I like games that manage to teach as well as entertain – Goetia is one such game if only because I had to look up the meaning of the title before playing, before being sent down an internet wormhole for an hour or two. For those like me, Goetia is a practice that invokes demons or angels from a 17th-century grimoire called The Lesser Key of Solomon. In-game terms however Goetia is a point-and-click adventure that first arrived on PC in 2016, won some awards, got some good reviews, and eventually rolled out on Nintendo Switch before making its way to Xbox.
You begin the game as dead as a dodo, with an orb-like spirit rising from your gravestone in a field by a tree. You are Abigail Blackwood – a young teenager whose last thoughts were those of falling from a window to their death. When you died it was the late 19th century, yet now time has moved on. You arrive very quickly at your old home – Blackwood Manor, a huge mansion with loads of rooms. You explore your old home finding that time hasn’t been kind to the old place, with it abandoned like an ancient ruin. Soon you see that the occupants have been playing around with antiquated magic and occult books, and when you see a giant bird appear who claims to be a demon, you soon realise the quest to find the truth is going to be tricky…
The writing, storytelling, and world-building of Goetia is excellent. You find yourself in a unique and interesting world full of intrigue, magic, and mystery; one in which most of the story is told through the documentation you find in books, objects, and the house itself. The developers have built an amazing journey with some heavy research and well-thought out narrative design.
Gameplay consists of you controlling this little orb of light around the space. You point with the cursor and it follows where you are going like a normal point and click adventure. It all feels very fluid. Whenever you enter a room or area you can press a button and all the interactive items in the room are highlighted, letting you stroll over and interact with an object and be given several choices for you to choose from. You can examine an object, which will give you a description, or you can interact with it – things like a switch for example. The other option, something I liked immensely, is that you can possess certain objects so that you can carry them around into different areas or use them with other items to unlock puzzles and make progress.
As you get further into the game you can find other orbs like yourself, allowing you the chance to possess them in order to gain more powers. One power for example allows you to move faster, whilst another delivers the ability to possess and lift heavier objects.
Blackwood Manor is your starting point in Goetia and you will find there are whole areas that are blocked from passing through, covered by strange, colored magical sigils. Your main aim is to find the ability needed to be able to pass through these sigils and eventually be able to travel anywhere and solve the puzzle of your demise. You start in the manor, but will soon be traveling into the woods and stumbling upon a nearby abandoned village. At some points, the world gets very strange, seeing you go back in time and, in a brilliant section, through actual photographs. The whole gameplay experience is highly original and intelligently implemented.
However, the problem I have with this novel point and clicker is that it might be too hard for some to bother with. The puzzles in the second half of the game are extremely tricky to get a handle on, and this will mean that whilst some will love them, many more will find them a source of frustration. It could well be compared to classics like Myst and Riven in terms of pace and how the game deals with the difficulty in the puzzlement department. And this means that there is a lot of back and forth taking place, as you go about wandering through areas, drifting around trying out different possibilities. I would have liked some kind of fast travel ability to help progression, but others may well enjoy the old-school style.
Visually and we find Goetia presented in 2D with a lovely art style that is atmospheric and exquisitely designed. The attention to detail in the colour tones, documentation, and furniture is stunning. I mostly enjoyed the representations of the demons you meet and the moments when the game goes into the strange, heading inside pictures themselves. The soundtrack is nicely put together and works superbly in tandem with the design of the world.
The world and atmosphere of Goetia on Xbox is something to love. It’s a very cerebral, clever, and originally designed point and click adventure. The story and writing are excellent throughout and the puzzles are both interesting and unique. I do however think that it can all become needlessly complicated at times and you really do have to think outside the box in order to find some of the solutions. That dictates whether or not this is going to be a game for you; if you like a challenge and are ready for an old-school point and clicker, fill your boots and prepare to enter the world of Goetia.