I was recently shown an in-progress build of the game that took place a little over an hour into the story. While the entire game is only planned to be around four hours for a single playthrough, it’s designed to include branching story moments, divergent paths through the environment, and multiple endings.
Paradise Lost Screenshots
Within the lore of Paradise Lost, the United States was hesitant to act in 1945 and never retaliated to end World War II. Eventually Europe was in a stalemate so the Nazis nuked it all. The bunkers themselves are inspired by an actual bunker that the Nazis had planned to build beneath Poland but never finished. All documentation about the bunker’s exact purpose and plans were destroyed before the end of the war, making the game one giant “What if…?” scenario.
One of the bunkers is overtaken by Polish rebels, which the events have ties to actual Polish spies from the 1940s. The developers ensure that history buffs and fans of alternate history theories and conspiracy theories will have plenty to dig into here.
The mixture of Slavic pagan themes, disturbing Nazi exploits, and hidden secrets that seem poised to rattle anyone to their core, let alone a 12-year old child, puts Paradise Lost in a unique position to almost be considered a horror game. From what I’ve seen so far, most people will probably label this one a “walking simulator,” but I prefer the designation of “first-person narrative adventure game” instead.During my demo, Game Director Bogdan Graczyk explained the choice to feature a child protagonist in this sort of dark, unforgiving world.
“Using the unique lens of a child works very well with the theme,” says Graczyk. “When we look at the aftermath of the war through the eyes of a child who is innocent, but needs to live with the consequences anyway, it’s a more powerful story. The emotional impact was always very high on our priority list of our artistic goals.”
In Paradise Lost, Szymon is on a quest to discover why his deceased mother cherished a photo of herself with a strange man. The plan is to find the man and, as a result, find some answers about what’s happened to the world. There is also a mysterious woman named Ewa that Szymon speaks with at various moments using the underground console in the bunker.
Another interesting design decision is that the entire game is structured from top-to-bottom with the five stages of grief as explicit parallels. The section I was shown, which featured slow-paced exploration, reading lore pages, and gradually picking through an abandoned environment was part of the ‘bargaining’ section of the story. I’ve been told the game features no traditional “combat” moments and does not devolve into a game of hide and seek in which you cannot defend yourself. Forced stealth segments in these sorts of games rarely, if ever, fit very well — so this is a relief to hear.
One interesting aspect here beyond the lore and setting is that during several key moments in Paradise Lost you’ll get to “play out” past events from the bunkers. During those events you’ll have to make choices that affect the direction the narrative takes. For a relatively short adventure narrative, having that sort of non-linearity is very intriguing. It makes sense that a game about an alternate take on history would let you choose your own path, to some extent.
Visually, Paradise Lost is quite stunning. The environments are breathtaking and the lighting lends an essence of loneliness and foreboding dread that’s difficult to capture for studios of any size, let alone a small indie team like PolyAmorous. Graczyk tells me that at its conception several years ago, the game only had around four people working on it. At the peak of the project that number had reached 16, but is now around 12 developers finishing the game up for release later this year.
Paradise Lost is shaping up to be a special and evocative type of game that uses the backdrop of a ravaged post-apocalyptic Europe to tell an intimate story of loss, grief, and discovery. Rather than following the mold of Metro, with its gruesome beasts and tense gunplay, this will be a much slower and introspective journey. Hopefully it’ll live up to its potential and be one worth taking.
David Jagneaux is a longtime freelance writer for IGN. Talk games with him on Twitter at @David_Jagneaux.