On Saturday October 12th, Tymus Tenk and Truck Meredith invited me to see their 2013 Halloween Experience, Veil of Darkness a little ahead of opening it to group members to preview on Sunday October 13th. A full public opening is scheduled for Monday October 14th, and if you’re into Halloween, horror, the macabre or simply like a little spookiness, this is something you are not going to want to miss.
You start at the side of a road. Before you is a bridge, albeit bordered by information boards (one of which contains important information intended to help you enjoy the experience to the fullest). Make sure you accept the region windlight and, if you can, turn on Advanced Lighting Model (ALM: Preferences > Graphics > Advanced Lighting Model) – you can leave Shadows set to None. If ALM causes your computer problems, trying setting local time to Midnight.
Before you is a path winding through a woodland. Your goal – follow it and make your way to the brooding, dark mass of a castle on high and once there, find the door which will return you to the relative safety of the start-point. But don’t expect this to be a simple night-time hike; as my friend in the picture above shows, there are things to see here, and not all of them may be friendly. There are also places to explore, such as the village of the damned, the Halloween pavilion or the castle itself, as well as things to do, including a tour through a part of the region by raft.
Veil of Darkness is wonderfully immersive. As well as setting ALM (if you can) and windlight, make sure you have sounds on and allow the region’s audio stream to play. Truck has hand-picked the music for the stream, and it greatly adds depth and feeling to your explorations.
The routes you can take in your wanderings many be easy to find – or they may not. As the region is intentionally dark (another reason for keeping Shadows set to None when wandering), you may want to tweak the brightness on your screen a little. Keep an eye out for the torches which mark some of the route, and for paths through the trees and for boarded walkways; all of lead somewhere. Make sure you touch the things you pass in places. Not all of them bite. Some may even treat you :).
The level of creativity Ty and Truck have invested in this build is phenomenal, and the care and love employed in bringing it all together is evident everywhere – hence why I refer this to an experience, rather than a destination. The more fully you can immerse yourself in it, the more you’ll enjoy it. In fact, it’s fair to say that while it wasn’t built with Oculus Rift in mind, it would be ideal for use with the headset.
As you explore, you’ll get the feeling eyes are watching you – or at least, eye sockets – and you’d be right. Here be monsters, ogres, witches, zombies, and other creatures of the night(mare) – some of which have far more than the usual two eyes one generally expects to find in others… There are also some delightful touches of humour to be found which will raise a small (or a wail!), and which are fully in keeping with the theme of the region. Keep an eye out for Bambi and his, um, friend, for example!
Finding your way to the castle is not hard – and there is certainly no need to fly or click-teleport to get there. Rather, the fun of the walk is discovering all there is to see. I spent two hours roaming around, and still found more to see when I returned after reluctantly dragging myself off to bed. So the key is to take your time. Especially in the castle.
Perched on a plateau overlooking the rest of the region, the castle is a foreboding place, reached via a long bridge. Here you will need to watch your step – literally – if you are to find your way. And if footsteps fail, a guiding hand may just help with directions. Or not.
Within the cold, hard stone of the castle are rooms and passages, each with its own secrets to be discovered. Finding your way up to the top may take time, but it is worth it. Once there you will find a Wonderland, although the Cheshire Cat might not be quite so friendly as you’d been lead to believe from certain books. You might even find yourself in conversation with Malice in Wonderland, if she’s available.
It is in this room that the door to freedom is hid. But can you find it? The clue is there, as anyone with an inkling for Alice’s encounters should realise – if not quite right away. If you are stuck as to where it might be, there are at least comfortable armchairs and a sofa to sit on … and one or two objects inviting you to touch them. Will you dare?
Veil of Darkness opens on Monday October 14th and will remain so through until the start of November. As well as being open to exploration by the intrepid, it will also host some Halloween events – so keep an eye on the Calas Galadhon website.