The Shore by Ares Dragonis
The Shore is a first-person adventure game steeped in Lovecraftian lore. Its story follows Andrew, a confused and desperate man looking for his lost daughter on an island that is only the tip of an iceberg filled with cosmic entities, hidden secrets, and unfathomable horrors. With a variety of twisted environments to explore and an assortment of puzzles to solve, The Shore strives to offer a worthy narrative for fans of the cosmic horror subgenre and Lovecraft’s creations in particular.
Mist and Mystery
The story of The Shore is secondary only to its atmosphere. Andrew, a fisherman, is stranded on an eerie island and is looking for his lost daughter. Little context is provided beyond this, but it is enough to serve as a foundation for the exploration that follows.
I was pleased to find that developer Ares Dragonis knows how to wield suspense; I find horror lands more effectively when the pacing is right. Early sections of the game slowly introduce a sense of something vast and unknowable lurking around the island, and environmental storytelling is used to good effect. I particularly enjoyed the contents of a lighthouse found early in Andrew’s adventure.
The Shore uses a mix of challenges to populate the journey between moments of discovery and narrative revelation. Puzzles are seeded throughout the game and I found these to range between fun little time fillers and, unfortunately, simple to the point of being monotonous. A couple do require creative thinking whilst, by contrast, one or two simply rely on finding an item placed in a seemingly random location nearby.
Action sequences become more frequent later in the story and these range from nail-biting to a tad irritating. The latter is usually due to the reliance on slowing down pursuing enemies while fleeing in the opposite direction (rarely a fun way to navigate). That said, this does a good job of providing a sense of dread and danger and it isn’t used too often. I think more creative problems and less direct combat would have served to provide more opportunities to really take in the superb environments.
An Uncaring Cosmic Void That Maybe Cares a Little
These environments are expertly designed, and some are truly the stuff of nightmares. As I delved deeper into The Shore, I was delighted to find that the developer has really tuned into the kind of bizarre, twisted hidden worlds that cosmic horror evokes. Some locations feel like they would make even H.R. Giger’s skin crawl. These areas are often populated by unique, distinct, but never fully explained features, and this does a great job of creating some memorable moments.
Unfortunately, this is contrasted somewhat by the core narrative itself. Andrew’s plight is terrible and his adventure is reasonably compelling, but some of the entities he faces seem to be a little too invested in his journey. I’ve always found cosmic horror works best when founded on mystery. More specifically, cosmic horror is at its best when the incomprehensible forces driving the human protagonists to the edge of madness are entirely indifferent to them. The terror lies not in a sense of malevolence or hostility but in the vast unknown and the possibility that the things beyond the edges of consciousness are, by their very nature, destructive to the sanity of rational minds.
The entities portrayed in The Shore seem all too interested in Andrew, and he interacts a little too directly with them for my tastes.
Unnerving and Unearthly
The visuals and music of The Shore are absolutely superb. The soundtrack in particular is worthy of commendation; twisted, unearthly melodies ensure that key moments throughout the narrative hit hard with an unnerving tone whilst later on epic discoveries are partnered with grand swells in the soundtrack. The Shore does an excellent job of creating a rich atmosphere for its grim world.
The Shore is a superb and engaging horror title that crafts a forlorn and memorable world with style. I wonder if it might have served The Shore to pay less homage to Lovecraft and instead go its own way with the nightmares it introduces; later in the adventure, it can begin to feel like a tour of Lovecraftian staples and so loses a little of its mystique.
That said, The Shore dives fully into its chosen genre and offers a short but striking adventure that will grip the minds of any daring to gaze into its depths.
The Shore is available via Steam.
Watch the trailer for The Shore below: