Hello there, AmbiGaming readers!
LightningEllen here and happy to be babbling on the Goddess of Wisdom’s wonderful website. One of the few writing gigs I try to take very seriously, eh.
Oh boy… Year Walk. Yikes. Where to begin with this one. After being lost in the never-ending Witcher 3: Wild Hunt world for a while (say the first part of this sentence out loud… I’ll wait), I decided to clear a few short games last month. Mostly just to feel like I was accomplishing something. Games are fun to play but it’s also rewarding to beat them sometimes, you know?
Horror ain’t usually my thang, to be honest, but I figured a short scarefest based on a real life tradition would be a neat and endurable experience. Using video games to learn things is fun! Getting creeped out… not so much for me, but I get that lots of folks like that.
Year Walk is based on an actual ancient Swedish ritual called Årsgång. The gist of the divination ritual is this: On New Year’s Eve, Year-Walkers would spend all day in an isolated dark room without food or water. When midnight struck, they would go outside and wander alone in the dark forest, hoping to catch a glimpse of what the year ahead had in store for them. Sounds easy enough, right? I mean, not seeing people all day… I’d be cool with that.
Unfortunately, the solo stroll through the dark woods is a little bit riskier than you’d imagine. The brave Year-Walker needed to stay focused to solve many puzzles, else they could fall victim to various creatures around them. The walker eventually reached a church (if all went well in the dark forest, of course). They walked around this church in a specific pattern (that is now lost to time). If they walked around the holy building correctly, they’d be gifted with visions of the future; seeing all the deaths, births, and marriages in the upcoming year. Oh and if they didn’t see themselves in this vision, it meant they were going to die on the way back to their village. Bummer.
I won’t go into spoilers, but I’ll say this game covers the ritual quite well, including a neat learning-filled secret ending I’ll totally shut up about. The mythological creatures from the lore all make creepy appearances in the game, and the developers have even included an encyclopedia about their history.
I was also intrigued by the underlying mental health theme. Year-Walkers back in the day were often thought to be suffering from mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. Again, spoilers so I won’t say anything thing other than the game covers that angle well too.
The horror elements in the game are just… bizarre. The combination of grisly puzzles, offbeat and gruesome graphics, and chilling off-key music (creepy chimes and all), all came together to touch me in a way no other horror game has before (not that I’ve been brave enough to play that many).
It’s more of the psychological kind of terror, but there are a few jump scares to keep you, well, jumpy. It’s hard to explain how I felt about it. Year Walk hits all the points Athena discussed in her awesome Horror In, Horror Out article perfectly. That explains why it is such an incredible horrific experience!
So yeah, I walked away from Year Walk (sorry) in a confused state of terror, but pleased to have experienced an interpretation of the ritual in a safe virtual way. While reading up on this game, I came across a few people online who claim to do the ritual in a modern day setting. Brave people… and DO NOT try this at home, kids. There are far more deadlier things than mythological creatures in today’s society, let me tell you.
I should probably mention Year Walk’s true ending is a difficult thing to witness, so trigger warnings if you’ve been impacted by mental illness, for sure. You never have to struggle alone! Help is always out there. Never give up.
How about you, internet? Have you played Year Walk? Did you cheat and use a guide like me? Would you consider doing a Year Walk in real life? Lemme know in the comments section thingy below!
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