Argent Games, the indie dev duo behind Red Embrace: Hollywood are back with a brand new project—the gothic fantasy kinetic novel, Pale Cachexia. I am a long time fan of the duo, each of their stories is a one of a kind experience, so you can bet I’m excited about the upcoming release.
Pale Cachexia follows a young woman plagued by a mysterious illness that is slowly sapping away at her life. In hopes of finding a cure, she ventures deep into the forest in search of an apothecary. But what she finds is an empty manor whose halls hide deep secrets… and a lonely young girl desperate for companionship. Drawn to one another, both women develop a bond that
Esther is a young woman suffering from “Pale Cachexia”, a mysterious illness that slowly saps away at her life. She leaves her comfortable life in search of a rumored apothecary living deep in the woods. Though no one has seen or heard from the apothecary in many years, Esther is hopeful that they may be able to provide a cure for her illness. After wandering for some hours, she discovers what appears to be an abandoned mansion deep within the woods. Undeterred, Esther decides to explore the manor in hopes of finding notes left by the apothecary with details about her illness. While searching she meets Seina, a young girl who has been living alone in the manor and despite her living situation, seems to be optimistic and full of life. Esther inquires after the “rumored apothecary” and uncovers a devastating truth.
Not wanting to return to her life of isolation, Seina opens her home to her new guest and moved by Seina’s earnest pleas, Esther agrees to stay in the manor. Over time, despite their differences, the pair strike up a comfortable bond—and together they work to find a cure for Esther’s illness while uncovering the secrets of the Manor.
The demo is short, running at about half an hour of gameplay, but that’s more than enough time to lose yourself in the story. With it’s slow piano heavy instrumental track and haunting visuals Pale Cachexia takes its time drawing players into its slow atmospheric tale. An isolated manor deep within a forgotten wood serves as the backdrop for this story, behind it’s doors lie many mysteries waiting to be uncovered, but without the usual foreboding you get with most gothic stories. Sure, there’s a sense of quiet to the narrative and the characters, which allows the characters to really shine.
Esther is reserved, yet stubborn and despite her illness she doesn’t like it when people treat her differently because of her condition, which is both commendable and endearing. On the other hand, Seina is bright and bubbly despite living alone in the manor for six years, though there is a sadness to her that only reveals itself during quieter moments. While this isn’t a romance, there’s some great chemistry between the leads that I found very refreshing, because far too often in these cases romance tends to eclipse organic character bonding. So, it’s nice not having to worry about that here.
Most of the “tension” comes from Esther’s illness which much like cachexia (which usually occurs as a result of a another chronic condition) slowly saps away at her vitality, but within the context of the game this illness is often fatal. If she doesn’t find a cure, she will eventually succumb to her condition, it’s an ever present notion that adds an urgency to the story. There’s even a tense moment when Esther has to administer a treatment for her condition and for that brief scene the tone shifts to something out of a horror—the music which up until this point was more or less forgotten takes on a more sinister sound swelling as Esther pricks herself with a needle to administer her temporary cure.
But, it isn’t until the final moments of the demo that we are given a very real look at the fate that awaits Esther if she does not find a more permanent solution for her illness. It’s a brief scene depicting another Pale Cachexia sufferer in what appears to be the latter stages of the illness, his bitterness at his own impending demise is palpable, but I can’t help but want to know more about him. His identity is revealed in the demo, but… I’ll leave that for you all to discover on your own.
As a whole, I really enjoyed this demo. Argent Games has always had a knack for telling stories that really stick with you and Pale Cachexia is no different. I’m usually not a fan of the linear narrative structure of kinetic novels, but here I felt myself slowly being drawn into the atmosphere of the game—the howl of the wind through the trees, the crackling embers of a warm fire, even the frosting effect of the text boxes all add to the deep haunting beauty of the story. The characters are intriguing and there is so much I want to know about them… Does Esther find a cure for her illness? How exactly did Seina live alone in that manor for SIX YEARS?! There’s no end to the mysteries raised in Pale Cachexia and I for one will be eagerly awaiting the final release to get some answers!
If you’d like to check out Pale Cachexia for yourself you can get the demo over on itch.io: Play the Demo
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