Posted: January 6, 2014
First thing to note: This game requires you to input a CD key and create an account before being able to login and play. You have to login each time to play the game through their launcher. DRM is NOT COOL.
(((Edit: This review contains some basic spoilers about gameplay and "scariness" of the game. I have blatant storyline spoilers marked in brackets below. If you don't want to read any spoilers, even minor ones, pass on this review :) )))
This is a tough game to review. I liked the atmosphere of the game, for the most part, and I liked the general direction of the storyline...even though it has problems...but ultimately the mechanics and "puzzleness" of the game hurts it for me. There are a lot of little sloppy things, or some poor design choices, that make the game difficult to enjoy, but not impossible to play through. I recommend playing through the game at least one time for the 2-4 hours of interesting experience (it is a bit unique from many games in its genre), but unless you're achievement farming it'll have little to no replay value.
After about an hour and a half of playtime I decided I couldn't stand the random item/puzzle hunt and looked up a guide (there is a very good one for the extended edition on Steam, btw). Even using the guide, I still don't understand why I had half the items in my inventory at the end of the game. At one point I had upwards of 20+ items in my inventory, most of which I either never used or didn't know where to use. After finishing the game I looked up other comments and guides and it seems there are just a lot of pointless items in the game thrown in there as red herrings. I really dislike games that do things like this, so it's difficult for me to enjoy it after playing the similar, and MUCH BETTER, survival-horror game, Amnesia: The Dark Descent. If you are really into the idea of a horror puzzle game where it gives you little to no help/clues, then this would be a great game for you.
For a horror game, I didn't find it particularly scary. Most of it was "creepy noises to the sides/behind you and you can't figure out their source!" or "something appeared next to me! JUMP OUT OF MY SEAT!" It wasn't even scary. It was always the same mannequin-lady (I presume to be "Anna"?) following me around doing the same set of 5-6 poses the entire game. There was 1 moment where a flying mask surprised me a little, but that's about it. The art of this game was pretty subpar which hurt my ability to get "sucked into" the atmosphere of the game. Maybe I'm being picky about this, but subpar or bad graphics in a horror game can ruin my experience. The music was pretty good, but the animation felt blocky and choppy a lot of the time.
As far as the story of this game, I'm left pretty confused. It has an interesting storyline...if it were fleshed out more. Don't read my spoiler if you plan on looking into this game at all. I completely give away the entire game's plot as well as my problems with it, which would defeat the point of you exploring the game for yourself!
The premise of this game, as far as I understand it, is that there is a married guy who becomes obsessed/falls in love with a statue of a goddess (who is supposed to be Mary? or an ancient "Goddess"? who the guy names Anna? or is actually named Anna? I am so confused about how to interpret her). He more-or-less turns into a cultist and worships Anna/the statue. His wife realizes he's going crazy and destroys the statue. He goes psycho-mode on her and murders her and their two sons (who might be named Castor and Pollux? Lots of references to Greek mythology with them). I can't tell if he loses his memory because of his guilt, or if he just goes so far off the deep end in his cult-worship of Anna that he loses it completely, but...whatever the case is, he regains his sanity and becomes a professor. He starts having crazy dreams and stuff and decides he HAS to visit this cabin (where the game takes place) to discover what is "calling" to him.
There are 8 different endings to this game, but they can be broken down into 3 categories: You get kicked out/Leave the house, You go insane and "die," You discover that you are a murderer and decide that you *must* live for/die for Anna stuck in a cave beneath the house (where you find her statue as well as "mannequins" representing the two sons you murdered). I don't particularly care for most of the endings except the "full" ending (going nuts and choosing to die, spending eternity with, the statue/the mannequin sons), which really doesn't help explain/answer some of the questions throughout the game. Who exactly is Anna? Does your character care at all about his wife whom he murdered & apparently chooses not to spend eternity with (choosing Anna over her)? Why are there constant "moon" and other Greek mythological references--is Anna supposed to be an interpretation of Diana?Is your character crazy at the end, or so truly grief-stricken by his actions that he can't help but stay in the cave, atoning for what he's done until he dies of starvation/dehydration/asphyxiation?
There are many, many more questions the game doesn't bother answering. The game developer says they want the player to interpret the story, which I would be fine with, if they didn't throw so much information at me that I am completely unable to create my own version of what happened due to too many loose ends...