Phasmophobia: Stay Together for the Spooks

BY TIMMY SNOW: By now most of the people reading this have likely heard of Phasmophobia, the survival horror smash hit on Steam. Despite being in Early Access, and honestly still needing some vital quality of life tweaks, Phasmophobia has taken the world of gaming by storm. In just a few short months, it became one of the most common games to be streamed on Twitch, and you can find hundreds if not thousands of hours of YouTube videos on the co-op survival horror game.

The name, “Phasmophobia,” is the psychological term for a fear of ghosts, which is very fitting for the content.

Your character is a member of a ghost hunting team, wielding a variety of gadgets anyone who has seen an episode of Ghost Hunters or Buzzfeed: Unsolved will likely recognize. Your team is given the name of the ghost and whether they respond better to people when they’re grouped up or alone. By using your microphone you’re able to say the ghost’s name to anger it, or ask it questions which could lead to supernatural activity (such as an item being thrown across the room, the lights flickering, or the door closing).

So far, the game seems to have a variety of common phrases you hear in ghost hunting shows implemented. The ghost will often respond to things like, “Are you here?” or “Show us a sign.” Talking to the ghosts has been my favorite experience playing the game, even if it usually leads to me comically screaming into my mic as the ghost whispers in my ear. Talking to the ghost also has the unfortunate side-effect of lowering your sanity, which makes you a more likely target for the ghost should it attack.

Oh, did I not mention the ghost can and will kill you? Depending on the difficulty of the contract you’ve undertaken, you’ll only have a limited amount of time to safely investigate the area before the ghost is able to enter a hunt (which is exactly what it sounds like). During a hunt, any lights that are currently on, including flashlights, will flicker. You’ll also likely be able to hear the ghost, depending on how close you are to it, and they’ll make noises that range from that creepy Grudge Girl sound to creepy humming.

If you hear a heartbeat, the ghost is very close by and likely about to kill you. Some ghosts you can outrun, as they move at your speed and can be kited around until the hunt ends. But the best way to survive a hunt, and something that took me far too long to learn, is to hide from the ghost. Find a room or closet, close the door, turn off the light, and shut up! Though, if you do get killed during the hunt, you’ll get to experience the life of a ghoul until either your team decides to leave or they’re all killed.

Hopefully, you’ll identify what kind of ghost you’re dealing with quickly and be able to escape with all your lives. By looking in your journal you’ll find a list of different types of ghosts with a list of their “tells.” By using your equipment you can piece together what kind of spook you’re dealing with, and that’ll net you money from your first objective. Braver souls can also do any number of the 3 optional objectives, which are often things like “Get a picture of the ghost” or “Cleanse an area with a smudge stick.”

The more objectives you do the more money you get and higher difficulties will multiply your earnings so you can buy even better equipment. But higher difficulties also have higher penalties for dying. When your character dies in Phasmophobia you lose any of the equipment you brought along with you. In Amateur difficulty you’ll get insurance money that reimburses most of the cost of the equipment. On Intermediate difficulty, you’ll only get the insurance money if a teammate takes a picture of your body. And on Professional difficulty, the hardest difficulty so far, you can’t get insurance money in any way.

This is another reason why hiding is such an integral skill to learn in Phasmophobia. Besides completely denying you of any reimbursement for lost equipment, the ghosts on Professional difficulty don’t offer you a safe time to investigate. From the moment you enter the building the ghosts are dangerous and can enter a hunt if their criteria is met. Some ghosts are more violent than others, and a ghost who enters a hunt quickly or takes their time can also be valuable clues for your team.

And, again, this is all Early Access. Despite the game’s lack of textural polish and weird bugs or glitches, most of the time it feels pretty complete and the biggest issue is how few maps we currently have. The scares are on point, especially when they added crawling models for certain ghosts in an update. (Seriously, try not to scream when you see the little monster girl crawling after you.) If Kinetic Games, the developers of Phasmophobia, can keep the content coming and make sure the experience stays fresh, I think Phasmophobia will continue to be a strong presence in the survival horror scene.