Song of Horror redeems itself in a big way after a lackluster third episode only to lose its newly built credit with a game-breaking bug near its conclusion
Genre: Horror, Adventure, Puzzle
Developer: Protocol Games
Publisher: Raiser Games
Release date: 30 January, 2020
Ep. 1 Review
Ep. 2 Review
Ep. 3 Review
Ep. 4 Review
Ep. 5 Review
Song of Horror has been a rollercoaster for me. One moment I’ll be ready to declare it as the best horror game in the last few years, while the next I’ll be bored of a segment or outright frustrated by the technical issues that I’ve come to expect. Episode Four brings a strong showing of the best aspects of Song of Horror but ends up tarnishing the near-perfect experience with a widely experienced bug that prevented myself and others from actually completing it.
The atmosphere has always been one of the strengths of Song of Horror and the Abbey of St. Cecilia is a fantastic recovery from the uninspired university of Episode Three. Having been abandoned a century ago, the setting would have been excellent even before the World War II bombing that makes it ideal for horror with its collapsed and destroyed areas. It set the stage perfectly for an early subtle scare that was one of the best in the entire series; you’ll know when you experience it, just keep your eyes on the damaged areas around you. I do wish there were more scares that were set up to that level of perfection but I’ll take what I can get as it was grade-A and had me convinced this episode was going somewhere great only a short time after getting started on it.
The audio and visual are once again some of the most lovingly crafted in the genre, maybe even in gaming overall. I have yet to have a complaint in this area other than the odd volume spikes that I experienced in some of the death cinematics, though I wasn’t caught by The Presence this time around so I’m unsure if they’re still an issue or if they’ve been patched at this point. The abbey itself was brilliantly designed and I enjoyed exploring and solving its puzzles.
Speaking of puzzles, this may be my favorite episode as far as they’re concerned. They took some though but were rewarding and not needlessly frustrating as some that we’ve experienced prior. I would also apply that same statement to the new Presence mini-game, Protocol Games is clearly learning from its early mistakes and improved the overall feel of these so that they’re no longer an immersion-breaking annoyance (they were my only complaint in my review of Episode One).
Take a Nip of Courage
Song of Horror has a history of varied characters and they’re a balanced mix of hits and misses for me. We’ve had some excellent standouts like Daniel’s ex-wife, Sophie, and some misses in a cookie-cutter stereotype or two that felt like they’d been shoehorned in. Fortunately, the new entry, Ernest Finnegan, falls in with the former group. Ernest may be an Irishman who is (surprise) fond of the pub and the drink it offers, but outside of this he’s quite interesting and is a good friend and fellow archaeologist of Sebastian Husher.
I managed to make it through the entirety of this episode with him and never once regretted the decision; he was written well all-around. You still have the option to play some other familiar faces including Daniel who still has the narratively understandable but unfortunate-for-gameplay restriction of requiring that you restart the entire episode if he ends up being bested by one of the many threats within the abbey.
Just Short of Perfect
Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, there’s a game-breaking bug that many are experiencing that completely locks up your playthrough near the end if you’re playing anyone other than Daniel. Some players have found workarounds for the issue by quitting out, reloading, intentionally killing off characters, and so forth, but none of these were an option for me as one of the key items needed disappeared from my inventory upon reloading. The only option left was the play from the beginning and redo the hours that I’d already put into the game. Not exactly the best conclusion to an otherwise stellar chapter. As a very minor side note, there were also several text-based errors that I encountered along the way, such as bronze being spelled ‘bronce’, which will hopefully be fixed soon as well.
Song of Horror Episode Four met my expectations of what I’d hope for after the first two episodes. Its creepy setting is soaked with atmosphere (both in its visual and audio elements), and its puzzles are challenging to a level of being entertaining but intuitive enough that they don’t become a frustrating time sink. The new character is a strong addition to the cast that I’m looking forward to seeing more of and, although the number of big scares was a bit light, a fantastic and subtly early one has me vouching for this episode all the same. If it weren’t for the bug toward the end of the episode, I would be raving about this one and recommending it to everyone possible. Instead, I’m left recommending this only after the bugs have been exterminated as the forums are full of players who’ve had issues completing the chapter because of them. Protocol Games has shown an ability to learn from their mistakes in the past so I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt here and giving this episode a Save ranking as it’ll be some of their best work once it’s hammered into shape.