A Pseudotime Capsule

HIGH Impressive environmental storytelling and attention to detail.

LOW Persistent graphical glitches undermine the scenery.

WTF The snail-like walking speed.

Though not a pleasant subject to ponder, the fact is that the Nazi movement wasn’t the result of iron rule imposed by a single madman. No, there were millions behind him, and as the accounts of the Nuremberg trials revealed, not all of them were warmongers at heart.

With this in mind, Paradise Lost presents an alternate timeline in which the fuhrer succeeded in developing atomic weapons of mass destruction. However, the game doesn’t present that event as the winning ace for Nazi Germany. The adventure is set in a barren wasteland somewhere in Poland, and it’s implied that the whole continent is like that, too — whatever happened, it wasn’t a triumphant outcome for anyone. Through the eyes of a 12-year-old Polish boy named Szymon, we stumble upon a bunker in this rubble.

The first-person gameplay consists of walking through beautifully-detailed rooms, corridors and open environments, while the footsteps of the lonely protagonist echo all around. Aside from occasional déjà vu moments which prompt a short memory to play out in Szymon’s head, the story is told via interacting with (i.e. reading) the many notes and manifests that are scattered all around. As the narrative progresses, so does the importance of the unassuming main character, transforming his role from a mere spectator into something more.

Szymon’s tale is told in only 3-4 hours, but I was amazed at how much I’d experienced when the credits rolled, courtesy of the many successfully-executed tonal shifts. The bunker is a place where people with opposing ideologies co-existed at the time, and everywhere we look, we find remnants of inner-circle conflicts. It’s a wonderfully gripping setting, but one thing holding it back is the glacial pace at which Szymon walks. I know for a fact that 12-year-old boys can move move a lot faster than this!

Aside from that frustrating walking speed, Paradise Lost needs more polish. I ended up encountering dozens of visual glitches repeating on reflective surfaces, glass and other apparently-troublesome textures. I also experienced two hard crashes, and one occasion when a very important document didn’t render in-game, but Szymon managed to ‘flip through’ its pages nonetheless.

Regarding the story itself, without spoiling anything I can confirm that it does convey its points well with a focus on themes like paranoia, religious zealotry, and more. However, I have to point out that the very last stretch felt detached from the rest. While exploring, we find many texts written by prominent real-life Nazi figures such as Goebbels, Goehring and even Heinrich Himmler discussing conditions in the bunker. However, once the final act starts, Paradise Lost somewhat abruptly forgoes such references despite many in-game documents hinting at specific things.

Paradise Lost’s biggest strength is its ability to communicate two very different sensations — freedom and dread — deep into the player’s mind at the same time. It’s one thing to discover the knowledge hidden behind a puzzle, but it’s something else entirely to witness what else might be revealed by the same knowledge.

Rating: 8 out of 10

— Konstantin Koteski

Disclosures: This game is developed by PolyAmorous and published by All In! Games. It is currently available on XBO, PS4, and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4 Pro. Approximately 4 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: This game has received and “M” rating by the ESRB and contains Blood, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, and Violence. I can report that the topics Paradise Lost explores are extreme and controversial — there’s constant Nazi imagery and propaganda, pagan symbolism, a few F-bombs in the sound recordings, and almost everything the character experiences is in the aftermath of some disturbing and violent event.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles, but they are not able to be altered or resized in any way. Sound is completely unimportant for finishing this game, so I would say this is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. This game does not offer a controller map diagram, but besides the analog sticks, only the “X” and “R2” buttons are used.

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