Set in a post-apocalyptic alternative world, Paradise Lost isn’t very long but it’ll have its hooks in you from start to finish.
You take on the role of Szymon, a boy raised alone by his mother in a ruined wasteland. Following a 20-year long Second World War, life as we know it ceased to exist. Many civilians were killed; others taken to underground bunkers only to die later. When his mother succumbs to an illness, Szymon’s all alone in the world. But he can’t sit around to perish like his mother; armed with only a photo of a man he believes to be his father, he sets out to try and find something – anything – that might help him survive.
It’s difficult not to be immediately connected to Szymon. He’s a teenage boy, clearly sheltered from the atrocities of the world by his mother. But now all alone, he quickly has to come to terms with everything. But he’s a strong protagonist; despite seeing some horrifying sights upon his journey, he never lets anything faze him. He simply presses on, determined to find out anything he can about the man in the picture.
Szymon’s journey takes him to an abandoned Nazi bunker, which is where you’ll spend most of your time with Paradise Lost. But this isn’t your typical war bunker; this is a whole underground city, designed to house future generations that will put the world back on its feet – under a Nazi regime, of course.
To give too much away about the bunker will spoil a great part of what makes Paradise Lost so enticing. As you move from room to room, you’ll uncover documents, recordings and pieces of technology that all come together to tell a fascinating story. Sometimes you’ll come across something truly harrowing, mirroring the despicable acts of real-life Nazis. Other times, you’ll uncover something that will leave you in awe. Needless to say, the deeper you get into the bunker, the deeper the mysteries of Paradise Lost become.
Thankfully, Szymon isn’t completely alone for the entirety of his journey. Despite the desolation of the bunker – there’s not a single sign of present life anywhere – you’ll begin conversing with a girl called Ewa, who contacts you over the bunker’s audio system. Whether or not you want to trust Ewa is up to you, but she promises to help you in return of finding where she is.
You could describe Paradise Lost as a ‘walking simulator‘, but some may find that to be something of a derogatory term. It’s a story-driven adventure, where a gripping narrative unfolds around you as you progress through the game. Yes, it’s very linear in nature – you unfortunately can’t wander off the beaten path – but there are plenty of light puzzles along the way to ensure you feel engaged throughout. Though with an environment and narrative as captivating as they are, Paradise Lost would do just fine without them.
Although you’ll reach the end of Paradise Lost in around three to four hours, every moment spent with it will keep you on the edge of your seat. You never know what’s around any corner. And while you’re never in direct danger – there’s nobody else around, after all – the bunker packs in enough unsettling atmosphere that you constantly feel like something could be waiting for you around any corner.
It helps that it’s such a beautifully designed game. There’s an incredible level of detail and care that’s been put into bringing this old, abandoned bunker to life. Its walls tell a story of their own, and you could probably double your playtime by simply exploring every single nook and cranny, taking time to gawp at each beautiful scene. That beauty unfortunately comes at a cost, though. Playing the PS4 version on PS5, I frequently experienced drops in framerate, making the game feel rather sluggish to play. It’s not a deal breaker, but it’s a shame there isn’t a next-gen version to really make Paradise Lost shine. If you have a powerful PC, this will most likely be truly stunning.
Set in a macabre alternative universe, Paradise Lost creates a captivating world that begs to be explored and uncovered. Every moment of the game will keep players hooked to the screen, desperate to find out more. It goes to some dark places, but as long as you’ve got the stomach for it, this is a game that will stick with you long after you’ve seen the credits roll.
Paradise Lost Review: GameSpew’s Score