Martha is Dead, tried the new Italian horror of LKA

Martha is Dead, tried the new Italian horror of LKA

Martha is Dead

The first contact with the demo of Martha is Dead is one that is not forgotten, for a series of features that are not easy to find elsewhere, despite the fact that there are now industrial quantities of horror and first-person psychological thrillers. Let's try to rearrange the ideas and make a report of what we felt about Martha is Dead with the publication of the recent trial version at the Steam Next Fest in October 2021.

The demo provides a first taste of the story, allowing you to try what should be the first few minutes of the full game, even if obviously the scale is reduced and many elements and roads have been removed, so the final experience will still be different. However, in this scarce and slightly mutilated hour it is still possible to perfectly enter the atmospheres that characterize the new production of Studio LKA, confirming the already excellent impressions leaked previously. It is a very intriguing introduction, which has left us with a great desire to see how the disturbing story of Giulia K., the mystery of her identity and the disturbing end of Marta goes on.

To avoid spoilers, considering that this adventure is also heavily based on narration, let's avoid talking too much about the story, which in any case will probably have been savored by those who have tried the demo made available these days, but we can say that the attention to the story, the monologues and the psychological introspection return in Martha is Dead as preponderant elements together with the care for the settings and the characteristic attention in rooting the supernatural elements in decidedly real settings and with precise historical references . All solutions already applied with great success in The Town of Light, a previous work by LKA with which there are several similarities, although there is no direct connection.

The new demo

Martha is Dead, an image of the disturbing lake where tragedy takes place, protagonist of legends It is this preponderance of the narrative that manifests itself immediately, starting from the first seconds of the demo game: a strange and disturbing mechanical theater introduces us to the legend of the Lady in White, the spirit of a woman killed by a lake who now kidnaps and kills young women caught in the haunted area. Everything is told by making us take part in the scene with the mechanical movement of the puppets and the elements of the scenery, as in a sort of game for children with dark implications. Immediately after, we find ourselves in the role of Giulia K. near the offending lake and we are immediately witnesses of a macabre discovery that will change our lives forever: although the start is decidedly plastered on the gameplay front, with a long sequence in style quick time event, the game opens immediately after in the classic first-person adventure style, with the ability to explore the environments and interact with various objects and elements of the scenario.

After the introduction, in the demo we have the opportunity to visit part of the house and the surrounding areas, starting to become familiar with the protagonist, her particular condition and her passion for photography, which takes on considerable importance during the game. We are in the summer of 1944, in the heart of the Tuscan countryside: Giulia K. lives in a wealthy family, in a wonderful farmhouse near San Casciano, near Florence, only touched by the events of the war that rages even a few meters away. from your home.

Martha is Dead: an image of the mechanical theater that tells some events The fact that the father is obviously a Nazi officer already makes it clear the particular situation in which the protagonist's family finds themselves suspended, with whom Giulia he will probably have to deal soon, with the dark precipitate of events.

The general tone, despite the brightness of the Tuscan bucolic settings, constantly maintains a patina of tension, as if metaphysical horror were always lurking even in moments of maximum relaxation within the wonderful scenarios, modeled with great realism and attention to detail. This fear of the supernatural arises precisely in parallel with another continuous threat, which always transpires also from the apparently quiet everyday life of the farmhouse and the surrounding countryside: the Second World War, which was fought in that period also in the woods near the house and the lake, which act as the nerve center of history.

Between adventure, play and photography

Martha is Dead, an image of an interior in the ancient Tuscan style The purely narrative interludes, represented with the mechanical theater, the game fragment made available with the demo opens and closes with two very evocative sections, which in itself develops largely according to the typical canons of first-person adventure. Most of the time we find ourselves controlling Giulia in her exploration of the family home and surrounding land, with the possibility of interacting with some elements of the scenario to obtain specific descriptions or actions that arise from the objects. Some very basic puzzles also emerge that suggest the presence of puzzles within the full game, but the first phase is purely exploratory, and allows you to get acquainted with the setting, the story and the characters. Some heavily scripted sections serve above all to advance the story in poignant moments, in which the player's action is limited and somewhat reminiscent of the interaction system seen in the Quantic Dream games, so the gameplay is a bit of a mixture of solutions different.

Photography seems to be of particular importance, which is carried out (at least in the first part) through a vintage camera with a view from above, in the Hasselblad style. The use of this represents a real game within the game, which suggests a certain weight for this practice, beyond a simple photographic mode.

An image of Martha is Dead on the photo development procedure, which has a particular importance in the game The camera can be modified with the application of some accessories such as special lenses, tripods or films capable of capturing infrared images, also before shooting it is possible to make a series of specific adjustments such as contrast, exposure, shutter control and more, like a real realistic simulation. To this is also added the procedure required to print the photos with an enlarger and chemical reagents, to complete the idea of ​​photography as a characterizing element for a good part of the game experience. It is easy to think of "supernatural" and disturbing implications of the camera, which could recall some aspects of Fatal Frame, although probably with much less "action" overtones.

The pursuit of photorealism

Martha is Dead, an image of the protagonist's bedroom that incorporates Tuscan rural architecture and furnishings Already with The Town of Light the LKA studio had demonstrated a remarkable mastery in the use of graphic technologies and in Martha is Dead the evolution is impressive, also thanks to the transition from Unity to Unreal Engine. The search for photorealism is evident in the meticulous reconstruction of the settings both as regards the interiors and exteriors, all perfectly in line with the typical Tuscan style. The developers are based in Florence and more precisely in the San Casciano area, where the story of the new game takes place and the proximity to the source material is clear: the interior of the rural estate of Giulia K.'s family really seems to come out of the 1940s of this area and in many respects it is still easily verifiable from life. Those who frequent certain places will have no difficulty in recognizing some landscapes and the same composition of the woods, perfectly traced on the vegetation that actually exists in the area around Florence.

All this great attention to detail, which characterizes practically every visible scene in the demo, it is reflected in a not huge extension of the explorable environments, of course.

Martha is Dead, image of an outsider in the sunny countryside Several roads are not passable in the trial version and some doors of the house cannot be opened, so it is still early to assess the potential breadth of the full game , but we are obviously far from an open world: even in open areas, it is a question of following rather predefined paths, with scripted scenes that mark the events of the story. This is certainly not a problem, given that the rhythm and style of the game are calibrated for a title that is more contained in terms of extension and concentrated in a smaller number of scenes but extremely accurate from an artistic and directing point of view. And it is truly remarkable, from this point of view, to note how the Tuscan rural atmosphere is perfectly reproduced on the scene, alternating moments of serene daily intimacy with highly disturbing situations, creating a constant tension given by the contrast between the two opposite conditions.

We can't wait to be able to try Martha is Dead in a more complete form, as this demo was short-lived and stopped at the very moment. The structure continues in the wake of the experience traced by The Town of Light, but this new production of LKA seems to be more mature and complete in terms of gameplay and direction, as well as further advancing the technical mastery in the graphic moderation of realistic scenarios. The premises are really very interesting, with the disturbing story of Martha and Giulia that has characteristics of intimate but also objective horror, merging with historical elements that can make important contributions to the construction of history. It is not clear how much "play" there is in all of this, because the puzzle design still shines through as very basic, but the use of the camera could represent something interesting on the gameplay front.


The premises, between history and setting, are really very intriguing Interesting game elements emerge, such as the camera The technical realization is remarkable, sometimes impressive DOUBTS The gameplay is still a bit of a mystery, between sections script and basic puzzle design To evaluate the actual interaction with the settings Have you noticed any errors?

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