The horror genre often throws up some unusual and interesting experiences. However, occasionally it is too reliant on clichés and well-trodden elements. As such, there is a very real risk of déjà vu and a disinterested audience. When I was given Saint Kotar to review, I had no idea of what to expect. Consequently, much of the action took me by surprise, and I was shocked by the gruesome images and uncomfortable story. Unfortunately, though, its laboured opening was confusing and tough to wade through.
Developed by Red Martyr Entertainment and published by SOEDESCO, this is a horror adventure title. What’s more, it has a blend of point-and-click and interactive story mechanics, and it incorporates some puzzle elements. Accordingly, it is a bit of a hybrid that has its fingers in many pies. Now, this focus on multiple genres dilutes the approach somewhat, but I still believe it works.
Saint Kotar focuses on religion and witchcraft.
Using witchcraft and religion as your core themes can be tricky. Not only can it alienate your audience, but it can be so ridiculous that you are instantly turned off. However, Saint Kotar does a great job of blending the polar opposite ideas within its shifting story. On top of this, its grim settings and unusual characters work well with the strange plot.
The story is set in Croatia and focuses on two priests. These individuals are invited to an ancient, God-devoted town called Sveti Kotar. However, once they enter this creepy location, things go quickly awry. Benedek and Nikolay are abandoned by Viktoria as she undertakes an alleged demonic ritual. Accordingly, the God-fearing community is up in arms about the situation and the two priests are being held responsible.
By exploring the local area and questioning the residents, maybe the pair can understand what is happening. Yet, the more they press for answers, the greater the danger that they face. Therefore, it is a continuous balancing act as the truth is unfortunately revealed.
Far too slow.
Now, I love an atmospheric tale that absorbs its grim surroundings. However, Saint Kotar is too slow. The first two hours or so are confusing, arduous, and off-putting. Yet, once you battle through it, you experience some grisly sights. Furthermore, the mysterious backgrounds of the protagonists come to the fore.
The core mechanics focus on dialogue, puzzles, and exploration. As such, you’ll investigate weird locations while searching for clues and interacting with the creepy locals. On top of this, your decisions often have consequences where many of the key players meet their demise. Accordingly, you must consider your questions and actions before you act.
This element of the gameplay was often uncomfortable and gave the story a twisted psychological edge. However, this is where the depth of the dialogue ends. Mostly, each interaction serves as a gateway to the new locations or acts as the ability to send you on multiple side quests. Now, this isn’t a complaint, as I enjoyed exploring the horrific world. Instead, I would have liked there to be more variety in the tasks on offer, and some more mystery surrounding the central story.
Two unique stories intertwined.
Saint Kotar runs multiple stories simultaneously. As such, you experience each playable character’s backstories and gruesome ordeals side by side. At pivotal moments, you will flit between each character as they use their strengths and weaknesses to proceed. Subsequently, you’ll interact with particular residents multiple times and their responses will alter the flow of the story.
This was fascinating, as it gave the gameplay real depth while enhancing the unusual and uncomfortable nature of the plot. Disappointingly, though, the puzzles lacked any sort of difficulty. Therefore, it took limited consideration to overcome each situation. This was frustrating, as I’d have loved the problems to be much harder to solve.
Saint Kotar: a grim but rough world.
You have to applaud the developers for their depressing and ominous work. The dark and earthy colours and claustrophobic areas create an oppressive atmosphere. However, the walking animation is terrible and the dialogue inexplicably flickers. These issues, though minor, break up the immersion and are extremely off-putting. However, thankfully, they aren’t game-breaking and I’m sure they will be ironed out at a later date.
On the other hand, the audio does well to enhance the sultry and moody atmosphere. With sombre music and creepy acting, the story will make your skin crawl. Furthermore, the incredible environmental sounds are the icing on the cake. I adored the strange and grim noises that accompanied the uncomfortable and eerie images.
It shouldn’t handle so well.
Point-and-click games and consoles = frustration. Yet, Saint Kotar breaks this rule! The combination of free-flowing movement and point-and-click mechanics works beautifully. Moreover, the intelligent but stripped-back UI helps further still. Yes, there are times when it gets a bit niggly, but it wasn’t ever a problem. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised by how well-considered the control setup was.
Though the game isn’t particularly long, there is plenty of longevity and replay value. Thanks to the branching storylines and consequential dialogue, you can experience multiple versions of each protagonist’s plot. What’s more, the hefty achievement list will be a challenge for every completionist.
Saint Kotar won’t appeal to everyone.
Religion, witchcraft, and the horror genre are divisive categories. As such, the combination of all three will put off some gamers. But, in this instance, it shouldn’t. The excellent but strange story, sinister characters, and weird locations override the slow and arduous start. What’s more, the creepy imagery and interesting backstories make this an uncomfortable but captivating experience. Accordingly, I recommend you buy it here! Can you solve the mystery and save yourself? Explore, interact, and above all else, survive.