Macabre is an upcoming Aussie horror game with monstrous twists

Macabre is an upcoming stealth extraction game where players are haunted by a shapeshifting creature akin to The Thing.
macabre gameplay preview

Australians are very, very good at horror. Whether in film or games, some of the most terrifying stories ever told have originated in Australia – films like Talk to Me and The Babadook, and even further back, Wolf Creek, The Loved Ones, Picnic at Hanging Rock. Upcoming horror game Macabre, from local studio Weforge, harnesses the history of Australian horror tales for a new twist on the stealth extraction genre.

In Macabre, you are a wanderer – travelling in a group or alone – attempting to survive a wild haunted by an insidious force. Reference points for the game’s development team include Hunt: Showdown, Phasmophobia, FOREWARNED, and DEVOUR. Like these games, the core gameplay loop is defined by the haunting of a monster – the titular Macabre is a shape-shifting demon of a sort, pushing you onward in a fight for survival against all odds.

As developer Jay Topping told GamesHub, there is a core twist in the fight with this beast: with every terrain, it will change its form, adapting to it surrounds, and forcing you to adopt new strategies. Topping related this creature to The Thing and It. While its initial form is that of a creeping, crawling monster adapted for a wintery environment inspired by the Snowy Mountains, it will change shape and attack as you advance through the game’s main biomes.

Read: We Made a Thing operates at the intersection of film and games

Players will traverse the wilds of Macabre, attempting to solve the mysteries hidden in each of its prime realms, and attempt to escape before the monster becomes too powerful. As players advance skills by finding new items to craft, and uncovering weapons, Macabre will also adapt to its environment, learning from your movements, and growing in aggression.

macabre creature
Image: Weforge Studio

“We got really excited by the idea of having these monsters that were apex predators,” Topping explained. “We didn’t want them to just run in like meandering cave trolls, and just smack you out. We wanted them to come up and assess you the first time they see you, and progressively get more aggressive as they suss you out.”

In scenarios where multiple players are working together, Macabre will seek out lone wanderers, picking off stragglers one by one. But it will be more cautious around groups, and plan out its attack once it knows it can win. Topping described the game’s monster as akin to the aliens of Alien: Isolation, backed by a creeping AI system that plans carefully, moves slow, and considers terrain.

It was a love for this particular game, and the discovery of co-op horror games during the coronavirus lockdowns of 2020, that inspired Topping and his fellow developers (Jake Davey, game director, and Ben Sutherland, lead programmer) to begin working on Macabre in a serious capacity.

“My mate and I… we’d always talked about making games,” Topping said. “We kind of eventually realised that we had nothing else do to [during the pandemic] – let’s give it a crack.”

Read: The Horror at Highrook preview – A wonderfully gothic Cluedo-like

Topping’s existing skills in film production and directing proved highly transferrable in this process, and online courses for Unreal Engine helped to fill in additional skill gaps.

Topping and his team began working on the project after work, pausing only when skill roadblocks meant they had to stop and save money for outside support. That was, until Macabre got funding from Screen Australia – which streamlined the game development process, and allowed the team to reach further in their ambitions.

macabre gameplay
Image: Weforge Studio

“That funding was pivotal,” Topping said. “As soon as we got that funding, the first thing we did was hire a full-time programmer, which made a huge difference. Before that, we were working with our programmer in a part-time capacity … [After receiving the funding] we were starting to push the project forward at a regular cadence, and it gave us a lot of confidence and financial security.”

“Without it, I can imagine it would’ve been very, very challenging for us to continue making the game. It’s a lot of work, and a lot risk, and a lot of your life that you’re putting into this thing.”

With Screen Australia on board, the Weforge team was able to develop the game’s first biome, to integrate new, more horrifying concepts, and to build a prototype to entice potential Kickstarter backers (and media) to explore more of Macabre‘s world.

Hands on with Macabre

In a closed door session, GamesHub was able to get hands-on with the game, and found a wonderfully atmospheric first-person adventure that was aided by a slow, creeping sense of tension. The game’s soundscape really helps its horror – you’ve got kookaburras nattering away in the distance, lending a sense of vast expanse, the sounds of your feet crunching through snow, and that ever-present shifting, crackling tension as Macabre gets ever closer.

macabre game
Image: Weforge Studio

You’ve also got a wonderfully ocker voice guiding your every move, as Banjo, a mysterious figure with a glowing eye, attempts to help you escape Macabre, and make your way out of a seemingly endless, looping time rift that ends – horrifically – with your murder. There were plenty of dangling mysteries left behind by this gameplay taster, and plenty of reasons to pay attention to the future of Macabre.

Topping and the entire team at Weforge have grand ambitions for this upcoming horror adventure, and based on GamesHub‘s early preview, exactly the right understanding of what makes good, creepy horror work.

To realise the true vision behind the game and bring it to market, the team has now launched a Kickstarter to gather support, with player feedback set to be integrated into the final product. Regardless of whether you’re in a position to support the game, the newly-launched campaign is great insight into the ideas and inspirations backing Macabre, and how it aims to forge a memorable new chapter in the Australian horror canon.

Macabre is now available to wishlist on Steam, and to back on Kickstarter.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.