INDIKA – PC Review

On May 2nd, Odd Meter and 11 bit studios released their latest game, INDIKA. The project managed to attract attention in a variety of ways, one of which was the unusual choice of setting: alternative Russia at the end of the 19th century, spiced with elements of mysticism and philosophy.

The game manages to hit very hard with its story and narrative, so much so that it makes you want to take a thoughtful smoke break during the final credits. INDIKA stands apart from the many usual titles with its stylish trailers, beautiful visuals, and fundamental concept.

The game tells the story of a young nun, Indika, who lives in a monastery and hears the voice of a devil in her head. She also sees hallucinations that greatly interfere with her day-to-day life. The devil constantly strives to tempt Indika, testing her faith. The life within the walls of the monastery is unbearable for Indika, with her days filled with dull work (that is often devalued), fasting and prayers, while the rest of the sisters despise her for being “unclean”. Indika’s patience and obedience does not change the overall sentiment when it comes to her own worth. The devil also spoils her life with its constant malicious irony, questioning her Orthodox dogmas at every turn.

At a certain moment, Indika receives the task of delivering a letter to another far away monastery. As she sets out on this journey, the devil keeps taunting her with tricky religious questions that force Indika to doubt her faith. Sometimes the voice points out her sinful desires, which she denies out loud. Indika’s path, filled with madness and hallucinations, demonic conversations and sinful thoughts, will lead players through a very interesting story.

This is where I’d like to cut it off when it comes to the plot, as anything further would contain spoilers for your own playthrough. Each moment of the game is strongly connected with everything else, and even a small spoiler can ruin an important plot moment due to INDIKA being such an interconnected work.

INDIKA is not just a story about good and evil, or some philosophical statements about morality and faith. It is a question aimed at the player, carefully gauging their opinions on the matter. It’s only a shame that the game doesn’t have enough time to fully cover all of these issues as you can easily complete it within 3-4 hours.

It also feels almost wrong to consider INDIKA to be just a game. This is a project that cannot be comprehended in the usual categories as INDIKA’s script really asks a lot of controversial and even dangerous questions, putting them in a context that cannot be ignored. The events of the game are taking place at the end of the 19th Century, in an alternative world where the steampunk industry is much more advanced compared to ours of the same time. Even the territory of the monastery is filled with steam pipes but, surprisingly, it does not spoil the beauty of the location, and instead adds a certain aesthetic charm. The atmosphere of a religious building being enclosed in steam pipes will make you ponder some interesting questions.

Indika is imprisoned in her own head along with the devil’s voice, unable to escape. The devil is only ever heard by the nun, but his voice attracts attention completely. Such a malicious, cynical, insinuating, and at the same time mockingly cunning voice. I played with Russian voice-over and English subtitles, which I advise you to do as well, and it is simply captivating to listen to him, thinking about all his words even long after his monologue and theatrical performance is over.

As an example, at a certain point the devil tries to convince Indika to open that letter in order to find out what the nuns had written inside. Naturally, the heroine refuses, arguing that opening the letter is a greater sin than not delivering it. The devil clings to that sentiment like a hungry dog, immediately questioning further “Then how much bigger is it?”, before taking the conversation to an absurd level. “How do you correlate the level of sinfulness between, say, not delivering two letters versus opening just the one? What if you compare it to stealing, how many times is one bigger than the other?”

The demonic spawn bombards Indika with such questions until her mind gives in completely under the pressure of such absurd comparisons as there is really nothing to object to or deny. That is the way it goes between the two. Whenever Indika tries to cling to any God-pleasing statements or beliefs, the devil destroys it to smithereens with logical traps and arguments. The game amazes with its dialogue quality, listening to the verbal skirmishes between the two is a real pleasure, with the language being so alive and real that sometimes you don’t notice how you, yourself, are trying to think along and participate in the dispute.

The developers of the game have stated that INDIKA is a tragicomedy, but in reality, there’s very little comedy in the game. At its core, it tells a surprisingly cruel and uncompromising story about human violence. Not so much the violence others might inflict upon you, but rather the violence that a person inflicts on themselves. Going through INDIKA is akin to watching something very depressing and sad. The game causes an unprecedented level of emotional devastation that follows the end credits.

The main pillar of gameplay is walking, with occasional inclusions of puzzles as well as searching for optional items. Each level consists of linear movement from the beginning to the end with next to no danger or any special branching, only strict corridors. Yes, you can move away from the direct path, but the only thing you’ll find are some collectibles related to Orthodoxy. A burnt icon, books that describe the lives of saints, that kind of thing. Finding them will give you some points to upgrade Indika’s passive skills.

Yes, the game features an improvement system, however, it is absolutely useless, except for some narrative effect. After gaining a certain number of points, you can choose one of the passive skills.Their descriptions carry one of the main messages: Shame, Guilt, or Regret, and they reflect how ready the main character is to hate and self-flagellate. The points do not affect the gameplay at all. But they do carry a narrative effect, all of these levels are a reflection of the state of Idika’s piety, they accumulate only to further enhance the already explosive effect of the final events.

The game has riddles and puzzles, but they’re more of a seasoning and feature only the barest level of complexity. Meanwhile, the platforming elements are included not in the best possible way. INDIKA features certain flashbacks that are made in the style of pixel art, which first plunges you into an incomprehensible state. In some of them,the heroine has to reach the destination through platforms. In any other game, it would have felt appropriate, but in INDIKA? This feels jarring. Therefore, switching from a walking simulator to a cheerful platforming is quite an experience that takes some time to adjust. However, I will note that pixel graphics go well with the visuals of the game.

The visuals of the game paint an amazing picture, sometimes the graphics are downright photorealistic. You want to keep on staring and contemplating landscapes for a long time, and the amazing steampunk elements don’t seem to be clashing with the environments. Sometimes abandoned villages give way to steel steam-powered hulks, and you don’t even notice the border between them.

The visual aesthetics are the cherry on top of everything else that makes the game. And the game allows you to enjoy it to the fullest by sitting down on a bench and enjoying the beautiful views around. From the very first few minutes in INDIKA, you start to believe in the world painted around you. It gradually introduces you to technological absurdity, which still manages to look realistic even in its most daring manifestations. And, much like the level of absurdity in landscapes, Indika’s own madness gradually increases as you progress through the game. The developers have managed to achieve it thanks to many of them being architects in the past, and thus being able to create an incredibly vibrant, beautiful and living world.

When it comes to performance, INDIKA can be quite a controversial game. It is made using UNREAL ENGINE 4, which can be quite capricious all on its own. Even strong PCs can’t promise the game’s stable work at all times, freezing a little. I have not run into any critical errors, but there are plenty of tiny things like the usual slow downs when loading a new location. I hope that patches and hotfixes can take care of such matters, otherwise I have experienced no crashes, softlocks or falling into textures of any kind.

INDIKA is a distinctive and stylish game that does not pull any punches. It asks very interesting questions, but the answer to them depends solely on you. The monologues of Indika’s inner devil are capable of pulling on your heartstrings, touching the very foundation of faith. While experiencing the game, you will feel for yourself all the negativity and horror that Indika had to go through in her life as well as all the hardships and misfortunes experienced by people she meets.

The end level drives the final nails into the coffin of everything bright and good in life. Throughout the game, the devil tormented players with questions on the topic of religion and morality, smashed every argument of Indik, quietly chucking from the darkest corners of her consciousness. What is good and what is evil? How can someone decide for you what is righteous, and what isn’t? Why does someone from above get to dictate rules and punish for the smallest deviation from them? Do you really need other people’s approval? What if the devil in your head is not acting against you? No matter if the devil is right or wrong in your opinion, he still does not give you any answers. He leaves Indika – and players – in a mental deadend from which, it seems, there’s no way out.

The game asks a lot of questions, forces you to think about so many existential topics that you simply can’t remain indifferent to its narrative. A similar effect could have been achieved through a movie, but doing so in the game form makes the experience all the more poignant. While playing, you become one with Indika, and instead of being a detached observer, you become the main character.

I can’t say that INDIKA is a very exciting game. There is no flashy or catchy gameplay, or multi-million production, or even a long gameplay journey. This adventure is over in 3, maybe 4 hours, and the delightful setting and an amazing story won’t be liked by everyone. However, it is one of those experiences that stays with you through the years. The narrative is delightful, and the storm of emotions does not subside even though it’s been about a week since I’ve beaten the game. INDIKA is an amazing project that you need to approach consciously and thoughtfully.

Summary
INDIKA is a distinctive and stylish game that does not pull any punches. It asks very interesting questions, but the answer to them depends solely on you.
Good
  • Visual aesthetics
  • Russian voice-over
  • Narrative & emotions
Bad
  • Very short
  • Optimization
  • Not for everyone
8
Great

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