Walking simulator has become a bit of a derogatory term for some. It usually describes a game in which your main activity is walking around, exploring an environment, and interacting with a few objects. There might be a few light puzzles, but for the most part you walk and look—with your character, or an observer spouting lines of dialogue to move the narrative along or otherwise give backstory. It’s a type of adventure game that I enjoy—one of my favorite things to do in video games is explore areas seemingly abandoned by civilization, and walking simulators tend to lean this way. Paradise Lost is another such example, and it sits firmly in the “walking simulator” camp of adventure games.
In Paradise Lost, you play as Szymon, a man who has found himself in an alternate 1980’s post-apocalyptic wasteland. He goes into an abandoned Nazi bunker looking for answers, and what he finds is a fantastical underground civilization built by the Nazis to withstand the aftermath of a World War II that was apparently far more devastating than ours—and one that seemingly ended in nuclear apocalypse. I won’t give away any story spoilers, since most of the game depends on its secrets to be uncovered.
Mechanically, there isn’t much to Paradise Lost. You walk very slowly, and occasionally have a chance to interact with objects. There are no puzzles, but there are a few dialogue choices you can make along the way. But most of Paradise Lost is walking from point A to point B, interacting with an object, and then going on to the next object. That’s pretty much it, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Paradise Lost’s environments are incredibly compelling, as is its story, which is told through recordings, dialogue, and found paper. Paradise Lost puts you into a huge underground bunker that just begs for you to discover its secrets. Discovering its secrets for me was a joy–moving around in the game itself, however, is horrible.
Movement in Paradise Lost is at a snail’s pace. It’s, no exaggeration, the slowest walk I’ve ever had to endure in a first person game. There is no run button. There’s not even a walk faster button. Most of the game you have to suffer as you just casually stroll to one location to another. I don’t even think “stroll” is fast enough to describe your movement. I don’t know if it was a deliberate decision to artificially inflate Paradise Lost’s runtime or a technical trick to allow the environments to load in fully. I’m leaning towards the former, because Paradise Lost is compelling, but there’s just not much to it. It does sport some impressive environments though.
Paradise Lost is one of the prettier games I’ve played lately. It has incredibly detailed environments that just aren’t a part of the scenery. Instead, they help tell the story of what happened in the bunker. Poking around in Paradise Lost was a treat. It really gives the feeling of a place frozen in time, with pretty graphics to back it all up. The world does possess some anomalies, however—things that shouldn’t be in their condition or state based on the passage of time. For instance, you come across train cars in the first minutes of the game, and they look hastily abandoned—and the story does a bit to explain it, but it doesn’t quite make sense.
The narrative in one of the major impetuses to keep moving forward in Paradise Lost, and it’s only okay. Szymon is alone, and lost in a harsh, dead world. At its core, the story is a mystery—one I don’t want to spoil here—but it’s also one I saw coming from miles away. It’s not just the one revelation or the other: I was able to figure out the gist of the entire situation within the first hour. That didn’t really take away my enjoyment from discovering these revelations, but they’re not as hidden as the writers probably thought. There might have been a bit lost in translation, though, as it seems as the writers and voice actors are Polish. Though the mystery wasn’t hard to deduce, I don’t regret seeing Paradise Lost to its conclusion. At least, to the conclusion I found.
There are multiple endings in Paradise Lost. While I could stomach a single playthrough, I don’t think I could do another. The slow walk really kills my desire to play Paradise Lost, even if I could see what happens when I make the other choices. I can’t even go back and load a previous save, since the game decided it was best to delete my progress once I finished. Boo.
Paradise Lost scratched my exploration itch, but I don’t think it’s a very good game. It has an interesting story with an okay mystery to uncover. But its lack of meaningful mechanics coupled with its horrible slow walking make it a one and done type experience. And that makes it a little hard to even recommend to others. It’s not a bad game, but even its detailed environments and graphical fidelity might not be enough to keep most interested. But if you love to explore abandoned places, there might be something here for you.
Paradise Lost is available now on Steam.
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