Plagued by a sudden and insatiable urge to investigate a mysterious, far away sawmill in a remote, Italian countryside, a man tries to uncover the source of his fevered visions and sense of familiarity with a place he has no recollection of ever visiting, despite evidence to the contrary. His search leads him to unearth a gruesome history of the abandoned dwelling and its past inhabitants, and in particular to the story of Anna, a woman who seems to somehow be at the heart of it all. But to what end?
A first person horror game set almost entirely within a single, modestly sized building, players are tasked with solving puzzles to both progress exploration and to reveal the story related to each room and/or the part the items involved in each puzzle played in past events. But the deeper you delve into the mystery, the more your sanity and reality are called into question as the world begins to change around you and conspire against your efforts. Presentation is stunning as the visuals, sound and overall design are the beating heart around which this games revolves and reason enough to play it through from start to finish.
UI is largely intuitive but can confound on occasion as there's no explanation of its more intricate workings necessary for fully uncovering the story. In fact, that probably also sums up just about every aspect of the gameplay here. Satisfying and frustrating in equal measure, for every part of the game that there is to enjoy, there's also as many flaws as the puzzles and story become increasingly convoluted towards its conclusion. Since quite a few of the puzzles are based around performing rites and rituals, it means the player has no natural process of logic or intelligence to apply to the solution, but instead must pick up on the clues or directions provided by the game, which at times can prove annoyingly obtuse.
But don't let that stop you. Despite its shortcomings (one of the biggest of which is the unneccesary DRM which requires that you create an account with Kalypso Media in order to run the game. A process that feels incredibly archaic at this stage in our chosen pastime), that still doesn't stop it from being a worthwhile and gratifying experience, for nothing else if not for providing one of the singular most startling scares I've had in a game to date (mind how you go in the artisan room!). Anna - Extended Edition also includes the original game released prior to the free update which overhauled a massive amount of the game to include a myriad of new content and greatly expands upon the story and its surrounding lore. In comparion, the extended edition makes the original seem like a skeleton without its flesh and really should only be played after finishing the latest version just to see how far the game has come and how much effort developer Dreampainters went to in order to craft an experience that stays with you long after the credits have finished rolling.
Posted: November 26th, 2013