Wow, this Desolatium slideshow is interactive! Wait – you mean it’s a game? The visual representation in this title from Superlumen looks like a showreel for an architectural firm, but instead, it’s a Lovecraftian adventure.
Let us define the adventure. There are a handful of roles up for grabs – each chapter showcasing a story arc for the individuals involved in a cultist scenario, all bringing about the party animal, Cthulhu. Oh, how we love that beast in the world of gaming.
The key character here is a chap named Carter, who, at the start, is kidnapped by an unknown group where one of the assailants is wearing a gas mask – a concept that stays throughout the game. Carter must escape from their captors, but first, a detour for a half hour or more.
Desolatium PS5 Review: Squalid As A Rock
The opening scene in Desolatium was like the recent(ish) demo on Steam (no, not the Prologue – that was way better), so it was swift to complete that section. However, within a splash of time, I had found myself in a loop, running round and round, trying to figure out where to go, where I was, and what I was supposed to do.
There are no objectives, only a couple of objects per chapter, if that, and absolutely zero maps or markers in the game. Navigating in Desolatium is atrocious and best suited to the restrictive space of VR gameplay. You are not free to move other than to view, pixel hunting for an eye to indicate a point of interest or footsteps to move to a new room. It’s like Doom VR, but only in terms of movement, not gameplay.
If it weren’t for the code for the review, I’d have bailed on it. Instead, I begrudgingly returned to the same chapter, running endlessly around until it became clear that a tiny box needed to be triggered to advance. Without any hotspot keys or the freedom of a mouse, you’re scouring the screen for any hint of interaction.
Why Don’t You Take A Picture?
The graphics are the redeeming factor, offering photo realistic scenes, but none of which are animated – just the 60s pop art in between, which can be pretty cool. The chapter introductions were a highlight, but it would be nice if I could say that about the gameplay or even the story.
Desolatium has voice acting, but it was so off, that I switched it to the native Spanish and read the subtitles. The music is excellent. Still, the game’s design felt like a bastardisation of a VR walking simulator fused with a visual novel – it just didn’t work for me and frustrated me frequently.
The puzzles are easy, and even if you get stuck, you can walk through one of the handful of scenes (pending you don’t get lost as the camera often faces you in the direction you came) and locate a hint. What is irksome is wandering around small areas, looking for any indication of interaction to advance the story.
A Walking Nightmare
And what’s with the story? Highly influenced by H.P. Lovecraft and the Cthulhu mythos, Desolatium likes pop culture references and nods to Kurt Russell, Osamu Tezuka and others. It doesn’t add up. When I reached the conclusion, I was eager to transfer the screenshots to my computer, finish this review and uninstall the game.
There are multiple endings, but I really couldn’t go through it all again. Desolatium is short, too. Continuing the game from the menu takes you to the end sequence you unlocked, and without multiple saves, you’ll have to go through the monotony of doing it again.
As an Unreal Engine showcase reel, it was great, but as a game/story/experience, I didn’t enjoy this at all. It’s such a contrast from the Prologue that I played back in 2021 on Steam. I note that Desolatium has been released on the PS5, though there is no release date for the PC. Have a look at other reviews/gameplay videos, but if you’re relying on me, I’m just going to point you to something else. The Innsmouth Case would be a decent starting point. Failing that, The Shore or Dagon – the latter is free.