correct ritual during the case. A wrong ritual will instead summon the Horror version of the boss, definitively a tougher battle. The Burned version is more rare and can be faced only by burning the school as result of the ending of a previous case. In this case, not only her face is a grotesque nightmare, but the flesh is also burned and fused together, creating probably the creepier manifestation of this boss.

  • Puppet Matron

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A group of three hideous and grotesque dolls, which were hiding in the wardrobe of an ancient mansion. Their faces are like bloated and sweating, looking more organic than it should be. The two dolls behind look more submissive and scared, also missing the eyes, compared with the one in the middle. The matron looks definitively more dangerous and dominating than the other two. She is holding a knife and is not afraid of using it. The creature can slightly damage both Stamina and Reason, affecting both body and mind. The creature is probably inspired by Jean Pierre, the puppet from Junji Ito’s House of Marionettes.

  • Class of 1971

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Definitively this is a unique and disturbing creature, with a simple but effective design. The story behind this monstrosity is rooted in the tragic accident of the class of 1971. All the kids of the infamous class felt inside the sea while taking a group picture. Till now, the bodies were never recovered. The collective creature is an amorphous amalgam of the drowned bodies, a grotesque creature missing any trait, except for several limbs. The monster can be faced only as a random encounter in the seaside. It is a tough enemy, considering that it is not a boss, which can damage both Stamina and Reason.

Class of 1971 could be inspired by Kazuo Umezu’s work, more than Junji Ito’s ones.

  • Ribcage Woman

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What can be more disturbing than a woman having a ribcage opening directly inside her face? If you are looking at the picture, the answer is probably “very few things”. The creature is odd and grotesque, an enigmatic being outside of any logic. She is quite weak and not very dangerous, damaging the body of her victims. There is no explanation for her terrible state, or why her face is a mass of flesh and bones, she is just a mysterious creature emerging from the darkness of a forest. Another secret of World of Horror.

  • Drowner Sponge

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The disturbing creature at the beginning appears only as a rock lying on the seaside. At a closer look, the abomination is revealed. The name and the description (“It needs another body now”) imply that the black spongy mass full of mouths is a sort of parasitic entity, which uses dead bodies to move around. The Drowner Sponge is a creature probably living in the oceans, preying on the people swimming, drowning them to then control their bodies. The creature is tough but weak, relying mostly on its disturbing appearance to damage the mind of the victims outside the water.

An interesting detail is that the creature was before called the “Bondage Demon” with concept and head-design completely different.

  • Dream Devourer

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Dream Devourer is one of the most cryptic and dangerous entities of World of Horror. Cosmic abomination defying reality and sanity, the creature is an invisible force feeding on the dreams of its victims. The Dream Devourer is responsible for a series of unexplained comas, of course, related to the victims that it is feeding on. The Dream Devourer can be faced only by retrieving a specific powder, which will reveal its presence while feeding on a comatose subject. The worm-like creature is otherworldly, with an empty face full of void and glyph, while the body is slimy and naked. The real mystery behind this creature will be revealed only after defeating it: the long worm-like body is connected directory to a huge mass in the sky. The Dream Devoured is not a monster, but just a part of it, like a finger of a gigantic hand! The battle is also one of the most challenging in the game: the creature is highly-resistant and able to heavily-damage both the mind and the body of its victims.

The Dream Devourer is heavy-inspired by Juni Ito’s Long Dream, not for the design of the creature, but more for the background related to dreams inducing coma.

  • Tatoru

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A chaotic mass of fur, teeth, and dirt, disgusting in the appearance but not very dangerous. The floating entity lives in the woods, hanging on trees or telephone poles, just a hairy ball ready to drop on its victims. The creature is unable to inflict direct harm, but with its only presence, Tatoru will speed up the awakening of the Great Ones, increasing Doom at each turn.

  • Forgotten Specimen

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A twisted and grotesque mass of flesh, devoid of any consistent shape. In the amorphous conglomerate of flesh, the only distinguishable thing is an intense spiral pattern. If the creature was part of a bigger being, it is now a mystery, since this is only a biological sample stored in the school lab. However, I could speculate how this is only a sentient sample of Oetaru (see below), due to the similarities. A teacher killed himself with a knife in front of the mysterious jar, highlighting how the creature is probably able to irradiate suicidal impulses. This is consistent with its way of attacking, since the creature can only damage Reason. However, regardless of how creepy and mysterious it could look, the Forgotten Specimen is a weak and easy fight.

The spiral pattern is, of course, a strong connection with Uzumaki, probably the most famous Junji Ito’s story.

  • Bloated Swimmer

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There is nothing so original about the background of this creature, basically it is just a ghost or a ghoul infesting a swimming pool. But its design is so mysterious and creepy, so I feel that the Bloated Swimmer should be here. The body is wet and partially bloated, while the face is hidden in shadows, increasing the sense of dreadful mystery of the creature. Judging from the silhouette, the creature is bold, with big sparkling eyes. The bloating of the drowned body looks weirdly wrong, like if the female creature is somehow pregnant, more than simply bloated. As previously said, the Bloated Swimmer is a sort of ghoul living at night in the school swimming pool, drowning the people wandering there. The battle against this creature is an easy one, since its attacks are weak and its body fragile.

  • Oetaru

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Here we are entering the world of colossal cosmic abominations. Oetaru is an old and forgotten god living underground, and probably the only one that can be directly challenged in World of Horror. Just to better understand the size of the monster, the small background behind is a city, with also a lighthouse far on the horizon. The part that we can see of Oetaru is a mass of twisted flesh, a sort of colossal tentacle emerging from the ground below the city. The battle is of course impossible to win, the colossal creature cannot be damaged by any mortal weapons. The only way to survive is to escape or to sacrifice an ally, to please the old gods back to its slumber. Oetaru will not directly harm the main character, but will quickly speed up the Doom clock toward an early Game Over. In this case, the creature will kill the player by causing a massive sound wave.

The spiral pattern is again a strong reference to Uzumaki. But the references are not ending here, since Oetaru also clearly resembles the final form of the entity in Ito’s work.

Interview with Chris Bourassa, co-founder of Red Hook Studios and Creative Director of Darkest Dungeon

Darkest Dungeon is one of the most original and innovative dark RPGs ever. The addictive gameplay, the incredible art-style and the horror elements, created the perfect formula for a game that defined a new genre. As the name suggests, this is a really dark RPG, with strong horror components rooted in an unforgiving and complex system. Permanent death, mental and physical diseases, balance of light and darkness, Darkest Dungeon really knows how to perfectly integrate horror elements into a modern RPG. Worth also to specify that the world of Darkest Dungeon is one of the most original dark fantasy settings, from every abomination lurking in the darkness to the original classes.

With the recent announcement of Darkest Dungeon 2, the series is back to bring horror and despair upon the players. I had the opportunity to chat with Chris Bourassa, co-founder of Red Hook Studios and creative director of Darkest Dungeon. With more than 14 years of experience as art director and concept artist for several videogames, series and also pen-and-paper games, Chris is not only co-creator of Darkest Dungeon, but also the main artist behind the distinctive art-style of the game.

His answers provide information on how Darkest Dungeon was born, about his art-style, and also some details about a very interesting unreleased creature (which I really hope to see in the sequel). If you are like me, craving for news regarding the sequel, the following interview is the perfect reason to dig even more in the lore and the secrets of Darkest Dungeon.

Q1: I would like to thank you for the opportunity of interacting with you. Darkest Dungeon (DD) became in the last year a new reference for dark RPGs, with many games inspired by its art-style and mechanics. How the idea of Darkest Dungeon was born?

A1: Darkest Dungeon began as a series of loose sketches I would chip away at on my bus rides.  It struck me that that power in games is represented primarily through more and more elaborate gear.  However, in reality, it’s the willingness to fight, rather than the rarity of the sword that is the mark of a hero. Tyler Sigman and I sought to explore a more subversive take on the traditional RPG tropes – one that embraced the idea that heroes are human – have flaws, weaknesses, and shortcomings.

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Q2: The gorgeous art-style of DD is also something that contributed to the mainstream success of the game, something really unique that now defines a new style by itself (often you can read around “Darkest Dungeon style”). Why did you decide to use this particular art-style to portray the world of DD? Which are the main influences in your style?

A2: I had spent many years working in a variety of styles, generally more painterly.  However, I decided Darkest Dungeon needed a look that would reinforce its central themes.  Hard edges reflect the uncompromising choices a player is faced with, and the pooling black suggest ever encroaching disaster. I looked at a lot of illuminated manuscripts, medieval woodcuts, and modern comics including Mike Mignola’s Hellboy and Guy Davis’ The Marquis.  The latter being my favourite graphic novel of all time! All of these ideas and influences helped me craft a style that was morbid, but iconic.  I like to think that despite the subject matter, there’s still some ‘fun’ injected into the work.

Q3: There are many interesting references inside DD, but personally I love how you integrated in an original and personal way concepts from Lovecraft in the world of DD. Why did you choose Lovecraft’s myths as one of the main references for DD? Was there something “Lovecraftian”, such a tale or a setting, that you truly wanted to introduce, but at the end you were not able to?

A3: What appealed to us most was cosmic horror.  We didn’t want to make a Lovecraftian game, we wanted to make our own dark corner of the earth, and work with Lovecraftian themes like the cosmic insignificance of man.  I will confess that the story ‘Rats in the Walls’ was a touchstone for the narrative set up of the game, but we consciously avoided established nomenclature and specific creatures/references from Lovecraft.  By this time, all the DLC has come out, and I can’t say that we left much on the cutting room floor!

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Q4: DD implements several mechanics maybe more common in horror games, from sanity, to light/darkness management and permanent death. Why did you implement these features into DD? How these mechanics are integrated into the world you created?

A4: It was important that our game feel like high stakes poker – the player is playing with her best characters, each of whom represent a certain amount of time investment.  Permadeath in this context helps increase the tension and player engagement. Other mechanics, light torchlight help sell the feeling of dread and pressure – crucial to creating a good horror experience.

Q5: Fantasy RPGs are often quite standardized and can be easily full of stereotypes, especially regarding the heroes/classes. However, when the majority of the games have the Mage and the Paladin, Darkest Dungeon was really able to create unique and interesting classes, such as the Plague Doctor, the Grave Robber or the Hound Master. How did you came up with the idea to go far from the standard fantasy stereotypes? 

A5: Establish tropes carry a lot of expectation with them from audiences – that’s part of their appeal.  However, it can create dissonance when those expectations aren’t met. We explicitly decided to avoid standard RPG nomenclature and character classes wherever possible – the tropes themselves can really box in creative thinking.  If I tell you we have a Rogue in our game, but that the Rogue can’t turn invisible, doesn’t backstab, and has a pistol instead of dual daggers, your response would probably be “…that’s not a great Rogue.” But, if I tell you it’s a Highwayman, suddenly, as a creator, I’m free to dictate what makes this character cool, unconstrained by your expectations.  Additionally, the sense of discovery a player experiences as they learn about these new character classes is an engaging and refreshing journey!

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Q6: Still regarding the heroes/classes, which is your favourite hero and why?

A6: I like them all 🙂

I think I identify most with the Highwayman – something about the practical jack-of-all-trades brawler appeals to me.  I referenced The Shadow when coming up with his design, and I like the mystery that the bandanna brings. That said, the Leper and Plague Doc were milestones for us in terms of how we thought about our classes. 

Q7: DD was one of the finest example of a good use of the Early Access (EA). For the fans that didn’t follow the game since EA, what was the mechanic that changed the most from EA to the final release?

A7: Enemy corpses and skill/trinket balance are the things that changed most throughout our stint in Early Access.  Obviously, we added a ton of content as well, but as far as gameplay-oriented changes, those were the big ones.

Q8: DD is famous to be a challenging and unforgiving game, with a deep system difficult to master. Did you have some challenges yourself while testing the game?

A8: The biggest challenge we faced was getting the actual game finished!  Our team was small, and everyone worked extremely hard. There were periods of elation, periods of despair.  We had children born, and loved ones pass away. It was an intense, exhausting, and profoundly rewarding time in our lives.  We even began referring to our current state of mind in game terms, admitting when we were stressed, ‘afflicted’, or celebrating when someone over delivered by telling them they passed their stress-check!

Q9: DD is a unique game also for the design of the enemies. From the Collector to the Swine Prince, each boss battle is unique and interesting both for design and mechanics. How did you create these creatures and what inspired you the most during the process? Was there a creature you really wanted to introduce, but at the end was cut-out from the final release?

A9: The monsters and bosses were great fun to design and draw.  Often times they were built ‘theme-first’ – that is, the Hag and her pot was such a great visual that we figured out how to make the mechanics work after the fact [Figure Below].

I had an idea for a schoolteacher whose classroom was full of desiccated corpses tied to their chairs.  If you let him complete the lesson, he’d drive you mad. It was a cool idea. Actually now that I think about it, maybe we’ll put that in the sequel!

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Final Remarks

I would really like to thank Chris for his courtesy and kindness. It was really interesting to discover the complex processes behind the developing of such important game, and I am sure that fans of dark RPGs will appreciate too. As many others, I am really looking forward to discover which new classes and terrible abominations will be available in Darkest Dungeon. While waiting for the sequel, I suggest to the readers to try Darkest Dungeon, which is available for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, PlayStation Vita, and Xbox One.

“Cthulhu Mythos RPG The Sleeping Girl of the Miasma Sea” review: fight or flight in a horror JRPG inspired by Sweet Home

Cthulhu Mythos RPG The Sleeping Girl of the Miasma Sea (or Cthulhu Mythos RPG to simplify) is not only one of the games with the longest name ever, but an unexpected call back to the first horror JRPG ever created: Sweet Home. For people that doesn’t know it, Sweet Home was a game created by Capcom in 1989 for NES. If the plot was merely about a TV crew trapped in a haunted mansion, the game has instead really unique gameplay elements, such for example the permanent death of the party characters. Thanks to strong horror elements and a punishing gameplay, Sweet Home is still remembered as the precursor of modern horror games.

Many years after, Cthulhu Mythos RPG could be intended as an indie spiritual sequel to Sweet Home. From the aesthetic, to the complex gameplay focused on the correct amount of horror elements, many things in Cthulhu Mythos RPG are a homage to Sweet Home. But there are also many new interesting and complex mechanics to provide to Cthulhu Mythos RPG its own identity. Cthulhu Mythos RPG is apparently part of a series of indie JRPG quite famous in Japan, but this one is the only one that got translated to English. However, the saga looks interesting, so I hope that also the next entries will be translated. Just by looking at the main art, I feel curious to check the other titles.

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As for Sweet Home, also in this case, the plot is really an accessory. Four teenagers decide to challenge their braveness by exploring a haunted house, and of course things will go wrong. The characters are not very deep in terms of personality, from the scared schoolkids to the mysterious policeman, but are instead very different and peculiar in terms of skills and utility in combat. A girl knowing karate could become lethal if equipped with a brass knuckles, while a bizarre nerd can easily learn new magic and possess an item that allows to save everywhere. There are lot of possibilities and combinations, and it is exactly in these role-playing elements that Cthulhu Mythos RPG really shines.

The skills are a deep and interesting feature, able to create a variegate and replayable experience. Not only different characters have different skills, but also at the very beginning of the game, the player can select between a huge lists of skills to create the main character. They are very variegated for utility and applicability, with some of them that are useful in combat, others to avoid enemies, to explore easily or to access to new areas or events. For example, Martial Arts allows the player to be deadly in combat, while Hide or Navigator are useful to escape from combats. But the most interesting skills are the one that allow specific access to otherwise hidden areas, such as Jump, Climb or Swim. These skills also improve the replayability in another run, since a different party could access to different areas in a new play.

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The game also features a sort of internal system of achievements. The interesting thing is that each achievement has points associated, based on the difficulty to obtain it, which will increase the starting points used to select skills. The more the achievements obtained, the more the points during the character creation.

Cthulhu Mythos RPG has even more features that improve the replayability. For example, during the dialogues, the player must often decide how to advance in the game. The choices are quite important and heavy, not only selecting the characters composing the party, but also to decide which area to explore. This means that, in a single play-through, the player could not explore all the areas or the events, since many decisions are mutually exclusive. The multiple branches also affect the ending and, according to the forums, the game features around 4 endings. Worth to specify that there is also a powerful secret boss that can be challenged only after obtaining all the endings.

The combat system is simple but anyway satisfying, and players with enough knowledge of old school JRPG will instantly feel at home, with turn-based combats and random encounters. If each character has his own core skills, it is also true that they could learn new spells by using books, or could be personalized by equipping new weapons. The monsters are very interesting, with a nice pixel art. If at the beginning they are more Gothic inspired, such as Zombies or ghosts, or grotesque things, such as a Mass of Cockroaches, later in the game they will evolve into more Lovecraftian creatures.

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The weapons are also interesting and quite deep. Handguns and bows uses ammo, while silver weapons are the only ones that can damage ghosts. In Cthulhu Mythos RPG the health is not the most vital parameter, but it is instead the Sanity. Facing a monster for the first time, or specific skills of the most creepy creatures, will damage the Sanity. When this will receive too many damages, the characters will go crazy. It is important to heal Sanity promptly with items, or it could be too late. The Sanity of the party could be also damaged while exploring, for example after finding something terrible and shocking.

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Cthulhu Mythos RPG could also be consider a survival horror, not only for the Sanity system, but also for the items management. Each character has only few spaces available to collect items. When burdened, old items could be left on the floor to be collected again lately.

In Cthulhu Mythos RPG, running away and escaping from the mansion are a real and often suggested possibility, especially in a game featuring the permanent death of the characters. By running away, the player can start again the game by keeping all the levels and the knowledge collected. This feature is very interesting and useful. Your party went half-crazy? Run away and try to face the mansion again. Normal difficulty is not so challenging, but in Hard Mode this feature could be very useful.

The game is not perfect, especially from the aesthetic point of view, which is very simple. The backgrounds and the rooms are sadly empty and void, making often very difficult to navigate the mansion, especially without a map. The music and the dialogues are also very minimalist. However, fans of old school horror RPGs will find in Cthulhu Mythos RPG an interesting indie title. The new mechanics, such as the legacy mode, the different endings and choices, are very interesting and will keep the game balanced and replayable.

The developers provided a free key for the review. I would like to remember that the English version of Cthulhu Mythos RPG The Sleeping Girl of the Miasma Sea is available on STEAM.