The Shore is a surreal horror story that transports players to a mysterious island dominated by Lovecraftian forces. This is usually a recipe for success. The Lovecraft mythos, while seeing a few sort-of successes in the gaming realm, is still rich with untapped depths and themes desperate for exploration. And to The Shore‘s credit, it does capture the imagery of the mythos very well. The lone lighthouse looking out over a barren, rocky isle. The small hints of something very wrong beneath the dead surface. These powerfully isolating images quickly give way to the bizarre, the alien, the unknowable. At first it’s just glimpses of something covered in tentacles, disappearing as soon as you lay eyes on it.
And then you solve a simple puzzle at the foot of an ominous looking obelisk and it gets up and casually walks away on huge, clawed feet. There was something so eerie about that scene – almost capturing the feeling that you’re doing something wrong – and then it slides into awkward slapstick. The Shore does not spend nearly enough time setting the scene. It’s so keen to start ticking off all the stuff on its ‘Lovecraft-inspired’ checklist, and that unfortunately scuppers the atmosphere almost instantly.
Lovecraft mythos has to be built up to. There has to be a descent into madness – the character questioning whether what they’re seeing is real or not. Without that suspense, they’re literally just aliens, and that really deals a blow to any aspiring horror story. It doesn’t help that our protagonist barely makes any commentary on the bizarre visions or maddening monsters he sees, just plodding along aimlessly to the next objective. And plod he does – considering how much of The Shore involves walking back and forth, the movement speed is another thing that feels oddly paced. It all kind of gels together into something mildly dissatisfactory. Like an undercooked burger at a barbecue.
Plot is delivered environmentally – you’ll find scattered notes and letters in bottles which give little trickles of backstory. Our character’s main focus is finding his missing daughter, but obviously the island has plenty of other plans. It promises puzzles and combat, but these aren’t exactly strong additions. The Shore would have done much better as a straight up walking simulator without bolting on the extra features. Puzzles largely revolve around pushing buttons or just bringing an item from one place to another. And the combat is just an exercise in frustration, feeling more like a delay tactic to stop you casually strolling to the end of the game.
The environments are probably The Shore‘s strongest element, though nothing really recaptures the isolating power of the island surface itself. It’s featureless from a wide view, besides the stark lighthouse and the odd, walking obelisk that strolls along the shore. But that drab grey holds a lot of curious secrets, like the whispering, motionless orb that stands suspended a few feet off the ground, or upturned boats holding messages from long dead men. It throws up little surprises that, if arranged slightly differently, might have been quite powerful moments. Unfortunately all I took away from my time with the game was a sense of disjointed but passionate theme application.
The Shore overall thoughts
The Shore isn’t necessarily a bad game, but it is one that seems a bit lost. It hurries through its best points to get to bland and unnecessary combat, never utilising its strengths and emphasising its weaknesses. Even considering the relatively small amount of decent Lovecraft inspired titles out there, I’m hesitant to recommend this one unless it’s on sale. You may get some small amount of joy from the monster design and spooky alien vibes, but beyond that this shore is rather bare indeed.