Paradise Lost is a part of a relatively new genre of video game dubbed walking simulator. Usually, games in this genre are in first person and involve walking around looking at objects in an interesting environment, and maybe listening to a voice-over or scattered audio recordings. The environment in Paradise Lost is an abandoned Nazi bunker in an alternate timeline where the end of the second world war was the end of humanity. You play as Szymon, a young boy searching for a man from a photograph his mother gave him shortly before she died.
Paradise Lost has an interesting premise, although one that is more commonplace thanks to the recent resurgence of the Wolfenstein series: the Nazis in the game have technology that far outstrips everything the Allies made during WWII. This results in the massive bunker that you traipse through for the duration of Paradise Lost. The bunker is the most interesting part of the game, and it’s a pleasure looking at all the little details. Tightly packed living quarters filled with forgotten belongings contrast with gargantuan underground lakes and caverns. The environmental design is breathtaking. Unfortunately, enjoyment of your surroundings is hampered by Szymon’s slow movement speed and the tediousness of interacting with objects.
Interactions with objects in the environment all take place through a weird motion with the mouse or joystick. When pushing open a door for instance, you have to click the door, wait for a circle to pop up on your screen, click and push the mouse in the direction the door opens, hold your mouse while a small progress bar fills, and then wait for the opening door animation to complete. It’s a strange mechanic that seems to be an attempt at adding immersion, but the pop-up and the slowness of the entire event dampens the effect. I don’t feel like I’m pushing open a door; I feel like I’m moving a mouse in a quick time event. Couple this with how slow every animation is, and their overabundance, and it leads to a tedious experience. The way the camera moves in these interactions and every time Szymon stops moving left me feeling rather motion sick as well.
The story of Paradise Lost is the second most interesting aspect. It kept me intrigued enough to finish the game, although it could have used the extra character development a few additional hours of gameplay would have granted. It is difficult to get to know the main character and understand him when you spend so little time hearing him speak. It doesn’t help that you can occasionally choose what Szymon says, and that make it seem like his beliefs on the transpiring events are completely arbitrary and up to the player. Dialogue options are an odd decision for a game that is very much not an RPG. There’s also the dilemma of the binary choice at the end of the game that left me feeling frustrated, especially when I found out that the game deletes your save file upon completion. In order to see the other ending, you have to play through the entire game again. The “choices” that you make in Paradise Lost only seem to harm the cohesion of its narrative.
My final issue with the game is the large number of bugs. Frequently, textures of certain objects would refuse to load in, causing bizarre moments like when Szymon was holding an invisible photo album in a cutscene. In one area, it was as if the developers forgot to place a table, but left the various papers and stationery floating in the air like the table was still there. The numerous bugs were annoying. Thankfully, I didn’t experience any that hindered my progress.
Paradise Lost is a simple and short game, strengthened by a hauntingly beautiful environment, and weakened by its underdeveloped story. Despite the atrocious animation and movement speed, I enjoyed my time with the game. It would have benefited from a cleaner story, additional bug testing, and the trimming of some game mechanics, but it bodes well for the developers behind the game. Environmental design is crucial to walking simulators, and they clearly know how to create a fascinating environment. I look forward to playing their future games.
Image: PolyAmorous / All in! Games