One of my favorite parts of social sabotage games like Werewolf and Among Us is successfully fooling folks as the hidden agent. In many games, these moments are quick and brutal — a poor, unsuspecting victim finds themselves alone in a room with an impostor for just a minute, and things immediately go wrong. The creators of Dread Hunger, however, make you do things the slow way. It makes the game much tougher, tenser, and overall better.
In Dread Hunger, you set off on a 18th-century ship that breaks down in the Canadian Arctic and play as one of eight crewmates. Each has a certain role on the ship, like chaplain or cook. The characters are on a journey of discovery, but two among them are now thralls to a dark force trapped beneath the ice. The thralls need to stop the survivors from fixing their ship and high-tailing it out of there by any means necessary. The survivors need to gather supplies, fill the boiler with coal, and successfully escape without dying from cold or hunger, or getting killed by a wild animal.
Playing a thrall is a little overwhelming at first because you have many tools in your arsenal. You could find as much coal as you can and then chuck it into the icy cold waters of the ocean so that no one can have it. Or you could poison your friend’s rations, use a bone charm to summon dark magics, or convince a polar bear to chase down the ship’s captain.
One thing you probably should not do is try to beat someone to death, or stab them with a sword.
Dread Hunger aims to be relatively realistic, and that means that murder is slow and messy, and there’s a really solid chance that the guy you’re trying to kill is going to be screaming the entire time. It’s definitely still possible to pull off a murder, especially if you’re alone with a target in a dark cave, but it’s not ideal. If you murder someone on the ship, you have to deal with disposing of their body, and that’s also tough. Everyone in Dread Hunger is just full of blood, and they spray it everywhere like a piñata packed with strawberry jelly, so forensics becomes a big concern.
The end result is a much slower but more cerebral game of cat and mouse. Is the guy crouched next to the stove just trying to cook for the entire crew, or is he poisoning our precious meats? In one game, my colleague Josh Rios was the cook and he protected the stove with his life ... which made things awkward because as a thrall, I had put all of my time and resources into crafting poison. Josh’s paranoia mounted, and I was forced into the shadows for a much slower, messier game.
Another time, I was able to lure a friend into an ice cave by promising them some delicious, hot tea at the end of the passage. Instead, they got hit with a bone club until they died, and it was very dramatic. When instant murder isn’t an option, everything becomes much more chaotic and paranoid, and the results are fantastic.
Dread Hunger is available now on Steam in Early Access.