Neon folk horror Saturnalia coming to PS4 and PS5 next month – PlayStation.Blog

They say it takes a village… and when it comes to creating the village of Gravoi, that’s more than true. Saturnalia is a cultural mosaic inspired in equal measure by cinema, theatre, and even architecture, as well as classic video games that emphasize survival and exploration. The result is a deeply textured and thematically rich world that reflects realistic influences but is ultimately otherworldly.

Where reality meets the surreal

Once the team in Santa Ragione learned that the game was to take place in the Sardinian region of Italy – a place that is not often mentioned in the mainstream media – we realized that we were responsible for the beautiful places and authentic culture of the area. At the same time, we’ve seen a horror story with supernatural influences, requiring an imaginary leap from the real world into something completely different. This is how Gravoi was born: a fictional dreamlike landscape that mirrors the real Sardinia, yet stands on its own as a separate and eerie setting.

The team carried out extensive reconnaissance throughout the island, taking countless photographs and videos of villages and towns across Sardinia, from the ancient church of Bosa to the abandoned mines of Monteponi. With these resources at hand, we were able to carefully design the city of Gravoi and its many unique twists and turns.

With the goal of creating a procedurally generated layout that can reorient itself when certain game conditions are met, the designers have worked hard to make every cobblestone alley and narrow alley feel distinct and alive. The cathedral, shop windows and architecture of Gravoi are both familiar and completely unique. But creating a three-dimensional setting is only part of the storytelling process.

neon folk effect

The artistic style of Saturnalia recalls many descriptions. Colorful, kaleidoscopic, or maybe picturesque? All of these are accurate, but they are only just beginning to explain the depth and range of influences that have contributed to the aesthetic that defines the visuals of Saturnalia.

Right from the start, we had a very clear idea of ​​the plot and look of Saturnalia: cinema giallo, classic Italian horror films made famous in the 60s and 70s by the invigorating and innovative work of the likes of Dario Argento and Mario Bava. Known for their shocking violence, riveting mysteries and stylized cinematography, these films became the basis upon which the developers were able to build their own entry into the long tradition of Italian horror.

The character runs down the street, passing a small parked car with chairs.

In level design, our art director turned to modern architecture and dramatic set design, especially expressionist and brutalist forms that value meaning over realism. These rigorous geometric patterns, combined with color work and palette structure, create an immersive world that is easy to get lost in, both literally and figuratively.

Dubbed “neon folk”, Saturnalia’s evocative art style is its most captivating feature. But just as important is how the game plays out.

Heart of Saturnalia

While the cinematic influence on Saturnalia is significant, it is primarily a video game that is closely tied to the line of survival horror and exploration-driven adventure games. In particular, the rich and detailed world of Shenmue is a huge source of inspiration, as are arcane games like Mizzurna Falls, Enemy Zero, and D2. What all of these games have in common is deeply immersive worlds that encourage critical thinking and an emotional connection to their narrative and central characters.

The level design was focused on providing players with multiple paths to achieve their goals, with choices and unique playthroughs being prioritized. Borrowing the style of an exploratory adventure, certain areas of the village are inaccessible to the player until certain tools and equipment are acquired. Likewise, the many dietetic puzzles woven throughout the game are the key to unlocking new areas and secret passages in Gravoi.

At the back of the dark cavern, a figure stands at an open door, silhouetted against the light of the room they are looking into.

The result is a labyrinthine structure that creates the feeling of going through an intricate labyrinth. In the absence of daylight, the player’s ability to control their matches is critical to protecting themselves from the darkness… and from the attention of the creature watching their every move. There is a monster in this labyrinth, and avoiding its claws is a top priority for any soul brave enough to explore the village.

But Saturnalia is not focused on combat. Stealth and evasion are the player’s primary tools, as are the unique abilities of each of the four main characters. The use of these abilities goes hand in hand with revealing the personal motivations and desires of each character: in the world of Saturnalia, story and gameplay are intertwined. The only way for the player to progress is to learn which character is best suited for which situation or puzzle.

The masked figure looks past the open gate into the room beyond, which is unknowingly watched by another figure watching them.

However, everyone who plays Saturnalia will have a unique experience. It is possible to complete the story without revealing every detail by promoting replay value and alternative strategies. The discoveries the player makes, as well as the order in which certain events resolve, can affect the ending. Ultimately, this speaks to one of our key pillars when designing Saturnalia: the emphasis on player freedom of action. It is up to you to decide how this story should develop.

In this regard, only one question remains.

Have you dared to join the ritual?

The Santa Rajon team is finalizing the game and we can’t wait for you to play it. Saturnalia releases for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 on October 27, 2022.

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