STAFF REVIEW of Saint Kotar (Xbox One)

Wednesday, January 4, 2023.
by Adam Dileva

Saint Kotar Box art I’m all for trying games outside of my comfort zone, as Saint Kotar isn’t something I would have normally gravitated to towards on my own. Now, I’m not a religious man, not at all actually, but Saint Kotar, developed by Red Martyr Entertainment, makes it apparent from its opening minutes that this game is going to have a lot of themes that revolve around religion, cults and more. I should mention, that there’s also some things discussed that could potentially be trigger warnings for some people, but I don’t recall seeing any at the beginning of the adventure.

A psychological horror point and click game, Saint Kotar takes place in a small town in Croatia, and given that I’m not religious at all, it was a bit much to get through at certain points. It surely is an interesting game, but don’t expect your typical point and click adventure, as this has a much darker setting.

You play most of the time as Benedek, sometimes swapping to brother in-law Nikolay. Both wake up in a mysterious house in a small religious town, Sveti Kotar, searching for his sister Viktoria, also Nikolay’s wife. Before this journey begins you actually start the game many years ago as a child, being locked in the basement by your father for disobeying some order, and yes, the lights are completely shut off. So you start the game stumbling around in the dark unsure what to do or even how, eventually finding that your sister, Viktoria, has snuck down there to be with you so you’re not alone.

Religion runs in your family, and your father was very strict when it came to God. This is probably why Benedek decided to become a monk and follow God in his own life as he grew up. When the two men wake up they can tell right away that something is wrong and doesn’t feel right. They can’t find Viktoria and are seemingly locked in this house. Once they do find a way out their journey of finding Viktoria begins, but it’s not that simple when the police arrive to question you of her whereabouts.

It becomes abundantly clear that Sveti Kotar isn’t your typical small town, as you’re brought to the scene of a crime that happened last night. You arrive at a church under police escort only to find the hanging corpse of the mayor dangling from its walls. His eyes are gone, as is the heart and part of the brain. Why would the police show you this? They seemingly have reason to believe it was your sister. But how could she do this? Where was she? Nikolay of course believes in her innocence, but Benedek knowing his sister and how they’ve been distant the last few years isn’t so sure.

I’ll admit, I was intrigued early on as the search for Viktoria was compelling, even with the heavy handed religious overtones. To find out the truth of the murder and avoid being blamed, you’ll need to figure out what actually happened, but it won’t be as simple as you first think. Is your sister involved or actually a victim? You better start figuring out where she is to get to the bottom of this so you can leave this cursed place.

Having a very narrative driven game is difficult at the best of times, but doing so with a pair of characters that are quite unlikable makes it even more challenging. I get that both men are religious, but it’s shoved in your face at every turn, coming across as way too holier than thou. It probably doesn’t help that the voice acting isn’t all that great, but more on that shortly. Even by the time the (actual) credits rolled, I still didn’t like Benedek and feel like he didn’t redeem himself into a likable protagonist.

You will meet a cast of other characters along the way, some stand out, like Detective Mostov who has a massive dent in his head, or a grotesque looking fisherman nearby who seems to have something stuck to his neck. Some of these characters were well written and intriguing, more so than even Nikolay, which I really ended up disliking. I won’t delve much more into the story, as this is a narrative heavy game with lots of twists and turns, but what I will say is that even after I got the ‘real’ ending, I came away disappointed with the big reveal and twist. Also, in more than just a few points of the story, the screen will go black during a cutscene where something important happens. These moments with only dialogue don’t really carry the weight I believe they were intended to and just feel like it’s missing or incomplete. I’m not sure if it was this way to avoid having to do animations, which are basic as it is, or if it’s to have you envision it in your own mind, but it stands out awkwardly.

As you begin to solve the mystery of your sister’s whereabouts and involvement, you’ll be exploring the town of Sveti Kotar, a dark and morbid town, from rundown buildings, police department, a church, cursed forest and more. I hope you have a good memory, as you’ll need to remember the pathways to and from areas, as there’s plenty of backtracking you’ll need to do going from one scene to another. There’s a button to toggle walking and running, but running is already slow as it is, so why you’d want to purposely walk somewhere aside from roleplaying reasons, I’m not sure.

In most point and click adventure titles, you’re given basic commands like walk, use and look. It’s somewhat similar here, but what I did really appreciate was being able to press a button and see all the intractable hotpots in each scene. This meant less fumbling around, easily seeing what the intractable objects were and the pathways to the adjoining areas. I was worried I’d need to move a mouse-like cursor on screen, as this generally doesn’t work all that well with a controller, but thankfully that’s not the case here, able to easily tab between each object with the D-Pad.

Saint Kotar is very dialogue heavy, so get comfortable and settle in for a wild story that goes in some directions you probably don’t expect at first. While there is an inventory and you’ll have a handful of items at most times, there’s not much trial and error, as it’s generally obvious of what items is to be used when. This means there’s not much in terms of puzzles, but also means I didn’t get stuck as much as I usually do in this genre. You will need to combine items from time to time, which can be a bit awkward with the controller setup, but I did get stuck at one point where I had to read a note in my inventory, completely unsure how to do so without testing it with every single button until I finally figured it out.

Instead of random puzzles to figure out, you need to make sure you talk to everyone you can and exhaust every dialogue option. Now and then you’ll be given some actual choices to make, and these will affect certain outcomes and possibly even bring you to a premature credit roll or Game Over screen. This was part of the issue, it’s not blatantly obvious at first what the ‘real’ ending was, as some that see credits roll about halfway through might think that’s it. As you go through the dialogue choices, the ones you’ve already chosen turn a slightly lighter grey, but it’s hard to discern what you’ve chosen already sometimes, so I always just chose top down.

At certain story segments you’ll be forced to swap characters to see a different perspective, other times you’ll be able to freely change whenever you like, but it’s difficult to know when you should to figure out how to progress. You’ll often be aimlessly wandering around trying to figure out who to talk to so you can move forward, and while there’s a map, it’s an overall generic map, not detailed enough to show the pathways between each area showing routes, so it’s quite pointless.

Visually, Saint Kotar isn’t pretty to look at. Even though you have characters walking around some backgrounds, everything looks dated, from the textures to the models themselves. Maybe they were going for a PS1 – PS2 era aesthetic, but the limited animations and slow movement really makes it stand out and feel like it drags on at times. Given the backdrop and setting, of course the town of Sveti Kotar is dark and dreary, but it just appears dull overall.

What did impress is that every line of the lengthy dialogue is completely voiced, something I wasn’t expecting. That said, the voice acting is quite mediocre at the best of times. Maybe it’s the heavy religious tonality of the writing, but it ranged everywhere from cringe to bland; not the worst I’ve ever heard, but certainly not great. The music however does a great job at setting a dark tone and makes the backdrops very atmospheric.

Saint Kotar was an odd title to get through, as it was frustrating in certain aspects, but the story was drip fed just well enough that I had a hard time putting it down, wanting to find out what the actual truth was to its mystery. At $44.99 CAD, it does seem a bit overpriced, but depending on your point and click skillset, you’ll get anywhere from 10 to 20 hours of it. An interesting story with heavy religious and cultist tones, the constant backtracking and weak visuals may deter some. God, Religion and Cultists, oh my!

**Saint Kotar was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 6.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 4.0 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10


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