Friday, 27 November 2009

Horror Tip: Korsakovia

Name: Korsakovia
Type: Game (Half Life 2 Mod)
Link: Mod DB page (info + download)
Masterminded by the same guy that made Dear Esther is a highly experimental horror game about a man with Korsakov's syndrome. Its tag line goes:

"The paramedics report that they were unable to find his eyes. We think he may have eaten them."

If you like me find that awfully intriguing then go on and play the game now and read the rest of the post later!

I have put up posting a horror tip for Korsakovia for quite a while because of the simple reason that I have not been able to complete it! I have still not managed to do so, but thought it was time to make a post about it anyway. My inability to complete it highlights the strength and weakness of the game quite well: First, the game is quite demanding on your eyes and ears with a dark environments and extremely unnverving sounds at times. Secondly, the game is frustrating as hell as it is hard to orient oneself in the similarly looking environments and some gameplay parts are very unforgiving.

As said above, and different compared to Dear Esthter, Korsakovia has actual gameplay elements consisting on bashing (or avoiding) monster and some annoying first person platforming. Especially the platforming feels quite unfair and is awefully frustrating to the point where the otherwise excellently built-up atomsphere goes away. I feel that the game would have been a lot better without any of this gameplay and experiencing this makes the game extra interesting to play. It clearly shows how the player's attention diverts from being immersed to focusing on the game's mechanics when gameplay gets too frustrating.

What really shines in Korsakovia (and made me play it as long as I did!) is the haunting atomosphere and the script consisting of the protagonist talking to his doctor who may or may not be real. The game is quite abstract and there are no clear goals or motivations, yet it managed to captivate me and want me to play more. This also makes the game an excellent experiement in player motivation, as it differs quite a bit from other games. Finally, as noted above, the game is quite hard on the senses and is far from a fun experience, proving the point that games do not have to be "fun" to be engaging. Note that these "brain-fuck"parts of the game where not what eventually made me stop playing; it was the combination of that and the bad gameplay. Had the gameplay been more streamlined and solid, I am sure I would have played to the end.

In conclusion, Korsakovia is very interesting game from a design perspective and I urge you all to play it as long as you can stand it. However, from a gameplay experience stand-point I think it fails, mainly becuause of some unfair and extremly frustrating sections.

To play it Half Life 2 - Ep 2 is needed (I do not think the normal hl2 works). Download the zip and extract to "steamapps\SourceMods". Then start the game through steam.


  1. "To play it Half Life 2 - Ep 2 is needed (I do not think the normal hl2 works)."

    Is there a way to download the source files to Ep2 or do i have to buy that game? Is that what the dear esther link is for- to provide the source files?

    I played dear esther and loved it, Id really like to give this one a go as well.

  2. Alex:
    I am not sure, just try with the normal hl2 first.

    Otherwise I think you have to buy ep2, but it should be pretty cheap (and u get a game along with it ;) )

  3. I am somewhat dissapointed that you havent gotten to the end of the game :(, but I agree that it would have done a lot better without the platform puzzles. If you really can not finish the puzzle - To at least get to finish the storyline enable the in-game console (inside controls-keyboard-advanced) Within that console screen type "sv_cheats 1" and "bind "v" "noclip" and type "god 1" so that if you are struggling with the gameplay at least receive the amazing story.

  4. Thanks for the tip! Will have to do that! I really liked the writing, so would be nice to hear it all.

  5. I tried out this game based on your recommendation, and I have to agree with the gameplay. It was quite frustrating and I don't know if I can be bothered to finish it. I do like where they are going with the story and atmosphere. I think they would be better off messing around with a graphics engine like ogre then to be stuck with mods.


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