World War II games tend to lend themselves well to an alternative history, take a look at the Wolfenstein games for instance. But rather than blasting Nazis to bits, Polish developers PolyAmorous offer us something a little deeper than guns blazing, retro-futuristic technology for their debut title, Paradise Lost.
Paradise Lost was developed by PolyAmorous Games and published by All In! games and released on March 24th, 2021 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
The Mind Is Its Own Place, And In Itself Can Make A Heaven Of Hell, Or A Hell Of Heaven – John Milton (Paradise Lost)
As a huge fan of World War II history, I could not wait to see what alternative path the developers had come up with. If you have played Paradise Lost, let us know in the comments below.
The war had raged on for a further 20 years. Fast forward to present day, 1980. Europe is now a post-apocalyptic wasteland thanks to Nazi nuclear missiles. You are Szymon, a 12-year-old boy who has recently lost his mother. It becomes immediately apparent that throughout this gem you will be dealing with the five stages of grief; Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.
As you wander the wasteland of Poland searching for a glimmer of hope, you come across an abandoned Nazi bunker. Your descent into the bunker and a world of mystery and secrets begins here.
You notice something familiar about this bunker upon entry. You pull out a photograph of your late mother standing with another man. The symbols are identical to those which are in the bunker. Is Szymon somehow connected to this gloomy and forsaken place? Before long, you manage to establish a radio communication link with a woman called Ewa. It isn’t until much later you connect personality similarities to that of Eve from the epic poem Paradise Lost.
Ewa will help you navigate the subterannia which you discover was created to shelter the next generation of the Aryan master-race. This was known as the Ark Project, and as a result of this shelter, the new Aryan race would emerge into the post-nuclear world.
Paradise Lost is essentially a mystery game in which you walk from place to place, listening to audio logs and reading notes, and manifests to slowly unravel the bunker’s true purpose and its dark past. The scale of the underground structure is astounding. Was quite weird to be roaming a city, to look up and see no sky, obviously because you’re underground. Although the imagery of the bunker was both dark and grand, I was a little disappointed being unable to explore. There is little scope for deviation from the allotted path.
There are a handful of locations where the paths branch, but that will mean forgoing the other one completely which is a bit of a shame. I would have liked to have backtracked and explored more of my own free will.
Controlling Szymon is as easy as simple as walking from place to place and interacting via on-screen prompts. There is some minor puzzling to activate the computer terminals known as E-V-E. Do you see the pattern here? E-V-E is an AI in control of the bunker’s agricultural and security systems. These terminals also act as interactive memories. Here you will learn more about the man you are trying to locate, his identity, and what he means to you.
As the story goes on, you have intermittent communication with Ewa. Because it was intermittent, I found it difficult to establish a meaningful bond with her. Although that isn’t necessarily a bad thing when it comes to making your final decision at the game’s conclusion. There are some choices within the dialogue, but ultimately they are without meaning and affect only that conversation. Pay close attention to the clues. They all build a story as to how Szymon, Ewa, the mystery man, and Slavic Paganism are all connected.
Graphics and Audio
For a first game, I found this graphically quite impressive. Not award-winningly impressive, but impressive nonetheless. More so in some places. The environments both inside and outside (but still in the bunker) were quite detailed. Although, the objects and assets within the game not as much. The open areas were quite expansive and often majestic and imposing in their appearance. I was amazed at how the Germans could have created this vast city underground regulated by an AI. There was a small amount of texture pop-in from time to time, but it didn’t take away from the slow-paced experience of the game.
Sonically, this game is definitely a ‘less is more’ kind of thing. There are splashes of a musical ensemble here and there, and the ambient effects do make you feel rather lonely at times. I would say for this type of game, the balance of the audio is just right in that respect.
Though I myself do speak a little Polish, at a couple of points in the game I was left wondering what was being said. The majority of the dialogue is English with English subtitles, but any Polish dialogue was accompanied by Polish subtitles. For authenticity, I personally would have preferred the whole game to have had Polish dialogue with English subtitles. I feel that would have added a little something extra to the game. But it is important that the developers recognised that this probably doesn’t sit well with the majority of players and opted for English.
Paradise Lost isn’t challenging in any way and can be finished in an evening. There is a modicum of replayability as there is another ending based on what your final decision will be at the end. That’s not to say this is a bad thing. Not all games are meant to be played for hours and hours to squeeze everything out of it. The pacing of the game is pretty much perfect for an evening playthrough. It all really depends on how much you want to learn about the history of the bunker and what horrors it hides. As a narrative exploration, if it was any longer it would just be filled with meaningless information and would lessen the experience.
Q&A With The Developers
I was lucky enough to catch up with Chris at PolyAmorous Games and he kindly made some time to answer a few questions. Here is what Chris has to say.