"..beautifully dark and irreverent, but tastefully so."
When I first read the title "The Procession to Calvary," two thoughts immediately occurred: 1) why are we proceeding to militaristic horses and 2) wow, that sounds pretentious. Okay, so it's not cavalry
, it's calvary; there's a meaningful difference! Also, while the title is indeed pretentious, that's probably the point. In truth, Joe Richardson's newest title is beautifully dark and irreverent, but tastefully so.
At the outset, players observe Rembrandt's depiction of the Roman goddess of war flitter about from painting to painting stabbing, slicing, and beheading several stationary people. One might assume this is going to be a gruesome game filled with gore and stiff animations, but only one of those assumptions is correct. The focus in The Procession to Calvary lies in the protagonist eagerly seeking out Heavenly Peter so that she can murder him, as murder has been outlawed after a long-fought and established peace has befallen her people. Immortal John, the new ruler, has designated it unofficially permissible to assassinate his former rival, and, thus, new purpose has found its way into the protagonist's bosom.
The rest of the journey is about getting from point A to B in typical point-and-click fashion. Most interactions entail observing, striking, or talking to a clickable. In rare instances, the protagonist can brandish her sword to complete certain actions, but the game isn't shy about telling the player what can and can't be cut or slain. The Procession to Calvary also offers a rudimentary inventory system wherein objects in the environment can be clicked on, at which point they travel to an inventory along the top of the screen. Certain objectives require an item to be dragged into the environment while others merely require a dialogue.
Most characters offer three or four lines of dialogue, rarely resulting in unique outcomes. For the most part, players will go down the line choosing a response or conversation starter, and read brief exchanges. The saving grace here is that most characters have something of humorous substance to share, which speaks to the cheeky sense of humor and writing style Joe Richardson has become known for amongst his fans.
Primarily, though, the whole game is a fetch quest with sub-fetch quests contained within. Although not the most inspiring method of storytelling, the visuals, music, and writing create an above-average experience. The twist is the key, and watching 16th to 17th century paintings come to life in the crudest fashion is just the twist this game needs.
Scoring The Procession to Calvary's visuals and sound is difficult, because who am I to judge classic artwork and compositions? While the music is undeniably incredible, not everyone wants to listen to the classics from screen to screen. Also, on rare occasions, the sounds and music can grate. At one point, I had to lower the volume which was otherwise fine just because of the constant, horrific screaming. Again, everything in The Procession to Calvary is tastefully irreverent, but the intensity needed to be toned down a bit in one or two places. Visually, the paintings are incredible despite the occasional crude animation. One might find the amateurish twists and turns of heads and limbs to be overly simplistic, but this seemingly lazy quality adds to the satirical nature of the game. If the creator painstakingly animated each character to do the original work justice, something would be significantly lost in this unique style.
Clocking in at about three hours, I can't say that The Procession to Calvary is for everyone. I looked at the game and its trailer, and immediately knew that it was suited to my tastes. The tired game design is unfortunate, but entirely made up for with the absurd premise and visual style. That said, taste will be a significant factor in determining if Joe Richardson's latest foray into classically-inspired work is for you. Simply put, if the trailer or this review don't entice, then this game probably isn't for you. As for me, I have the sudden craving to talk to an art historian or visit a museum.
This review is based on a free review copy provided to RPGFan by the developer. This relationship in no way influenced the reviewer's opinion of the game or its final score.