Imagine you died and then suddenly came back a disembodied spirit. Nothing is as you remember it and your family, or what’s left of it, seems to have vanished. Poor Abigail finds herself in this situation, exploring the haunted Blackwood Manor now possessed by Goetia demons.
Publisher: Square Enix Collective
Release Date: April 2016
Played: Full game (Best ending)
Purchase At: Steam
When Goetia begins, Abigail Blackwood, your character, rises from her grave as a small ball of light, unfocused and with memories in disarray. She knows she’s dead, remembering the fall that took her life and is curious as to why she’s come back. She makes for Blackwood Manor, her ancestral home, and finds it covered in dust and cobwebs, seemingly abandoned in most areas but also showing signs that someone lived there until recently. A few scraps of paper tell her of her sister’s family, the last in the Blackwood line, so Abby decides to look for them around the house, the forests, ruins and even the village beyond, hoping to find clues to their whereabouts.
She finds a lot more, such as accounts of strange rituals to control the demons of Goetia, the Dukes, Earls and Marquis of Hell, of her nephew Alexander’s love for a village girl and his clash with his family, not over his choice of partner but over his rejection of the sinister plot brewing inside the Manor’s walls. Worst of all, barriers impede her progress inside the manor. The Goetia demons she reads about now possess the walls and create impassable barriers for her, though one such spirit, Malphas, reaches out and contacts her, even guides her to find her way through and discover what really happened in Blackwood Manor.
I loved the story. I always like plots where you get the exposition through journals, newspaper clippings and random notes. I love epistolary stories—that’s the term for it—because until you find the crucial bits of evidence, another journal or a note in a lab, you have only your imagination to figure out the plot. It leaves you open to making your own assumptions and even predict—often unsuccessfully—where the plot might be going. Goetia uses these documents to its advantage, to drive its deeply personal family history, the drama between parent, children and filial relationships. It also helps to ground the supernatural elements in this post-war backdrop, giving the characters the fear and paranoia-induced reasons to seek out the demons. But most of all, it helps these supernatural elements feel personal as well, and in fact, the few moments where Malphas speaks to you feel as though he were an old friend and confidant, someone who knows the family intimately and is invested in them.
If you can humanise your eldritch beings, then you know you have good stuff.
Players control Abigail with the mouse, as she’s just a flying ball of light. Unless there’s a barrier impeding you from doing so, you can go through walls as you’d expect a ghost to. You can interact with the environment as if you were there, moving panels, pressing buttons and even playing gramophones. For items themselves, you can possess them, carrying them with you. Part of the fun of Goetia is learning the path between rooms so you can transport items, say a notebook, from where you found them to where they need to go. They’re physical objects so they can’t go through walls with you, so you need to make sure to open locked doors, use dumbbells and holes and cracks in the walls and floors and remember where they are.
The puzzles in Goetia range from simple inventory puzzles, where you possess and move an object to another place, to complex cypher puzzles. Some of these are about cracking codes and others even creating them in strange new languages. For example, a puzzle in Eldwitch Forest has you typing in someone’s true name. It’s a sigil formed of different symbols tied to the person’s date of birth and initials. You need to figure out the letters that match this new language by using examples and clues to create the symbols you need. It’s a fascinating puzzle where you build on the information found in the journals, somehow finishing other characters’ research for them. In doing so not only do you progress but you also learn new things about the story and its actors.
The clues for your puzzles are always in the environment and the documents, though some need you to first unlock a new ability for Abigail, such as psychometry, the ability to see into an object’s past. There are a handful such skills in Goetia and you unlock them by solving other puzzles that open the way to secret unexplored rooms.
Goetia has very hard puzzles. I received the key for it before release, but I had to wait until there were enough people playing it to help me finish it and write this review. I loved that. It was the first time I participated in the Steam community and helped others along the game the same way they helped me. Without them, I might still not have finished the game. I pride myself in my puzzle solving ability in adventure games and Goetia almost broke me at times. They are very complex.
One puzzle in particular comes to mind, one that I wouldn’t have been able to finish on my own no matter how long it took, because it’s my puzzling kryptonite: the barrel organ puzzle. It’s music-based, and you have to play a tune you hear somewhere else, but I admit I’m a bit tone-deaf when it comes to this kind of scenario, so it was impossible for me. I have to thank some of the steam community for this one.
Goetia has an amazing atmosphere. It’s mysterious and sometimes chilling, but unnerving would be the best way to describe it. There are never jump scares or moments where you’ll scream, but between the stellar writing, the beautifully drawn derelict environments and the powerful music, ranging from melancholic melodies to darker tunes with deeper and lower chords, you’ll have gooseflesh for the entire experience.
Visually it’s impressive. It’s 2D, beautifully drawn as I already mentioned and with amazing levels of details, the rooms telling as much a story as the documents do. You’ll see how people lived, what their priorities were. Alexander has a giant painting of his girlfriend, Robert looked to the stars, photography fascinated Gabriel and Edward had hundreds of toys. You’ll know these boys a lot more thanks to their rooms. My hat’s off to Moeity for the writing and the visual design.
Goetia has no voice acting and it doesn’t need it. The sound design is stellar and every bit of it, from the ticking clocks in the Manor, to the creaking of wood in the forests and the beautiful and haunting melodies enthrall you and keep the atmosphere’s grip on you. It’s amazing.
Goetia is a simply wonderful game. I loved the story, the pacing, the gameplay and the puzzles. The atmosphere is top of the line, thanks to outstanding writing and design. It’s the best I’ve seen in point & click adventuring and the exploration genre.
There can be only one.
6/5 – Highlander!