Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel Review

Sometimes I’ll scout around the internet looking at the odd bit of obscure gaming news here or there, I might catch a trailer that piques my interest, or maybe a leak will show off something that I cannot get my interests away from. Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel was the last game to do this to me after a demo of it caught my eye on the Steam storefront some time ago. Now the full release has rocked up and it’s time to get back to my platform of choice and tell you all about my time within possibly the creepiest hotel in existence.

To give you an early resemblance, Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel is a survival horror game that feels a lot like that of the popular horror hit (and one of my all-time favorite games) Resident Evil 7. The game is played from a first-person viewpoint and with inventory management and puzzle solving playing a huge part throughout along with some super creepy monsters, it’s not surprising to see how I’d come to this comparison.

Fobia pits players into the shoes of fresh-on-the-job investigative journalist Roberto, who after an email exchange with a concerned individual decides to jump on a boat and take a trip to the hotel to investigate the various mysteries which have seen other investigators go missing whilst on the hunt for answers. After a night in the hotel, however, it doesn’t take long for things to go wrong, your contact has suddenly gone quiet, strange portals are opening up allowing for passage through areas you really wouldn’t want to be going, and a little girl with a gas mask insists on making terrifying appearances when you least expect it. Your job in all of this is to figure out just what on earth is happening.

Like many similar games within the genre, many paths of progression are blocked by a locked door, or inaccessible area that requires a certain item, or a hidden code to unlock, and via the use of your supernatural camera that is capable of unlocking new paths and doors that were never there before when used through the manipulation of different timelines, and of course plenty of backtracking like good old school horror games like to employ, you’ll slowly but surely make your way through the most terrifying hotel we’ve probably ever seen.

Early on most of what you’ll experience is incredible storytelling and intriguing gameplay through good writing and clever puzzles, but eventually, you’ll find enemies thrown into the mix too, and whilst they certainly do the job of looking incredibly creepy, it has to be said they aren’t the best part of Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel. In fact, if anything the combat is probably the least favourable thing about the entire experience.

That’s not to say what we have here is a bad game in any way, but when you go from intriguing and rather clever puzzles, to simply blasting away pistol rounds at countless enemies, the focus undoubtedly shifts onto action and Fobia is a game that does the quiet and eerie much better than the all-out action.

One thing to note within the game is that saving isn’t something you can just do whenever you want, there are certain places to save and should you rush ahead it is easy to find yourself losing 15 or 20 minutes of progression which can be frustrating should you have finally figured out what to do next or finally got yourself away from being lost only to be thrown back into the thick of it thanks to a bad move, so with that in mind, this is, like most classic old school horrors, a game in which you’ll want to save after every and any bit of progress.

One area in which I cannot stress positivity enough are the puzzles, with players rewarded for reading notes and piecing together bits of information in what are some of the best puzzles we’ve seen in a horror game for some time. Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel is a game that takes the best of Resident Evil and Silent Hill puzzling and mashes them together for a modern-day horror mix and it is glorious, to say the least.

Another Resi-esque feature of Fobia is the presence of an unkillable enemy that pursues you at multiple stages of the game. This isn’t something that you’ll face 24/7, however it goes without saying that these are incredibly tense moments when you’re being followed through a dilapidated and worn hotel. The fact that these moments aren’t permanent ensure that the game keeps its scare factor rather than becoming an annoyance, especially when heading backward and forwards for that lost key needed for progression.

Onto the visuals and if screenshots haven’t sold it to you already, then let me tell you that for an indie adventure with a smaller budget, Fobia is a game that can raise it with the big boys of the videogame visuals. From the opening moments to the final seconds, the sense of decay and misery seep from the walls and world objects better than most horror films can even manage and with incredible attention to detail to almost every item, it seems there is no part that feels untouched from the design team behind the game. Mix this with the fantastic soundtrack and well-timed sound effects and you come to see that Fobia – St. Dinfna Hotel is possibly one of the best indie horror titles we’ll see this year.

Conclusion

Overall, whilst the combat could be improved, and if I’m being picky the enemy types could have been expanded upon, the 10–12-hour playtime is worth investing if you enjoy horror and want something refreshing to give you a scare. There may have been multiple horrors to have arrived recently, but this one certainly stands up there as one of the better releases of 2022, whilst the story is one that sticks in the mind from the opening moments and continues after the controller goes down at the end of the evening.

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This game was reviewed based on Xbox S|X review code, using an Xbox S|X console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.

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Good
  • Reminiscent of old school horror classics
  • Incredible visuals
  • Intriguing story
  • Fantastic puzzles
Bad
  • Is it too cheeky to ask for more monster variety?
  • Combat isn't as enjoyable as it could be
8.8
Great
Written by
After many years of dabbling and failing in Dark Souls and many other equally brutal gaming adventures, I can now be found in a state of relaxation, merely hunting for a little extra gamerscore or frightening myself with the latest Resident Evil - Sometimes I write about it too!

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