Off The Beaten Path: Goetia

Welcome to Off The Beaten Path, where we present reviews of non-AAA gaming titles and discuss issues pertinent to women in gaming.

Do you miss the days where point and click adventure games ruled the PC world of gaming? I certainly do, so I was quick to nab Goetia, a new game developed by Sushee and published by Square Enix. The player acts as Abigail Blackwood, the ghost of a teenage girl who suddenly rises from the grave decades after her death. The family manor and surrounding town are abandoned, at least by the living. However Abigail is not alone, the demons that haunt the house reveal themselves and plead for their release, a deal she will have to take to find out what happened to her family.

The backgrounds are beautiful and atmospheric. Blackwood Manor is creepy, and I enjoyed exploring every nook and cranny. The soundtrack is mostly a haunting piano medley that sets the mood as you explore. There are five major areas: Oakmarsh (the town), the manor, a labyrinth, a chapel, and an underground cavern. On Steam the game boasts of 90 different rooms, but it doesn’t quite feel as expansive as that. The rooms may be beautiful, but there may be only a detail or two to click on in a given space. That isn’t to say the game feels small, but it doesn’t feel huge and expansive either. For example, Oakmarsh is limited to just a few houses, and the puzzles there are some of the simplest the game has to offer, so I didn’t spend much time there.

Speaking of the puzzles, many of them are difficult, and a few are downright aggravating. I’ve had to consult a walkthrough more than once, and I never thought “Oh, duh, I should have seen that.” when I saw the solution. There is at least one puzzle where you will need a pen and paper to work out, and while I had patience for that kind of work back in the days of Myst and Riven it just feels tedious now. That isn’t to strike marks from Goetia, just fair warning: this is not an easy game. My only other complaint about the mechanics is that you do not have an inventory; Abigail can possess objects and move them around, but only one at a time. I’ve lost objects this way and had to search the house for them when I needed them again or figured out what they were for. Eventually I just left objects where I found them until I knew what to do with them.

The story is intriguing at first. You discover that you have awoken during World War 2, and that German airplanes have been bombing Oakmarsh. This is why the townsfolk have fled and abandoned their homes, but your family doesn’t seem to have followed them. Abigail remembers that the Blackwood family has a history of studying the occult. Abigail’s father, Abraham, specifically focused on demon summoning, a magic tradition known as Goetia. I only have a passing familiarity with the practice, but as presented in game it does feel authentic and well researched. Creative liberties were taken with the practice to produce fantastical level design, such as the labyrinth created by photographs you can jump into.

Quickly Abigail discovers that her sister Annie has bound demons within the house, but neither Annie or her sons can be found anywhere. Various notes left around the house paint a picture of a family divided; two of Annie’s sons work with her to achieve her goals, while one son, Alexander, actively works to stop her and runs away.

I was eager to find out what happened, but I personally found the revelation to be a let down. I can understand objectively why Annie would do what she did, but it felt like such an extreme measure that it failed to resonate emotionally with me. The war might have made her afraid, but it is implied that she had been working on her experiments for quite some time and is driven by a desire for immortality rather than fear of a German invasion. In the end it just felt like a generic Faustian morality tale rather than a unique story of personal horror.

If you enjoy challenging puzzles and Victorian horror, Goetia is the game for you. You can download the demo here, and the full game is available for purchase on Steam for 14.99.

Megan “Spooky” Crittenden is a secluded writer who occasionally ventures from her home to give aid to traveling adventurers.