Imagine waking up in a creepy hotel room with no memory of how you got there. Your head is pounding and worse more, you are locked inside. There is a door that is heavily barred and chained shut, another traditionally locked with a key. You play as Mathew, who got stuck in this mess looking for his sister Shirley. His journey spans six chapters, each one bringing Mathew closer to reuniting with her. Each chapter is represented by a different area of the hotel. You start off in a dank, smelly hotel room and make your way to the hallways, pub, kitchen and office areas, among others. You are taunted by a mysterious man with a fish head, as he dares you to try to save Shirley. What happens in the end of the final chapter is quite unconventional, I’ll admit. Dying: Reborn has been out on Playstation 4 for a while now, it arrives on the Xbox One appropriately on Halloween 2017, but does this creepy tale deserve a rebirth?
Dying: Reborn is played from the first-person perspective and there is no combat. Instead the focus relies on searching areas for items along with clues. Items are added to your inventory where they can be combined, like a handle and shaft to make a screwdriver…or used, like a lock on a keyhole. In addition to picking up items, Mathew can pick up and read a dozen or so notes that are laying around the hotel. These notes sometimes give very useful information like a lock combination and are always worth glancing over. What I enjoy about the gameplay is that everything you need to complete the chapter is in that chapter. I don’t have to worry about backtracking or missing an item from a previous chapter. Whenever I got stuck, it was usually because I overlooked an item or an interaction that lead to an item. Oddly enough I found the first chapter to have the hardest puzzle, it is a piano where you must read the music sheet and play the exact melody. I can’t read music for a lick, so I eventually had to turn to a video guide for the answer. Aside from that puzzle the gameplay felt natural and progressing through a level could easily be accomplished by thoroughly investigating all areas. Without combat or quick time events, in a way it’s like a walking simulator but with a focus on puzzle solving
Presentation wise, Dying: Reborn is a mixed bag. I enjoyed the graphics engine that developer Nekcom Entertainment uses, it adequately shows off the dirty and putrid Last Harbour Family Hotel. Things felt fresh in each chapter thanks to a change in location, and after beating the game I was able to level select any chapter I wished. What could have used more work was the quality of voice acting, especially Mathew. I didn’t have any issues with the main antagonist’s voice actor, but it might have been better to ditch voice work all together, or maybe have a foreign language dub with subtitles. The shoddy voice acting made it hard to connect with Mathew and really care about his character at all. The loading times are also very long, which is annoying when trying to check chapters for missing files.
Controlling Mathew feels as it should with traditional analog stick movements and camera control. I did have a problem with the reticle being very small. There were many times when I equipped an item and tried to use it on something, but the reticle was so small that I had to be extremely precise to get it to work. Any time I misused an item I had to reequip it, which was very annoying. Mapping the inventory to the left bumper also felt like an odd choice as well.
Finishing each of the chapters in the game really varies depending on the players investigative instincts. Some levels might take 30-60 minutes for some, whereas a person using a video guide could finish it in 5 minutes. There is only one way to complete a level, which limits replay value…but some players might go back to find notes that they overlooked. I enjoyed Dying: Rebirth as single play through experience, I was satisfied with the content, but I don’t feel a need to replay the missions again.
I really liked the dark, twisted themes and content in Dying: Reborn. The freedom to move my character and explore made things feel more engaging, as opposed to similar horror games such as Decay: The Mare. I was not a fan of main character Mathew’s voice work or the lengthy loading times. There isn’t much reason to revisit the Last Harbour Family Hotel, but I enjoyed my stay.