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My horror game marathons thus far had introduced me to some interesting titles that I had never would have thought of playing, some of which require me to take a leap of faith and hope for the best. Such titles included Nosferatu: The Wrath of Malachi, Sweet Home, Yume Nikki, Nanashi no Game, and Hellnight. It’s been a lot of fun discovering and playing through these titles. No one recommended me these games. I just discovered them on my own, and went in with an open mind.
And this takes us to Root of Evil: The Tailor. This Unity game was an impulse purchase for me, via Chrono.gg. That website features a random daily indie game with a good sale price. After checking out Root of Evil on Steam and finding that it’s favorably received by the community, I decided to give it a shot!
And… well, let’s say the game didn’t quite meet my low expectations for a blind playthrough.
The Haunting of a Mad Tailor
Root of Evil: The Tailor stars some unseen protagonist named James, a local psychic/exorcist asked to investigate an allegedly haunted house. Pretty standard setup for a horror story.
What that letter says bugs me, though.
My mother killed herself and then my father.
You mean to tell me that she committed suicide but somehow killed her husband in that order? Or do we need to swap the sequence of events here?
Nevertheless, we have an investigation to conduct using our unexplained psychic powuhz. And it won’t ever be explained because you’ll forget that James even existed.
Oh, and what’s this?
One person, huh? Well, let’s see what one person managed to do.
If this house had been long abandoned, why is there a living house plant here?
So to begin with, you’ll find that the graphics are actually pretty decent. There are some detailed 3D models and there is even an old Singer sewing machine. The human models can look a bit derpy though, due to lack of animations. And also, there were times when the game’s graphics were unstable for me. I don’t know why, but sometimes there is a weird strobe effect on my screen as I play the game. I tried looking for solutions to fix it, but to no avail. So I just decided to suck it up and finish the game.
From the beginning, you’re restricted to the ground floor and you can’t go upstairs at all. And while you’re trying to figure out what you’re supposed to do, you may encounter…
Broken English… Huh?
Okay, so after some digging around, I found out that the developer is native Vietnamese and doesn’t speak English fluently. Despite that, I saw two other people listed in the credits who helped with the English translation. But it seems that only about half of the English translations in the game are grammatically correct. How did we miss all that?
It’s pretty bizarre. I encountered a similar issue in Hellnight, where some of the English translations had misspelled words and incorrect grammar in weird places. But most of that game had a good translation overall. But in this game, your first-person character’s dialogue is odd and your diary entries are awkwardly worded. Even some of the cutscenes with the spoken dialogue have errors strewn about (“…and it looks like she was pregnant our second baby”).
Trapped in a Looping House
So after figuring out that you’re supposed to approach the stairs and zoom on a painting for a four-digit code, you will come across some articles that shed some backstory. And honestly, this doesn’t make much sense to me. I thought the wife killed her husband and committed suicide. In the above example, there’s a newspaper describing this incident lying on a kitchen floor. Why would there be a random newspaper in this supposedly empty house? Who brought it there?
And furthermore, there are some well maintained plants and even some electricity in the house. I thought this was supposed to be a haunted house. Why does it look like that someone was taking care of it?
Anyways, you will find that the house seems to have some instruments and puzzles just lying around, waiting to be solved. But you can’t solve them yet, because the game simply doesn’t let you. So here’s a major hint on what you’re supposed to do: if the door to the next room is locked shut, that means you need to solve a puzzle and collect a key. That’s how you know when you’re supposed to solve something.
But out of nowhere, your main character receives messages from the deceased husband, explaining to him what led to the murder incident years back. Because psychic powuhz. The cutscenes describing the events that led to the incident are quite simplistic; relying on narration and camera angles. The character models themselves don’t move much or don’t move at all.
Regarding the gameplay, it’s the typical horror exploration mechanics where you must collect items and solve puzzles to make progress. I don’t have any issue with this. After all, one of my favorite horror games of all time is Amnesia: The Dark Descent, which featured similar gameplay. And truth be told, this is by far one of the best aspects of Root of Evil.
There is even a creative shadow puzzle, where you must construct a winged unicorn by correctly aligning smaller parts. Of course, a lot of these puzzles are pretty much about recreating the correct combinations and such.
Speaking of which, Root of Evil tends to rely too much on locker combinations. It makes the game feel fairly repetitive at times.
Argh! Another one…
The sound design for the most part is pretty damn good for a low-budget horror game, though the voice acting is rather lackluster (even robotic at times). It doesn’t help that the script is awkwardly worded, making the cutscenes rather distracting.
Occasionally, you will find drawings of hidden symbols on walls and objects, and staring at one will allow you to “collect” it. As far as I know, the only purpose of these hidden symbols is Steam achievements, so I don’t really care to find them all.
The horror atmosphere is done pretty well with good lighting and shadows, but the actual scares can get tiresome and annoying—especially when they’re all jumpscares. Turn around, and meet loud stock sound effect and spooky ghost woman. And because there are no survival mechanics, there are no stakes for you as the player. The ghost of the wife doesn’t outright kill you, for whatever reason, so the horror depends on how susceptible you are towards jumpscares.
But the weakest aspect of Root of Evil is the story. I’ll sum it up for you:
- A wife with dementia (who happens to be a tailor) acts crazy. She had two babies who both died shortly. She gets crazier.
- The husband hires a maid to take care of house duties.
- The husband has affair with the maid, despite still living with the crazy wife; crazy wife so happens to have frequent memory loss.
- The maid regularly poisons the wife’s food with arsenic, but somehow survives it all.
- The maid was pregnant. The wife kills both the husband and the maid as revenge for the adultery. The wife allowed the baby to live, who turns out to be Kate T. mentioned at the beginning of the game.
The story lacks any kind of suspense. You don’t learn anything about your player character except that he’s a psychic/exorcist, so who cares about what happens to him. The only thing you learn about Kate T. is that she’s the daughter of the husband and the maid, not the husband and the wife. The husband had to be one of the most stupidly brave morons in the world to live with a demented wife who harms herself with a sewing machine, makes sinister-looking toys and kills her own cat for no reason. The husband could just commit the wife into a mental asylum, but it didn’t seem to cross his mind at all.
Also, why didn’t the wife die from all the arsenic poisoning brought upon her by the maid? Even if you survive arsenic poisoning somehow, its long-lasting effects will eventually kill you painfully.
For some reason, the ghost of the wife appears around the house, possibly trying to kill you or something? But in the ending, she just knocks you out and drags you into the basement, where you hear the voices of both the husband and the wife explaining what really happened leading to the deaths of everyone. And the game just ends there. Why was the wife even antagonizing you, the player, if she was going to tell you what happened anyway?
By the by, the story doesn’t make sense. I know it’s pretty harsh of me to say, considering this is a one-man project. But if you’re going to have a heavily involved story into your game, you’ll have to learn how to improve in writing a good story. Telling a good story is NOT an easy task and you can’t improve upon it by just frequently practicing with software. It’s something that you have to both get a feeling for and can take multiple tries to get right. It can be ridiculously tedious and tricky, because you’re trying to tie together a sequence of events that run on both logic and creativity. It’s not something that just anyone can do. It’s a super picky process and could very well be one of the difficult things you can do.
With that said, Root of Evil: The Tailor is a valiant attempt by a single person to make a full horror game. There is definitely a lot of work into making the 3D models, animating them, programming a 1-2 hour long game with the Unity engine, getting some voice actors together, preparing your sound library and writing a story. Kudos to Lê Tiên Thành for trying to make all this work, and an extended congratulations for publishing your first game for retail. It certainly must have been a long time in the making. I personally know how long it could take to create and animate 3D models. You definitely have the talent, so continue polishing your skills for your next project.
On the upside, Root of Evil: The Tailor is definitely one of the better low-budget games I played. On the downside, it’s quite rough around the edges and I can’t fully recommend it to just anyone. So if you’re looking to kill some time, this game’s atmosphere and puzzles can do the job. Just know what to expect.
Root of Evil: The Tailor6.99
- The 3D models and house environment are well made.
- The puzzles were well constructed, even though they can get repetitive at times.
- Sound design is well done overall.
- Sloppy English translations.
- The story is flawed, filled with plot holes and nonsensical motivations.
- Dull voice acting.
- Overall, not a very scary game. Filled with some rather cheap jumpscares.