Caligo by Krealit
Named for a Latin word that can variously mean “fog,” “mist,” “darkness” and “obscurity,” Caligo is aptly titled. A “walking simulator” by any definition – there’s little interaction other than ambulating through a linear narrative – this game eschews the burgeoning genre’s usual focus on history and childhood trauma in favor of dark fantasy allegories about life, imagination and creativity.
Sweet Mist Story of Life
While it’s a refreshing departure from what we’ve come to expect from so-called Walking Simulators – not to mention previous releases from Russian studio Krealit, which until now primarily released isometric shooters – Caligo feels too heavy-handed to provoke deep thoughts or emotions.
Relying heavily on narration and dialogue (and hindered by clunky voice acting), Caligo seems be attempting to describe the function of imagination in creating the world we perceive around us. Tied into that are ideas about the role of human ego, Freudian concepts of Thanatos and Eros, and the concept of reincarnation.
Foggy and Obscure
It’s hardly a dry philosophy lecture, though, as the various concepts are presented allegorically in a series of fantasy experiences or visions, experienced by a narrator who is beginning to realize that he has died. It’s a little reminiscent of the film What Dreams May Come in that it’s pretty to look at but also clumsy and not entirely successful in accomplishing what it sets out to do.
Because it crams so many different ideas into a relatively tiny package – one can get through the game in a little under an hour – it never addresses any of the issues thoroughly enough to even attempt answering the kinds of questions it raises.
Sail into the Misty Mystic
Despite its flaws, Caligo is still very much worth playing through. The main reason? It’s utterly gorgeous. It’s got the best Beksinski-inspired landscapes I’ve seen since Tormentum, not to mention hints of Giger (Giger is inescapable, after all) and even a hint of Fred Stuhr (the animator and director best known for Tool’s “Sober” video).
And as if to prove that lead designer and artist Dmitry Dryzhak’s talents aren’t limited to dark fantasy, there’s even a glorious wooded scene that’s like nothing so much as a Thomas Kincade painting brought to life and somehow freed from its schmaltz, with dappled sunbeams dancing between leaves and branches.
As philosophy and cosmology, Caligo is muddled and confusing. Once I let myself stop looking too deeply for meaning, though, I relished the experience of wandering through its exquisitely moody landscapes.
Caligo is available via Steam.
Watch the official Caligo trailer below: