The Nazis have proven to be some useful enemy fodder for games over the years. They have been bullet sponges for the Wolfenstein franchise and keep popping up across Call of Duty. They have also appeared in alternate timeline possibilities where they managed to win the battles ahead of them, changing history as we know it. In Paradise Lost, the Nazis are prevalent again in this gaming history, but in a completely different way, albeit still as frightening and still as evil. You see, you won’t be killing anyone, but this will rather take you on a journey through a dystopian new future; one where the world looks very different. Are you ready to enter Paradise Lost?
Paradise Lost relies heavily on its storytelling and narrative threads rather than complex gameplay dynamics or combat. It’s a story that brings together an adventure exploration game, managing to take you into an unusual world, that is both familiar and strange at the same time.
You play as a 12-year-old boy called Syzmon who after the death of his mother finds a deserted Nazi bunker in the barren world of Poland. In this alternative future, the Nazis survived World War Two and twenty years later bombed the rest of Europe in a nuclear strike, all with the concept of repopulating the world in their image. Szymon has a photograph of a man he suspects might be his father and searches the bunker for not just answers, but the truth. He soon discovers that he isn’t alone and there is a woman called Ewa speaking to him through an intercom system, before they both go on a journey to find each other.
The storytelling and imagined world of Paradise Lost are top-notch and brilliantly crafted. As you move across the world you find detailed documents, recordings, and other items that give you insight into the created world. Normally I tend not to read all these extra features, picking and choosing what is important, but here the storytelling is so absorbing I have found myself combing every last detail. The dialogue itself is good as well with some dialogue tree options that do make a difference in the ending and choices of what you might see on your travels. The world-building very much reminds of games like BioShock and the more recent Wolfenstein games.
Gameplay-wise and everything plays out in the first person, leaving you to slowly move around the environments. There is the option to move a little faster but on the whole it’s all generally quite a slow progress. For some this will frustrate, but for others it will give time to truly absorb the world, providing the chance to look at all the detail on offer. As you’d expect, you can pick objects up to examine them and there are a few moments where you have to store objects, combining them together to complete a task or two.
There is however a strange control system in place, where instead of climbing and moving around you head towards a circled marker on screen and press the A button. This will then allow you to climb, go up and down ladders, walk along tight crevasses or crawl under something. The mechanism for pulling switches or opening doors consists of a hold of RT and moving the cursor in the correct direction. This takes a while to get used to, but honestly it works fine after a while. In fact, in all there is nothing troublesome with the gameplay; the worst thing that can happen is that you miss a switch or can’t see the exit. Even missing that is quite hard as Paradise Lost is very linear throughout.
So, we get on to how things look and Paradise Lost could well be a triple-A title, rather than one from a small indie developer with a low price point. There is some brilliant level design and attention to detail too, with the designers superbly capturing an alternative apocalyptic world that shows an alternate history amid a wonderful scope for backstory and potential future franchise. It borrows in parts from other games like Metro and BioShock but still manages to plow its own path. Occasionally though it does all get a bit too dark at moments visually, but at others there are bits of pure beauty and flawless design choices.
The soundtrack is lovely too, with some brilliant audio selections that work so well with all the set pieces. The two main voice-over stars of Ewa and Szymon plus all the extras you hear in flashback and through the found tape recordings are fantastic, doing stellar jobs.
Paradise Lost on Xbox has surprised from start to finish. It tells a good and moving story, and deals with an alternative chilling history with some brilliant visuals and well-written narrative. It’s not a challenging game at all but rather a narrative exploration that takes you on quite a linear path. It’s cheap though, and feels good to play, although the control scheme takes a bit of getting used to and at times feels a little unresponsive, but these are just minor quibbles. What the development team might do next is very exciting and I will be looking out with eager eyes.