Excellent horror games are difficult to find after a rise in the genre’s popularity. The search for an experience that ties narrative, atmosphere, mechanics, and jump scares together organically is ongoing for many, and can be increasingly frustrating. For those looking to dive deep into a psychological horror masterpiece, however, Ad Infinitum is the perfect choice.
Gamepur was able to preview Ad Infinitum, developed by Hekate and published by Nacon, during the NA BigBen 2023 Week showcase, and it was a shockingly delightful, terrifying rollercoaster that left me nervous about dark rooms and candles the rest of the afternoon.
World War I PTSD Sets A Gruesome Scene
In the preview chapters of the game, Ad Infinitum sets the scene with a shocking glimpse of a German soldier’s life at the front line in World War I. Preparing for battle, the player takes up arms and walks through the trenches of their base, watching as smoke and gunfire obstruct the sky. A careful mixture of audio queues ensures the atmosphere is just as unsettling to listen to as to observe.
After reaching a specific point, the player’s character is knocked out by an explosion, left tangled and maimed in barbed wire before losing consciousness. Upon waking up, the soldier finds themselves unscathed in their childhood home – but something is amiss.
Despite being able to hear voices throughout the house, the soldier’s family is missing from the weathered rooms and damaged halls. This leaves the player to travel around and learn about the unsettling events following his departure via notes left by the missing family members.
A Slow Build Immerses Ad Infinitum Players Into the Game
One of the best aspects of Ad Infinitum is that it eases players into the horror elements. Instead of thrusting creepy figures or frightening creatures into the first few chapters, the thrill comes in the swing of flickering lights or the unsettling sounds that can be heard around the home.
In fact, players won’t encounter anything particularly upsetting until they are around an hour into the game, offering plenty of time to learn critical gameplay mechanics and memorize the first few floors of the mansion they are trapped in.
The safety is fantastically misleading, as you get comfortable exploring only to have a hand reach up and grab you as soon as the monsters are unleashed in the story. This type of slow introduction reminded me intimately of another personal horror favorite – Amnesia: The Dark Descent.
Because I wasn’t immediately overwhelmed with monsters and jump scares, it definitely made the entire game feel more playable, especially as someone who doesn’t usually enjoy horror games. It was also pleasant to find that the game wasn’t overly blood-soaked. While there are moments where gore is used, the psychological elements are a much bigger force in the story of Ad Infinitum, and this makes the body horror much more impactful when it is encountered.
Ad Infinitum Reveals the Monsters of PTSD and Social Stigma
Ad Infinitum takes an unusual approach with its narrative, personifying elements of PTSD to explore the story of a soldier forever-changed from war. Although the preview session ended before we got to some of the more terrifying encounters in the story, the developer explained that the goal was to explore the effects of PTSD on the mind, while also commenting on societal expectations and biases of the time period.
While this content might be triggering for some players, it is definitely an interesting dive into the monsters that our minds can create, and the overall impact societal pressures, personal experiences, and parental expectations can have on a person. In addition to this, the exploration of these traumas from the perspective of a well-known historical timeframe makes them both abstract and shockingly real as you explore the world and take on the burden of the soldier’s mental space.
For those wanting a polished narrative-driven, psychological horror game to dive into, Ad Infinitum is a fantastic option. The unique setting, careful attention to detail, and balanced gameplay make it an excellent and terrifying experience. Despite not being much of a horror fan, I appreciated the way the world was put together and I was drawn in by the humanity of the main character’s situation, as well as the complexity of the narrative. It will be the perfect addition to a horror library when it releases later this year.