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How Phasmophobia can become the best party horror game available

(Image Credit: Kinetic Games)
(Image Credit: Kinetic Games)
Izaak
ANALYST
Modified 31 Dec 2020, 01:29 IST
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Phasmophobia is a good game on the verge of being great, and it is well worth it’s highly affordable price point.

Phasmophobia is still in development with plenty of time for the developers to add new content and make changes where needed, which is why now is the best time to join the discussion how it could be better. 

This won’t be a comprehensive list, but a way for a game that has already made a good first impression to keep that feeling going.

What keeps fans returning to Phasmophobia night after night

Phasmophobia has more or less replaced Among Us as a lot of players' go-to party game, and for good reason. Phasmophobia thrives off of its unique concept, with one to four players tasked with identifying a ghost, or other being, haunting some spooky and atmospheric location.

The ghost can be one of 12 ethereal beings, each of which conjures up its own set of evidence alongside its own unique behavior, strengths, and weaknesses. The ghosts can move objects, make phones ring, appear to choice witnesses, and eventually hunt down the intrepid ghost hunters.

The whole process is best when the ghost is coy with its evidence, forcing players to take risks in order to coax out valuable information. Key to making Phasmophobia unique is how the ghosts can recognize their own names when said over the game’s local chat, giving players a way to interact with the ghosts in their machines with their own voices.

Despite being an early access game, Phasmophobia has already grown a sizable fan community, and it has a lot of depth in its design that makes the game thrilling, scary, and very exciting.

The main issue with Phasmophobia

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It shouldn’t come as a surprise that one of the main issues with Phasmophobia at the moment is how repetitive the game can be at times. As an early access game, the available content is rather slim, and not fully polished.

Phasmophobia has a sweet spot in its difficulty too; ghosts that are too passive and shy with their evidence can leave players wondering if the building is even haunted at all, while ghosts that are too aggressive can eliminate half of a team before a single piece of evidence is found.

But perhaps the worst thing is that the game has a ton of built-in depth which players will often never have a reason to interact with. Each of the 12 ghost types currently in the game have their own unique strengths and weaknesses, but as soon as a ghost is identified, there is often little reason to stick around.

This means that all those little details, like how Phantoms disappear when photographed or how Banshees fixate on a single person while ignoring the rest until their target dies, are ignored during the course of normal play.

It doesn’t help players to know that they can protect themselves from a Mare by staying in the light or that Spirits are especially affected by smudge sticks because as soon as they know how to defend themselves from a particular ghost then they already know what the ghost is and can leave.

Suggestions and ideas for future development

This is not to suggest that developing this game is easy or something anyone could do. The developers behind Phasmophobia certainly have their work cut out for them. Judging by the developer Trello board, they have a lot planned already.

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But given the amount of work they have put into Phasmophobia, it seems a shame that players aren’t asked to do something more after identifying a ghost. They wouldn’t necessarily have to make players responsible for eliminating the ghost, but even just a small task after identifying the ghost would give players a reason to pay attention to each ghost’s unique personality.

Alternatively, they could add a bit of variance in the ghost’s types of evidence. If each ghost was associated with four pieces of evidence, and only spawned three at random, players would have to resort to secondary sources of evidence to ultimately identify the ghost. 

That way, after collecting all three pieces of evidence, they would then have a reason to closely observe the ghost’s behavior to make the final declaration. This would have the added benefit of not requiring nearly as much added work on behalf of the devs, but it also may not be the best long term solution.

One final aspect that makes the game a little more repetitive and predictable is the way that ghosts are only ever dangerous during specific hunting periods, collectively referred to as the “danger zone” in most playgroups. The choice to give ghosts only two modes, harmless and murderous, leads to players often failing to respect the ghost and only changing during the brief hide-and-seek interlude.

If the ghosts were more unpredictable, or if their hunts weren’t so telegraphed, then players would at least have to keep aware and on their toes during games.

Phasmophobia is a lot of fun, especially with friends; it’s no surprise it ended up winning the award for Best Debut Game at The Game Awards 2020.

Anyone who wants to start the next year with a scare should check it out while it’s on sale.

Published 31 Dec 2020, 01:29 IST
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