Goetia is one of those games that seems like it’s going to be good but then wows you with how exceptional it is. From the masterful storytelling, nerve-rattling audio and jaw-dropping visuals, this game deserves recognition for its near flawless composition. The story of a young woman’s spirit digging through a gigantic tomb in search of her family’s downfall is so poignant and engaging that you’ll refuse to give up even when the puzzles get very cryptic. While it’s not perfect, it’s a game that soars to the heights of Icarus while only getting slightly singed. A bonafide must play.
WHAT WE LIKED
º A near perfect expression of dark themes and existential fears in a top notch story.
º Puzzles that are challenging and require research and dedication to solve.
º Magnificent art and sound design creates an unforgettable and haunting tone.
WHAT WE DISLIKED
º Some of the user interface relies on visuals as opposed to convenience.
º Your ghostly powers are ignored in some situations where they shouldn’t be.
º The game lacks any vocal performances, which would’ve been nice.
Goetia is the first game to be released by the Square Enix Collective, a curated platform designed to allow creators to post their ideas with the possibility of getting the game funded. When I first wrote about this game, I was impressed with Square for offering a nice opportunity to aspiring game designers. Now, I’m even more impressed with how much this game knocked the prospect out of the park. Goetia, is without a doubt, one of my favorite experiences this year, and may be one of my favorite Point and Click adventures of all time.
The story is a simple one- you play Abigail, a young girl who wakes up dead with a ton of missing memories and time. She flies back to her family’s English manor of Oakmarsh, which she finds to be in ruins, not unlike herself. Even the nearby village of Coventry, an old village where your family would travel to often, has become a ghost town filled with dread and fear. Upon meeting a gigantic and sinister looking bird named Malphas, who in demonology is the Great Prince of Hell, you decide to take it upon yourself to explore your dilapidated and empty mansion to discover what has happened to your once proud and prestigious family.
The story is thoroughly engaging through its complex narrative and “mystery box” approach. Like legendary games from the past such as Myst and Gone Home, the game rewards those who seek out every hidden answer, even when the plot gets so disjointed that it makes it hard to keep track of everything. Each random clue opens more questions than answers, and there’s nothing more satisfying than connecting the dots and realizing how intertwined all the pieces are as you build the history of a long since abandoned town that now sits in a misty darkness.
Not only will you be pulled in by the game’s story, but the tone is about as perfect as any game can get. The whole experience reminded me of the frightening immersion of Pan’s Labyrinth, a spiraling deception where you’re unsure who or what you’re supposed to trust. Even as a ghost, you fear to enter the next room because of the brilliant aesthetics that’ll haunt you from every angle. Each room feels as if it has the grip of some demonic force, as you float through your family’s estate exploring one new room at a time, looking for any clues you can lay your eyes on.
What really makes the difference is how well written the whole experience is. From the inner monolog of a lost soul to the handwritten notes scattered all around, everything brilliantly adds to the backstory and feels like they’re from different authors. You’ll soon discover that your family was seeking demonic assistance in their desire to live forever after the death of a young family member. This lust for self-preservation appears to have torn them apart, and possibly lead to the demise of your whole family’s lineage. Every bit of dialogue is expertly crafted, and nothing feels stilted or forced in this tale that questions the values of humans over the power of demons.
Controls are pretty standard regarding point and click adventures, but the way it’s all presented just makes it a pleasure to play. Your ghostly glow mimics the movements of your cursor with a gradual creepy float when you slowly move the mouse and flies like the devil when you crank it through the halls. I know that doesn’t sound that impressive, but the designers use of delay and precise movements make the character feel more, well- alive. The game doesn’t take advantage of the scroll wheel, which would’ve been helpful to review notes or your map without having to hit the Esc button. When you click on an interactive item, you’re given three options. Two allow you to look at an object either briefly or to analyze it thoroughly by reading or using it. The other, if it is an option, allows you to possess the item and move it around.
The possession option is a great addition to the game. Because you’re able to float through walls and closed doors as a ghost, having to use your wits to get objects from one room to another requires some real thought and remembering available paths. Combining objects and using them to complete tasks isn’t anything new to the genre, but Goetia does it so well and doesn’t use the mechanic as an excuse to add length to their game (which is fantastic considering you can only carry one item at a time). The tools you need are never across the map, but usually located somewhere nearby, and thus I never felt like I was wasting time in a fetch quest.
The puzzles are very engaging, consisting of a lot of ciphers and interpreting demonic crests and seals. While some came across as being overly simple, others will require you to remember room layouts and small details as you search the estate for anything that might hint at where you’re supposed to go next. Even when you think you’ve cleared an area, there might be some unscratched mysteries that you missed the first time around. Some clues are simply that well hidden, and you may even lack the needed powers to unearth them.
These additional powers can be discovered by identifying concealed areas on the map, which reminded me of the exploration of Castlevania and Metroid. One of these abilities consists of using a spiritual echo that remains attached to particular items to find hidden messages and secret spots. Another allows you to focus your power so that you can move bigger or heavier objects. Sadly, there’s not as many as I had hoped, and perhaps a few more power-ups would’ve made the game feel more like an RPG where you get stronger as you play.
There are some inconsistencies in the game; like having to unlock some doors or platforms before being able to proceed- despite your intangibility. There’s also some items you wish you could move through possession, but the game doesn’t allow you to, even though it would make the situation much easier. These, of course, are the limitations of wanting to deliver narrative over functionality- otherwise, I could just float to the last room to see the ending. Sadly, a few aren’t explained away or otherwise broached, and that, unfortunately, pulled me out of the experience a couple of times. The mansion in all of its spectacular size can also get very complicated to navigate, and the map system goes for style over substance. Those small complaints aside, everything else made it very hard to pull myself away from this fantastic experience.
The music is perfect- classically inspired dirges that seem to spike whenever you discover new information or enter uncharted areas. If you’re a fan of dark soundtracks, this one is guaranteed to creep you out. The mixing is also fantastic, with eerie sound effects underlying the orchestral, adding life to areas that could’ve felt like nothing more than illustrations. The game suggests you listen with headphones, as the game features auditory clues- and while I can’t remember any that did require them, I’m glad I experienced the thoroughly entrancing audio. I might’ve enjoyed voice acting with this experience, however.
It doesn’t hurt that all the visuals, and I mean all, are breathtakingly stunning. Every location suggests that the artist Moeity has a near perfect understanding of how to compose a shot and bring life to an otherwise static location. Some rooms are so crowded and claustrophobic while the next scene may be an empty field with a beautifully illuminated gravestone sitting alone. Each one of these frames should be appreciated for how much detail and love was poured into them.
I don’t know how much more I can praise this game. It does everything it set out to do with an almost perfect precision. Every aspect works so well, and all the parts blend into a brilliant cohesion of subtextual excellence. I want to get done with this review so I can discuss the themes and possible theories with other gamers, and that for me is what makes a timeless experience. If you’re looking for a great PnC adventure, Sushee Games is guaranteed to impress you with its gothic masterpiece.