Mystery adventure Engraving has you drawing lovely parchment maps

Ordnance Survey just can’t find the staff these days

A screenshot of Engraving showing the player doodling on a map against a backdrop of shadowy finger-shaped objects

Image credit: Raffaele Picca

I have recently moved to an area that’s surrounded by forest, or at least, by swathes of greenery that feel like forests when you’re far enough inside them, even if they don’t meet whatever quantifiable definition is currently in vogue. My dreams are ablaze with scenes of sunlight percolating through shifting layers of beech and oak, with visions of dirt paths winding through bramble. Now, here comes Engraving to transform all those dreams into nightmares.

In this occult first-person mystery-horror, you explore a forest that is also a graveyard and, moreover, stuffed to the crannies with ancient curses and restless spectres, some of them distressingly though not entirely arachnid in derivation. Your chief means of overcoming these hazards is your ability to draw maps. The trouble is, when you sleep all of your maps become obsolete. Catch the trailer down the page there, poking its mishappen visage out of the undergrowth like a skeleton spiderman that wants to eat your ankles.

The work of Raffaele Picca, who is also working on that game about the giant planetary defence cannon, Engraving (Steam link here) casts you as Silas, “a man once motivated by greed, now entangled in an intricate web of ancient curses and haunting spirits.” Play consists of stomping through distinct named regions, including a few catacombs, in order to learn about the spectres that inhabit this clearly far from National Trust-endorsed stretch of woodland. As you go, you can sketch portions of the forest on paper, but beware, Silas needs to sleep occasionally, and every time he does, the forest changes shape.

Yes, it’s got some procgen, and I’m aware that a lot of people are tired of procgen, but the ambience seems promising. While Silas seemingly lacks for a weapon or other way of defending himself, Picca’s tweets suggest he can portal into a parallel dimension, the Nether, to avoid certain nasties, with the strong caveat that the Nether harbours a few nasties of its own.

Featured by Screenshot Saturday Mondays back in February, but discovered by me only today, Engraving has the makings of a cool conceptual horror game. I don’t find it quite as alarming as Silkbulb Test but I find it creepier than what I’ve played of Still Wakes The Deep, though admittedly I’ve only played about 30 minutes of that. This feels like a good moment to dust off Adam Smith’s (RPS in peace) old paean to videogame cartography.

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