We have seen plenty of video games offer unique takes on real-life events, whether that’s by embracing more fantasy elements, giving them an outright silly twist, or even just by playing out ‘what if?’ scenarios that show what might have happened if things turned out a little differently. Paradise Lost, the first-person narrative-driven adventure from the team at PolyAmorous, utilises the latter, with its story seeing World War II end in a different manner to what you might have learnt in school…
Paradise Lost’s tale takes place in a timeline where World War II lasted twenty years longer, with the year 1965 marking the end of the devastating battling with the launch of nuclear warheads across Europe. With the continent left in a ravaged state and survivors few and far between, grief-stricken twelve-year-old Szymon ventures out into the world to try and find a man that he believes might be his father.
The devastated nature of the world means that this won’t be an easy task, but things take a peculiar turn when he stumbles upon a Nazi bunker. This isn’t your average Nazi bunker though, but rather a massive one that was built to act as a hub for the future perseverance and rule of the Nazi regime. Of course, its derelict state shows that things did not pan out as initially planned, with Szymon putting the pieces of its story together by gathering audio recordings, reading documents, and by listening out for the mysterious girl named Ewa that guides him along his adventure through the bunker’s public address system.
I won’t go into too much detail about Paradise Lost’s tale because it really is the driving force behind the experience. It certainly did more than enough to keep me invested in the story though, with the sense of intrigue behind what happened at the bunker and the unique take on the events of World War II serving as a great backdrop for its mystery. There’s plenty to miss if you don’t take your time to explore the world and uncover all of its secrets too, with it proving clear that a lot of work has gone into fleshing out Paradise Lost’s lore with every intertwining plot thread all playing a part in the grand story at hand. It does have a few pacing issues here and there across its roughly four-hour narrative, but it’s easy to absorb yourself into the derelict and mysterious world of Paradise Lost.
As far as gameplay is concerned, it would be easiest to describe Paradise Lost as a walking simulator – albeit with a bit of puzzling here and there for good measure. The puzzles never feel especially perplexing and shouldn’t cause players any problems, but it’s nice to have an extra element of interactivity to support the narrative. You’ll also make some choices that can affect how events play out and there are multiple endings on offer, so there’s an extra incentive in place to play through the game multiple times if you want to see every possible occurrence of Syzmon’s adventure. It’s good stuff.
What isn’t so good is Szymon’s walking speed, with his sluggish movements making some instances of the game drag out a lot longer than they needed to. Whilst it is nice to be able to take the time to really appreciate Paradise Lost’s wonderful interpretation of a supposedly future-proof Nazi bunker (it really makes for some impressive sights), I would have preferred it if I had a bit more zip to my step. It actually put me off exploring in some instances, so hopefully it’s something the developer can address in a future patch.
One thing that really compliments Paradise Lost’s walking simulator-style gameplay is its sense of atmosphere, with the beautiful yet derelict locales of the game adding an unsettling sense of tension to the experience. Whilst it is not a horror game, there were plenty of moments where I found myself uneasy when exploring the bunker, whilst not knowing what might be around each and every corner genuinely left me on the edge of my seat. It is as unnerving as it is mesmerising, and it just makes progressing through Szymon’s story all the more intriguing.
Paradise Lost has plenty of strengths across its captivating journey, but there were a few misfires along the way. Besides the aforementioned turtle-like walking speed, I noticed a few drops in the frame rate during my time playing. Whilst there’s nothing especially game breaking, it did make some instances of the game feel a little less immersive. The voice acting could be hit-and-miss too, with some interactions in the game just falling flat. Again, it’s not a constant problem, but some of the game’s more hard-hitting moments didn’t feel quite as impactful due to some flat delivery.
Paradise Lost offers a unique take on the after-effects of World War II, with its atmospheric journey proving intriguing throughout. I found it fascinating to explore the Nazi bunker and uncover its many secrets, whilst the moments of interactivity and choice-making made it easier to immerse myself in the walking simulator-style gameplay. It really looks the part too – who said derelict bunkers had to be ugly?!
It does have a few misfires along the way thanks to the painfully slow walking speed, some frame rate drops, and the occasionally flat voice acting, but Paradise Lost’s gripping mystery ensure that it is certainly an adventure that’s worth embarking on.
Publisher: All In! Games
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC
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