First person, narrative-heavy titles are nothing new, and there are some fantastic examples in the genre; from Gone Home to What Remains of Edith Finch, these are lofty highs to try and match for any new entry in the genre. Paradise Lost has a certain charm to the world and story-telling, but the game is just too slow paced to capitalise on it.
We play Szymon, a young boy out looking for answers in an alternate history where WW2 didn’t end in 1945, but 1965. These extra years devastated the world, and so those deemed worthy of salvation were shipped off to underground bunkers to help build a new army and rise up again one day to reclaim the planet. Mixing retro-futuristic technology with Slavic mythology Paradise Lost leans heavily into the world building and lore.
There are plenty of notes, audio recordings, and environmental details to find that fill in the details that aren’t directly laid out for us. It’s not long before Szymon meets Ewa via the facilities in-built speaker system, and between the pair of them we get a better glimpse at what is going on here through the 4-5 hour run time. While the world building is good, the eventual climax could be seen from about the first hour if you took the time to explore even partially. Still, despite this I felt compelled to see the next story beat and even found myself somewhat taken aback at some of the incidental side stories we explore along the way.
There are occasional dialogue choices to make as well as light puzzles to solve, but for the most part we simply need to follow the story, going from point to point to progress. Those dialogue choices can affect how latter sequences play out; one late game choice was the difference between the next area I entered being destroyed or not, at least as far as I could tell. Some of these were a tad obtuse I thought, it not being overly clear that we can interact at that point before it’s too late. As for the puzzles, well they are pretty hand-holdy so it merely resorts to following the interactive icons to proceed. While they are a nice addition, I would have enjoyed the story just as much without them getting in the way.
I’d have enjoyed it even more though if Szymon moved faster than a frozen snail. I get that this sort of ‘walking-sim’ style game is meant to be slower to really let us soak in the world, but the speed at which he moves is almost laughable. Every time I entered a new area to be greeted with a long corridor I couldn’t help but sigh as it would take an inordinate amount of time to get to the end. Fully exploring areas means slowly ambling about the place before having to retrace our steps, all the more tedious if there was nothing of interest to discover.
That said, being built using Unreal Engine 4 Paradise Lost is a lovely looking game. Despite the destruction thorough the environments there are plenty of reflective marble surfaces, towering statues, and impressive machines throughout, complimented by some fantastic lighting that really encapsulates the endless Winter in which the game is set. Audio work is pretty good too, with ambient effects giving off an eerie vibe throughout. The atmosphere presented here is top notch, even if there could have been a little more life to the static backgrounds at times.
Paradise Lost manages to keep the intrigue high with its alternate history tale and great environmental story-telling, but is let down by it glacier-esque pace. If you can push through that though, there is an entertaining time to be had here.Become a Patron!
This game was reviewed based on Xbox One review code, using an Xbox One console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.