Withering Rooms Review

Withering Rooms Review

Demon’s Souls‘ successor Dark Souls was such a tremendous influence that over a decade later, we are still feeling the waves from its impact on the game industry. It was such a paradigm shift, that it changed the way game devs approached game design for almost every genre. Indie developers especially took notice and began to pick it apart and find new ways to approach this game design philosophy.

While Dark Souls was a 3D game, it didn’t take long before innovative minds found ways to interpret its principles into 2D. Hollow Knight, Dead Cells, Moonscars, Death’s Gambit, and so many more show how flexible the soulslike subgenre can be. Indie developers would find ways to put their spin on it like by incorporating roguelike elements or metroidvania design concepts.

Most indie devs are emulating Dark Souls, but Moonless Formless opted to learn from its successor, Bloodborne. Taking cues from the dream-like cosmic story-telling and emphasizing witchcraft, stealth, and sanity, does this new take on the genre spark imagination or is it cursed for damnation? Find out in this Withering Rooms review!

Withering Rooms
Developer: Moonless Formless
Publisher: Perp Games

Platforms: Windows PC, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5 (reviewed)
Release Date: April 5, 2024
Price: $24.99 USD

Withering Rooms begins by thrusting the player into a confusing, overwhelming, dreamlike setting. It is a story where subterfuge and witchcraft go hand in hand and curses torment the player’s soul. Trapped within a shared dream set in an enigmatic mansion known as Mostyn House, Nightingale fights with a single purpose; to live and die within the dream. But dying does not come easy in the Withering Rooms.

Every time Nightingale falls, she reawakens, and the Mostyn House’s layout is rearranged. It’s like a nightmarish Alice in Wonderland that takes some visual cues from the likes of Rule of Rose, Clock Tower, and Bloodborne. The story is admittedly hard to follow since it is conveyed in the most fragmented way imaginable, but the core is about female patients having a shared dream and characters being represented by how they imagine themselves… maybe.

Since Withering Rooms operates on dream logic and most of the events are vague, it’s not easy to parse what is actually happening. There are a lot of implications and keeping the player in the dark about what’s true, it becomes hard to get emotionally invested in anything. The best moments are during small character vignettes, like saving the Dilletente tracker and his dog who eventually offers services to find rare items.

While the story is hard to get into, the gameplay is thoroughly engrossing and hard to put down. On the surface, Withing Rooms seems simple with its basic 2.5D exploration and combat, but there is a lot of depth when it comes to the RPG systems built into the game. Nightingale’s stats don’t level up like with traditional exp mechanics; she has to acquire specific items to trade to boost her stats.

Items can be found or earned from fallen foes, but one thing to always consider is that when Nightingale dies and when the mansion is shuffled, she loses everything she is carrying. However, she can learn to “remember” items which is effectively the player assigning which items she can keep and this is in itself another stat.

No matter what, it always feels like there is something to work toward. Whether it’s doing some light grinding for body parts for offerings to level up or gathering materials to craft spells to be ready for dangerous foes lurking in the hedge maze; Withering Rooms offers plenty of options for gamers to solve problems with creative planning. This is a very “system-based” RPG in a way how immersive sims used to be since every item has a purpose that can be used creatively.

Stats like strength and vitality are self-explanatory, and a clever player may not focus on those and may prefer to prioritize speed which does quicken Nightingale’s attack animation. While this may seem like the most useful stat, her curse tolerance is actually the most important one of them all.

Getting deeply cursed can lead to many interesting insanity effects, but it can also gradually kill Nightingale. Most importantly, being cursed can open up new areas or portals. Compounded with the onslaught of nightmarish visuals, jump scares, music, and sound distortions, getting cursed is some of the most fun Withering Rooms has to offer. This is why having a high curse tolerance is vital since a high tolerance means not losing health.

Nightingale’s stats always are in a state of tug-of-war which creates stressful and tense scenarios. Compounded with the stealthy gameplay which admittedly does not always work as intended due to weird AI bugs, Wither Rooms is often an exhilarating and engrossing experience.

Our protagonist can hide in or under furniture, lay magical traps, or even have foes fight each other to avoid having to get her hands dirty. Combat is as basic as the first Demon’s Souls but in two dimensions. It’s functional but Nightingale is a little girl and is about as effective as a melee fighter as you’d expect. With the right build and appropriate gear, she can become a devastating force to be reckoned with but expect to whittle most big enemies slowly and rely on i-frames while dodge rolling.

Withering Rooms is a much larger and longer game than it initially appears. Where the game seems like it is building up to a climax, it is only hitting the halfway point and a completely new area set in a different era becomes the focus. Not only does this introduce new enemies, but new weapon types like guns become available which have bespoke mechanics from melee.

Other times, earthly weapons won’t be enough to combat some of the threats in Mostyn. Apart from the abominations and possessed roaming the halls, some ghost enemies can only be defeated by exorcism. Like in Fatal Frame, Nightingale can use a camera and will need film to capture spirits. If you find yourself without a camera or film, ghosts can be warded away with a mirror shield. It always seems like there are alternate solutions for any situation.

The only drawback to Withering Rooms‘ thoughtful and tight design is that the rogue-lite gameplay elements prove to be shallow and fail to work as intended the longer the game goes on. After a while, Nightingale will be able to remember enough items in her inventory that dying won’t impact players much at all. She can remember her entire cache of money if players assign it and leveling up remembrance is easy enough early on.

The seams behind the room randomization also become too apparent and don’t amount to much. Since Withering Rooms is 2D, there is not much that could be done and most of Mostyn is a long hallway where the rooms get switched around. Gamers will just have to relearn a new layout with enemies reshuffled. It merely pads out the game which didn’t need padding since it is pretty long enough for its price.

Staying alive in a run and defeating enemies is worth the effort since anything killed stays dead until Nightingale dies and resets the house. This frees up the world of clutter during a fruitful run. The insanity effects don’t have a significant impact on gameplay and mostly serve as flavor, but the only way to access the fast travel portals is with a high enough level of curse, so it’s worth having some curse affect Nightingale.

While the stealth mechanics do not always work and foes will rush you even after losing them and hiding, every other aspect of Withering Rooms is very tight. There are some thoughtfully designed puzzles and players can opt out of having to solve them by using an item that will solve it for them, but those are typically rare or expensive.

The content in Withering Rooms is comparable to what could be expected from a big AAA game. The various gimmicks and mechanics that affect how you play the game always make players consider what to do and how to overcome unbelievable odds. Countless outfits, weapons, enemies, and plenty of imposing boss battles will give gamers a lot of bang for their buck. If you ever thought Bloodborne needed to be 2D and about witchcraft, you have come home.

Wither Rooms was reviewed on PlayStation 5 using a code provided by Perp Games. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. Withering Rooms is now available for Windows PC (via Steam), Xbox Series X|S, and PlayStation 5.

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The Verdict: 7

The Good

  • Creepy imagery and sound design
  • Clever memory system to save items from being lost when you die
  • Hard to put down and dense with content
  • Novel curse system that pushes players to play risky
  • Cheeky secrets and puzzles

The Bad

  • Buggy stealth
  • The rogue elements feel tacked on and don't amount to much and only artificially pad out the game
  • Uninvolving story


A youth destined for damnation.

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