STAFF REVIEW of Ad Infinitum (Xbox One)

Thursday, December 28, 2023.
by Adam Dileva

Ad Infinitum Box art While initial screenshots may have you assume Ad Infinitum is a WWI shooter or maybe a type of survival horror game, you’d be wrong on both accounts. Ad Infinitum is more akin to a walking simulator than anything else, though with some light puzzle and stealth elements thrown in for good measure. Other than being set in the WWI era, I really had no idea what to expect when I started playing, as I did no research beforehand nor heard about it. While I normally don’t mind walking simulators, or linear games, it was hard to get motivation to want to continue forward after each chapter was the same design loop as the previous.

It’s not often games let you play as a German soldier, so it was an interesting perspective seeing a soldier from the ‘other’ side coming to terms with the atrocities he witnessed during the war. The War is over, but that doesn’t mean that your suffering is. Can you find peace even though you survived? How has the Great War affected your family? Your mind clearly isn’t the same since returning home, haunted by feelings, emotions and guilt.

You play as Paul von Schmidt, a German vet who returns back home after the Great War has ended. You have a brother, Johannes, father Karl, and mother Madeleine. Your family has been torn apart from the War, something that doesn’t generally get a lot of focus in media. While your family had issues before the War, it certainly went to another level afterwards. Thing is, much of the game takes place in Paul’s mind, or at least some distorted version of it, as he tries to come to terms with his experiences in the trenches.

You’ll explore your home, seemingly altered from what you remember, focusing on memories and then being thrust back into the trenches, but not exactly as you remember though. Exploring your home, you’ll need to solve puzzles to progress, maybe finding a key but not know where the lock is, or a horn that seemingly belongs somewhere specific. After solving certain puzzles, he sometimes gets triggered and falls back into the trenches, but fighting against a different kind of enemy, more of a monster type rather than soldiers.

You’ll eventually come across a blinded Officer, clearly in bad shape, writhing in pain and begging for some medicine. This sets you on a journey across the front lines to find some Morphine for him, as you think you can save him. As you eventually find this Morphine, a massive deranged and twisted female monster, named Despair, attacks and chases you. You don’t have a weapon though, so you can’t fight back in the traditional sense. Instead, you’ll reach an area where you’ll need to play some music, either something she loved, or otherwise, and what you decide to do will directly affect the outcome as the credits roll.

There’s clearly a lot of symbolism in the locations, enemies and even names, which I took as Paul dealing with his trauma in his own way. I was impressed with how the focus wasn’t on Paul in direct combat, or what you’d expect for a World War I setting, but instead how the War can tear apart a family in different ways.

Played in first person, once you start interacting in the mansion sections, having to open doors and cabinets, it felt very much like a Layers of Fear style of game, though without any of the horror elements. Sure there was some minor creepy things that occur and you will hear noises off in the distance, but thankfully not as many cheap jump scares. The house sections are basically a puzzle you need to solve to trigger the next memory sequence, bringing you back to some distorted memory of his time back in the War.

The puzzle elements are quite light, generally needing a key or item to progress to the next step, though I did waste quite a bit of time simply wandering aimlessly trying to figure out what I needed to do next. Pausing will give you a hint on one of the menus, but there’s no markers or waypoints. As you progress through the Chapters and come back to the mansion each time, new areas and doorways will unlock, unveiling more family secrets and notes with lore to find.

Then there are times where you’re transported back to the trenches. I took this as being triggered by some event or item, forcing your mind back to the front lines, possibly representing his mental health. But terrifying creatures are about, you need to be stealthy as you can’t fight back, making sure to avoid the tin cans on strings all about. Later chapters take a different turn, plucking you out of the trenches and placing you in some dark and grimy factory setting. This is merely a setup for the eventual boss fight, though these boss battles aren’t really fights, they are simply puzzles you need to complete with a 'big-bad' chasing you in some way.

It’s odd for a game with a WWI setting to not have combat. In fact, you only use a gun for the first few opening moments, and even then, you don’t even really use it. Because the bulk of the gameplay is more like a walking simulator, even the bosses are simply running to hit a switch or use an object, run to the next, and repeat. The boss designs themselves though, absolutely top notch and even as a horror fan, they had me surprised at how creepy and unsettling they were.

Visuals are decent given the linearity and being inside the mansion at least half of the time. There’s enough detail that it all seems well done, though the animations are quite stiff at times, as are the low poly models of certain objects. The music is quite fitting for the most part, sounding of era and fitting the horror tonality of the setting. The voice acting overall was also done well with no real complains there, especially for a smaller game like this.

A narrative driven walking simulator with a ton of symbolism and horror backdrop makes for a decent playthrough at least once. There’s multiple endings based on certain actions and choices made, but given how slow you walk and the simpleness of the puzzles, once felt more than enough to uncover a war torn family's closet of skeletons.

**Ad Infinitum was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 6.7 / 10
Gameplay: 6.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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