The Horror At Highrook is an occult cardgame set in a Darkest Dungeon-style mansion

Earlier today Tom Betts – founder of Nullpointer and former lead programmer at The Signal From Tolva developers Big Robot – emailed me about his new game The Horror At Highrook. In the space of a single, rollercoaster paragraph, Betts earned my curiosity by describing himself as a fellow Soul Reaver enthusiast, lost it again by criticising Soul Reaver’s camera – such insolence! – and earned it swiftly back by mentioning that he’s from Yorkshire. Then, he upgraded my curiosity into attention by describing The Horror At Highrook as a “clockwork narrative” horror experience that takes inspiration from Poe, Stoker and Lovecraft on the one hand, and from boardgames, wiki-hunting and escape rooms on the other.

This is a heady brew indeed. Also, there appears to be a cat in the game called Mr Tubbs, described as a “portly grey barrel of fur”. I entertain suspicions of Mr Tubbs. What fell secrets lurk behind his perfectly groomed exterior? Anyway, here’s the trailer.

The Horror At Highrook

In The Horror At Highrook, whose Steam page has just gone live, you lead a team of investigators (characters include plague doctors and mechanists) to a haunted mansion that takes the form of a Betrayal At House On The Hill-style gameboard, with cards for events, objects and entities placed in rooms at the behest of a “deep, nonlinear crafting system”. It sort of looks like you’re levelling the board up in some way, by playing and combining those cards. While scouring the mansion – whose owners, the Ackeron family, have gone missing, as is the pastime of aristocrats who dabble in the dark arts – you’ll also need to keep your characters fed, uninjured and sane.

The game exists partly as a result of recent industry “turbulence”, according to a press release – Betts has apparently had a tough time pitching bigger projects and has decided to “go back to his indie roots”. I wouldn’t have guessed that this was a kind of fallback game, personally – it looks very accomplished, with visual direction reminiscent of Darkest Dungeon.

There’s a demo for The Horror At Highrook coming in an upcoming Steam fest, and Betts is hoping to release the game this year. This is definitely my preferred flavour of cosmic horror catnip, and go on, I’ll admit it: Soul Reaver did have a pretty dodgy camera.

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