If my opinion mattered one jot, I would say to any game developer… NEVER start your game in the dark.
Gamers – and people in general – are too fickle, easily frustrated. Starting a game and ensuring that those players need to fumble around with controls, while not being able to see what is going on, isn’t a great idea. Luckily this point-and-click adventure gets a lot lighter, and therefore a bit better, when the lights are switched on.
Saint Kotar harks back to the point and clickers like Broken Sword. But does it live up to that high standard?
But, this isn’t a point-and-click adventure like the Monkey Island series or that of Broken Sword, games where the characters are witty and charming or tell jokes about Monkey pirates. The tone of Saint Kotar is instead much darker, extremely dark in fact, more serious in its telling. It’s not helped by the fact that the narrative is hard to grasp at times too. Yet that’s not to say it isn’t original and I haven’t played a narrative in a game like this one. That is something which should be admired.
Saint Kotar starts in a house (in the dark) and features two protagonists: Benedek and Nikolay. You can swap between these two during the game. Benedek is a religious man; a monk who also believes his family is cursed. Nikolay is his brother-in-law. He is also a man of God, but his wife Victoria has gone missing.
It’s here where both characters have been lured to the small town of Sveti Kotar, pulled forth by Victoria before waking up in a strange house, locked in. They find themselves surrounded by strange events and so are arrested and questioned by the police. Victoria has been accused of some horrendous crimes and both men want to prove her innocence.
This game deals with horror and religious occultism in its narrative. The village itself is full of sub-stories and characters that provide interesting diversions, tales of horror and nightmares as you travel around. There are options in how you play through the story too and in my first playthrough I decided to leave the town empty-handed (by mistake). Twenty minutes in and the credits began to roll. It must be said, last longer than that and you’ll find that the story is the strongest part of the whole game, and the developers create a fascinating dark – did I say it was dark? – world full of terror and hidden secrets.
The gameplay is what you expect from an old-school point-and-click adventure. It has a feature that is always handy, allowing you to press a button and be shown all the interactable things on screen. This is great because you might miss some of those in Saint Kotar, as – and yep, you guessed it, it can be hard to see. The old-fashioned inventory system is in place too, letting you go about collecting objects, combining things, and using them to get through the adventure.
In terms of gameplay, there aren’t really any surprises to be had here and it does feel at times like you are playing a game from decades gone by. Whether that is a bad thing will be dictated by personal preference.
The visuals of Saint Kotar are interesting though and I liked the nod back to the retro point-and-click games of the ’90s. The locations themselves are strange, yet familiar at the same time, which adds to the horror. And honestly, I think the lighting in these locations is extremely good and well-designed. Just don’t start the game in the dark. Please.
Audio wise it comes with a good soundtrack that adds to the tension and suspense provided by the claustrophobic feel of the game. The voice acting has a very old-school feel to it though, sometimes feeling a bit over-dramatic. This in turn can take away from the tone of the piece and at no point does Saint Kotar manage to properly sell the premise.
If you’re a fan of point-and-click adventures then Saint Kotar might well fulfil your needs. A dark tale full of horror and religious mythology, it’s very much a grown-up game, one that might be too much for some. It’s a long experience as well – running between roughly nine hours in length – but it’s not helped by a slow gameplay pace.
I can’t say I enjoyed Saint Kotar particularly, but can respect the work that has gone into the artistic vision and storytelling.
Saint Kotar is on the Xbox Store