Saturnalia | Review - Terror is everywhere in the horror of Santa Ragione

Saturnalia | Review - Terror is everywhere in the horror of Santa Ragione

Fear is a primary emotion. It acts suddenly, transforming and branching out in ways that are impossible to curb. There is darkness, there is panic, there is the end and there is death. In Saturnalia there is the sound of a bell whipping the unbreathable air, uncomfortable and dense with a mysterious atmosphere. There is no way out, because now there are streets marked by blood, and the video game of Santa Ragione, the development team of this horror story, knows how to dip the right sensations into the scenarios.

Interfacing with Saturnalia, I already knew that I would be scared to death and, reading the plot better, I knew that an experience was taking shape before me that I would either hate to death, or appreciate beyond belief. In the Aosta Valley, for example, there are many legends: one of the most famous concerns the Devil of Verrès, hanging by the neck from the bridge of the hamlet, to symbolize the entire valley that the Evil One had been defeated. Here, however, we are not in my native land, there is no fontina, there is no good wine from a cellar and there is not even a good dessert from Valle d'Aosta to taste, to forget the sad story of the devil who, thinking he was smarter than the others, he ended up worse than the many characters of the folkloristic imaginary, which the Church itself contributed to tarnish, denigrating and mocking with raspberries, purges and collective hatred.

Saturnalia has the taste of an Ichnusa and pane carasau con casa fràzigu (cheese with worms: yes, it really exists), because it is set in Sardinia, in the town of Gravoi, not to be confused with Gavoi, which it is located in the province of Nuoro. However, leaving aside the geography lessons, the independent development studio Santa Ragione, known for Milky Way Prince: The Vampire and many other independent productions, has never hidden that it is ambitious, talented but, above all, capable of creating contexts that would interest anyone looking for. something new and unexpected.

Saturnalia immediately proposed itself by making things clear, and it did so with an absolutely disturbing song in the main menu, composed of distressing and jarring rhymes like cold metal chains on a rocky wall, stained with blood, bile and brain matter. Or is it perhaps just all the usual illusion, which is configured to scare and force the most impressionable to flee? It could be anything; on the other hand, it's natural: horror is made to scare, stories are made to impress and the happy ending, which is just a big illusion, is a way like any other to tell children that there will never be a bittersweet ending . Because, if you had not understood it, Saturnalia has not only positive or negative endings, but above all bittersweet. Better proceed in order.

The unusual tale of Saturnalia

In Saturnalia, four existences are personified with different problems, life stories and thoughts. A pregnant mother, a daughter on the run from her family, a young photographer in search of the truth and a former drug addict. Four stories, one place and a party that none of them know. What could go wrong? Everything, in reality, because the events of the prologue, which quickly introduces the various protagonists, are not lost in too many frills, sending the player to the mercy of darkness without too many compliments.

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The adventure, inspired by most memorable horror works of the videogame panorama, it does not take long to show itself in all its splendor, and makes it clear right away that nothing is as it appears. The escape of a mother, who got pregnant without wanting it is certainly a story that could touch the chords of others. Not giving you too many spoilers, know that each protagonist hides a tremendous past, which can only be discovered with patience, understood and absorbed with the due propensity to listen.

There are no narrative voices, but only texts to read to better understand what surrounds each of the protagonists. Certainly, there is no time to become attached to it, because the video game of Santa Ragione does not allow it: hunted by the dark entity, I often fled without stopping, not looking back, thinking only of getting to the goal. I knew I was being chased but, sure that nothing would happen to me, I continued without being overwhelmed by terror, which was however impossible to control. Certainly not an easy undertaking, especially not after these premises, which appeared to me to be absolutely well integrated in the final result. And it was not easy, not for a work of this kind, which could risk creating a context that was not at all unusual.

“Let the bell ring in time of death”

Saturnalia, as I mentioned before, is a dynamic and narrative adventure that captures the winning elements of the most famous investigative video games and roguelite productions released recently. No, it is not a Cult of the Lamb nor a Sifu, but a video game that offers an extremely simple yet well-orchestrated play structure, designed more to tell than to entertain. I begin by saying, in fact, that the roguelite dynamics of the Santa Ragione video game manage to be absolutely functional and well represented, also inserting moments of exploration that are very useful to collect useful materials to advance during the game experience. In fact, by varying the scenarios after each death, it is possible to relive the situations in a different way, while maintaining the same clues previously collected in the town hamlet by a different character, who could be dead or unused.

Conclude each story, in this sense, it is essential to continue in the game experience to get to the end credits, which can be reached in eight abundant hours of play, unless you want to look for the proverbial nit and get lost in the hamlet. Saturnalia offers a third-person view, allowing the player to have an excellent view of the various events that follow one after the other. The video game of Santa Ragione, making the most of the survival horror on the market, captures recognizable elements already tested in the past, thus presenting no novelties in this respect.

However, each element is well inserted in the context, enough to push the player to use stealth on various occasions, sometimes distracting the Creature with cunning and skill, and just as much running away in search of a source of light capable of illuminating what is around, in such a way as not to get lost. To move in the darkness of the night, which is the moment in which the village's secret rite takes place, the only source of light is a match, which can go out at any moment. During the entire duration of the journey inside Saturnalia, it represented an important tool to escape the darkness and hidden fairs where no one would expect.

The game structure, designed precisely to offer a distressing and anxious experience, it convinces because it is simple and proposed in an intelligent way, reaching its purpose without stumbling too much. What does not work convincingly is the artificial intelligence of the Creature, which often does not notice the presence of the protagonists or their movements, thus invalidating any of its attempts.

Hiding, in fact, was simple and simple to me. not as challenging as escaping from its clutches. I have not struggled or found it difficult to escape it, even if on many occasions I have risked being discovered by the Creature. Its presence, which is constant even when it is not shown, could scare those who are not accustomed to video games of this genre, in which anxiety takes control of the player, who finds himself moving forward despite the terror.

A village built with passion

An accurate setting, a passion for Sardinian folklore and a lot, a lot of desire to surprise the medium with simplicity. I was enchanted by the huts, by the positioning of each and in general by the game map, which can be consulted in the center of the village, thus selecting the direction you prefer to follow, although I recommend you arm yourself with courage and advance without using help. automatic or rapid travel, the latter available at the telephone booths scattered around the level design of the production. While not representing who knows what intricate labyrinth, Gravoi is a village with a soul and many places to visit.

It is the archetype of a country village far from the city, with only one bar and a pharmacy. What more could you want from something like this? On the technical side, however, we have to make some criticisms: there are bugs scattered here and there, as well as interpenetrations which, unfortunately, sometimes prevented me from reaching a place of interest that I absolutely had to reach. Net of this, however, the game is fixed at thirty frames per second, managing to enhance the graphics engine and the animation style, composed of bright and sometimes dark colors, like a purple tending to black that changes the chromatism when something inevitable happens.

Saturnalia is not a video game like any other. Indeed, it is far more unusual, as well as original and inspired, because it captures the Sardinian tradition and the elements of the island in a careful and decorous way, as well as references to the Roman texts of Seneca, which could make an indefinite number of players smile. On the other hand, fear is a primary emotion. Why not try some again?

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