All I will say is that I am not a fan of the term hiking simulator. As an author, I find that what I like to call narrative adventure is allowing the story to be experienced through simple interactions and decision making. Calling something a walking simulation devalues the work that goes into telling an interactive story.

Paradise Lost is in fact a narrative adventure for PS4 that can also be played on PS5. The story is set in an alternate version after World War II, where the Nazis have destroyed Europe with nuclear weapons, and our protagonist explores a seemingly abandoned bunker for reasons known to history. Does it delve into a version of history that never happened, does it tell a story worth reliving, or should we leave this paradise to itself? We’ll see about that!

A spectacular exploration of an alternative programme

Paradise Lost is a game that has created a rich and detailed atmosphere from the start. This level of immersion is due to a number of things, but mostly to the richly realized environments and small subtleties, such as the ability to see a character’s entire body when jumping off a ledge or weaving through environmental elements.

The game’s story didn’t immediately grab me, but over the course of about four hours I found that it very organically revealed more and more information about the events that took place before you arrived and why you ended up in this complex bunker. I say bunker, but it’s more like a sprawling underground city with many neighborhoods and different districts.

In this version of the story, the Nazis have destroyed Europe with atomic weapons, leaving the area of Poland where you spend the game virtually uninhabited on the surface. With a few pointers, you play as a 12-year-old boy who at first has nothing but his wits, a photo and a lighter to guide him.

The story is told through flashbacks, dialogues between the boy and another character (I won’t mention their names because they are not immediately revealed in the story), sound recordings and, of course, the old method of finding documents in the game.

Paradise Lost’s story works really well for me because it doesn’t reveal all the cards until later. You spend the first part of the game alone and eventually make contact with someone through the camera/microphone system, but even the documents play tricks on what the Nazis are up to in this massive underground society.

I think some people will predict some elements of the story before they happen, but I was actually surprised by some events. It’s also a story with some flexibility thanks to the different paths you can take through the environments and moments where you interact with a complex machine that plays back recordings of past events.

Again, I won’t go into detail for spoiler reasons, but your ability to make decisions at certain critical moments worked for me narratively, even if it was a bit drawn out when revisiting footage from the previous event. I wish these solutions carried more weight, but there are always alternatives and loopholes to be found for some losses.

It is also clear from the beginning that the whole story is connected to the stages of mourning. Each part of the game corresponds to a stage of grief, but I loved finding parallels between the concept and what was happening for me. While using the scenarios themselves as level sets is a bit obvious, the other connections are more subtle and work well as supplementary fodder.

For those who take the time to read the notes, the story is also quite profound. It deals with a heavy subject and delves into the history of the bunker both in the Nazi-controlled society and the events that have taken place since.

By the time the credits rolled, I felt like I had been given enough information to fully tell the events of the story, while still having enough leeway to interpret some of the more difficult parts. I shed a few tears too, to be honest. The characters really spoke to me, and even though the voice acting is sometimes more, sometimes less good, I ended up enjoying it.

Exquisite details bring any environment to life

Paradise Lost has one of the most robust and detailed features I’ve seen in a long time. A very tangible and real sense of place throughout the adventure. I felt like I was walking through a historical museum and seeing exhibits that had been beautifully preserved in their original state.

Moreover, there is excellent diversity in all areas. Whether it’s the industrial look of the first levels, the luxurious buildings, the cold laboratories or the beautiful underground forests, Paradise Lost is a visual delight to behold.

I noticed some graphical issues from time to time, and at one point I had to reload because my character started floating to the point where I was too tall to fit through the doors, but none of this ruined the experience for me, and it only happened occasionally, or once in a while at other times.

If you find this kind of narrative adventure too slow, I don’t think Paradise Lost will change your mind, but if you’re excited about titles like Firewatch, What Remains of Edith Finch, Dear Esther and the like, Paradise Lost will definitely scratch the same kind of itch. It won’t quite come close to the top of these titles, but it’s still worth your time.

Last point: 8.5/10

A copy of Paradise Lost was made available to PS5 players for review.

Subject of – Bradley Ramsey
Date of Insertion – 24/03/2021

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