released on Oct 27, 2022


released on Oct 27, 2022

Saturnalia is a survival-horror adventure inspired and heavily influenced by the folklore of Sardinia, Italy, a region rich with unique traditions and culture. You play as four characters, experiencing a deeply connected storyline that ties back to the haunting traditions of this ancient village. The village itself is an elaborate maze with no two iterations being precisely the same - you will have to explore and solve the mysteries of the game largely unguided. Die, and watch the village reconfigure itself into a new form. Solve puzzles and open shortcuts to new areas with tools and items you find along the way, unlocking every piece of the story with different characters, each suited for another aspect of exploration and investigation. With a limited supply of matches to light your way and darkness encroaching, can you find your way through the fog to reveal the truth? Or will you be engulfed by the secrets this town doesn’t want you to know?

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either way overscoped or just the result of boring design decisions. everything happens in text/the clue screen divorced from running around and getting lost. Shouldve been a point and click...

I admire the complex topics that this game grapples with: from the code of silence (omertà) that Southern Italy is known for, the mythology and superstitions of small communities, how these communities can ostracize and sometimes violently harass dissenting beliefs and actions, the inherent conservative values, etc. It's a slice of the world I've rarely seen covered in entertainment, but especially in games.

Saturnalia focuses on four characters that you convince to join your group. Anita is a geologist determining the exploitability of the town's mine, while also grappling with a love affair with a local married man who doesn't want her to have their baby. Sergio is a local who was ostracized for being homosexual and is only returning to care for his sick father. Claudia has a fraught relationship with her father and is treated as a pariah since her aunt committed suicide, which left a black mark on her family. Paul is a journalist who is returning to Sardinia from America to find his real parents after being given up for adoption at a young age. They're all strong characters, but their backstories are a bit vague. I wish they were fleshed out more.

The singular visual style is what immediately caught my attention. I've never seen a game have this low-fidelity hand-drawn appearance, with these dark and muted colors. The visual style didn't disappoint. Loved how oppressive it felt. Also the sound design was great, especially for the monster. The percussion instrument is creepy as hell. I was so fascinated with this sound, I looked up Italian instruments and I think it might have been the Triccaballacca.

The investigation gameplay reminds me of Outer Wilds where you fill out your evidence board with new bits of information and see all the connections. It's not done as tactfully as Outer Wilds, since it gets cluttered by the end, making clue-seeking difficult. I wish there was a hint system though, because some of the final clues and story moments were hard to find.

The roguelike elements were unnecessary imo. The joy of exploring a small but dense environment is forming a mental map of that place (Shenmue, Outer Wilds, Yakuza series). Remixing the area each reset led to a lot of frustration for me. The fun part isn't being lost. It's gradually learning the lay of the land. I think these elements were introduced just to extend gameplay. You can turn them off thankfully in the accessibility options.

My main gripe with Saturnalia is its monster and the frequency of its attacks. I swear to god every 5 minutes it tracks you down, leading to lengthy chase sequences that get in the way of the exploration and detective work. I felt like I had to hurry through reading every piece of evidence and rush through dialogue because who knows when the fucking horned crawler is coming back. Imagine Outer Wilds but those anglerfish are scattered around every planet. It got so frustrating that by the time I'd found around 75% of the clues, I turned on all the accessibility options (easier enemy encounters, infinite matches, infinite sprint). I just wanted to see the story conclusion without the time consuming chase sequences. The worst part is I couldn't change the frequency of its attacks in the options.

The mine area also was awful to explore since it's intentionally mazelike, but the fog makes it so hard to keep track of what areas are adjacent and the ever-present threat of the monster makes it so I can't relax to make a mental map.

Finally, the end sequence had extreme framerate issues that damaged the ending for me. I still enjoyed my time with Saturnalia but there were some glaring issues. An intriguing horror game though!

Um excelente survival horror, muito criativo principalmente no seu estilo de arte, que é o grande charme de Saturnalia, a história é muito envolvente, apesar de ter levado certo tempo até conseguir conectar os pontos e descobrir do que se tratava a trama e como os personagens se enrolavam nela. O jogo é bem simples, a mecânica da vila se alterar quando você morre é interessante, porém se você for bom é capaz de nem mesmo ter problemas com isso, e é visto mais como uma maneira de dificultar sua locomoção pela cidade. Meu maior ponto negativo é que os personagens são esquisitos de controlar (é algo que só jogando mesmo pra perceber). Saturnalia é muito ♥♥♥♥ e merece sua atenção se você gosta de jogos de terror

Ok so kinda a dumb review to backseat develop I guess but I couldn't help think bout games and their budgets during playing this. I think that this game's ambitions are hampered by what seems to be a sizable but still small team operating on a small budget. I think it's too loose and not interesting enough as much as it wants to be. I wish the game was more focused, more set pieces and grand reveals rather than finding a bunch of shit to pick up and connecting story pieces on a menu. I like what's here it's just not super engaging. Really good art and music.

Another weird thing, is this one's real hard to put down and pick back up. The last time I played it was only 3 days after playing it last, and I ended up having to run around the village for about 20 minutes to find what I was looking for just to get my bearings. I'm not good at maps anyways! And then I couldn't really piece together the ending. I knew I needed to do something in the dam, but I last saw the dam about a week before and spent another probably ~30 minutes looking for it? Anyways, I watched the ending on YouTube.

Adored this. The style, the atmosphere, the shifting town. The joy of learning a location and being able to chart your way around. I don't think I ever fully worked out what Anita's ability did, or how to rescue characters after they'd been nabbed, but I don't even mind tbqh.