Welcome to Utopia; the city of wonders, built from the ground up, this spacious metropolis houses 1000 purpose built apartments under one roof, as well as a shopping mall full of all the amenities you would need. Worried about the commute to work? Worry not, there are hundreds of offices built just for your company under Utopia’s roof, and with multiple leisure facilities to unwind at after a hard day’s work, you’ll never want to leave.
However, that was two years ago, and the grand opening never happened. Welcome to Utopia; the ultimate depiction of urban decay, walk through ghostly hallways, pass long-touched memories. If you try and shut your eyes in time with the flickering lights you might not notice them as much while you creep through the darkness. Oh and you best try and ignore the niggling feeling that there is someone else there with you, even as you hear distinctive noises in the distance.
You’ll be glad to know that we aren’t going to force you down the eerie halls of Utopia; the new fictional city under a roof in Iceberg Interactive’s newest game; Baron Wittard: Nemesis of Ragnarok. Baron Wittard is a new solitary exploration adventure game, similar to popular titles like Myst and Riven. Rather than place a large emphasis on the story of the game, solitary exploration titles are extremely non-linear, and engage the player to explore their surroundings of their own volition and relies on the player’s logic and powers of observation.
In Baron Wittard you are an investigative reporter intent on doing a piece on the abandonment of Utopia, however as soon as you venture into the maze of sewers beneath the complex you are drawn into something far more sinister and otherworldly, with only a video camera and a torch you are captivated with Utopia and need to find out what dark secrets it holds.
What seems most impressive with Baron Wittard is its multilayered atmosphere which is built up on many different levels; you have the eerily deserted city presented to you in beautifully pre-rendered images, the sound design; full of distant churning mechanisms, air conditioning and awkward silences, twined together with a haunting soundtrack that will kick in at perfect points. Then you have the last layer of visual effects; with the brilliant absent flickering lights, perfect to make the player uneasy.
However Baron Wittard isn’t a horror game per say, and its roots are firmly placed in Norse Mythology, with nods to characters such as Odin, and Fenrir, however I’m not going to divulge too much on the story as I do not wish to spoil anything. What is important to note is that whilst the atmosphere they build up in Baron Wittard is genuinely unnerving, the exploration of Utopia far surpasses any inhibitions that you may have to horror games. Wax Lyrical have made an extremely impressive cityscape of which you can explore, and cannot help but be pulled in by it.
As you would expect of an adventure game, Baron Wittard is also full of puzzles in true sense of the word, rather than the usual combination puzzle or fetching A, B and C dilemmas -that most adventure games would rely on traditionally-, the puzzles are very logical and can be overcome through common sense. A great introduction to the game is had with a simple puzzle of observation and exploration, subsequent puzzles range from your typical slider puzzle to mathematical issues and even Tetris style block puzzles. Without clues and pointers puzzles become much more fulfilling to complete and much like Myst, Baron Wittard greatly improves this feeling through your isolation at Utopia.
Baron Wittard is a remarkably scary and beautiful exploration game, and is an extremely impressive feat for a team of two people, with Norse roots and some fantastically surprising full motion video on the side it looks to be one adventure game for subtle horror fans. Baron Wittard: Nemesis of Ragnarok will be available Spring 2011 for Windows.
For a little more insight on the title, check out our interview with the designer and writer Alan Thron of Wax Lyrical Games.