In the same way a gourmet chef mixes flavors, game developers often experiment with combining two different ideas or concepts in an attempt to create a satisfying experience. And in both games and food, many combinations fail to take shape and gain mainstream success. There are people that enjoy chocolate mixed in with popcorn, but it is undeniably a niche flavor combo. In that same vein, there are combinations of gaming genres like Back 4 Blood’s co-op, first-person shooter, deck-building experience that work for some but are considered a miss by others. On the other end of the spectrum are combinations that are so perfectly in sync that they cease to seem like combinations and are instead a distinct harmonious flavor. Like chicken and waffles or peanut butter and chocolate, Saturnalia’s deliberate combination of survival horror and rogue-lite mechanics initially feels foreign and off-putting. But as it marinates, the game turns into a flavor profile entirely its own that will undoubtedly shape the future of horror games.
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By definition, Saturnalia is a high concept, simple idea. A group of playable characters stuck in a maze of a small town is being pursued by a mysterious monster while they try to unravel the mystery that surrounds them and escape. The game is, at its core, a mashup of rogue-lite and Metroidvania mechanics with the AI alien from Alien Isolation thrown in. When all these individual elements are combined and put into an indie horror aesthetic and context the resulting game is Saturnalia.
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After an innocent beginning, the game takes an extremely sinister turn when Damiano betrays his pregnant mistress Anita by seemingly calling a demonic-looking silhouette to their location. After this initial encounter, the player explores the sleepy Italian village of Sardinia as Anita and slowly amasses a cast of characters equally confused and afraid. The primary and really…